Almost a week has passed since the January transfer window opened and Arsenal finds themselves in a bit of a dilemma, both financially and personnel-wise.
Integral players' futures have been called to question, the squad is riddled with injuries, and to top it all of, reports have come out that Arsenal will only be making loan signings in this window! [source: Charles Watts via GOAL]. What a mess!
With a clear lack of funds being provided by the Board (shocker!), it seems Arsenal would need to downsize their squad to 'turn the tide' in the league standings.
Reports suggest that Arsenal are in the process of doing so, with some players being linked with a move away. Reports have come out that Arsenal are still looking to offload Mustafi even after a serious ACL injury to Calum Chambers. Kolasinac has been linked with a move to Serie A, attracting interest from Napoli and Roma.
The Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang situations seem to have been resolved with Mikel Arteta reiterating both their importance and his wish for them to stay.
But why do they have to?
I would like to focus on Aubameyang's situation in particular for two reasons. One, It would be harder to replace Xhaka in this window with a better player and two, Aubameyang's situation is more dangerous. I'll delve into this more later. First, let's go over some important factors in this conundrum:
1. He's 31.
Look, Aubameyang is a fantastic athlete who keeps himself healthy and fit at a high level consistently. This is reflected in his injury history, missing just 51 days of action before he came to Arsenal. Upon arrival, he hasn't exactly been a hospital bed regular either.
But you're kidding yourself if he's not going to decline at some point. Of course, he'll probably last longer than most, but the Premier League is demanding, high-intensity competition that requires a different level of fitness than any other league out there. Now add Arteta's high pressing, physically demanding system, and a historically rough fixture list and you have a recipe for disaster. Sure, he's probably won't be making visits a lot. But at the end of the day, he's on the wrong side of 30 and will hang up his boots soon.
2. He's 18 months (pun intended)
It seems Pierre is content where he is and wants to stay but where have we heard this before? Sure, I believe him more than I'm willing to admit but the fact remains, he has 18 months left on his contract at the time of writing. The fact that he still hasn't signed is a little more than just a coincidence.
Think about it, this is the same guy who left Dortmund unceremoniously and had public spouts with the CEO. Sure the circumstances were different but it does not bode well for Arteta.
Arteta has shown his outstanding ability to motivate, coach, and lead his team to his philosophy and playing style. But how long will that last with Auba? How long do you think he can keep convincing him to play on the wing, to track back and press?
If Arsenal are not swift in dealing with this, I fear this could turn into an Alexis 2.0 situation. Arsenal being held captive by an uninterested player on high wages would cripple the club's already delicate financial situation.
3. The Rebuild
For Arsenal to become great again, a strict and disciplined rebuild is necessary. Much of this requires what some of the Board members and Arteta alluded to; no player running his contract below the 2-year remaining mark, purchases of young, hungry, hardworking players with high potential, and getting rid of any bad eggs in the dressing room.
By no means is Aubameyang a bad egg but he could be? Truth is, we are in a crucial rebuilding phase where patience is key. Cliché as that is, results will not be pretty, there will be some amazing wins and some shocking losses. This high pressing style will take a lot out of this threadbare squad, and results may tale off because of it (barring a series of tactical masterclasses from Arteta). We cannot, and should not be harboring contract rebels in the dressing room (or ever).
It seems Arsenal need money now more than ever. I will not for a second, believe this whole"Arsenal are going to spend because Arteta wouldn't have come without guarantees" argument. Sure, we might drop a little 15 million pound bid on Boateng (yikes!), but do you really trust this board to drop a cold 50 on Upamecano? The Pepe payments are spread out and will affect us going forward. Aubameyang is currently valued at 50-70 million. That money can go towards buying a Werner, or a sensible Cavani.
Before I end here, I want to acknowledge the fact that selling Aubameyang is a huge gamble. He's directly earned us 18 points in the league table. His contributions account for well over half of our goals tally. Not to mention the probability that his departure would disrupt the dressing room. Maybe I have been harsh on this subject, but he is the best striker in the Premier League for me. Someone will need to fill in his shoes if he were to leave? Could that be Lacazette? He's been playing well even though he hasn't got that all-important, confidence boost goal or assist yet. I wouldn't bet on it though.
The point is Arsenal are in a transitional phase. For the first time, in a long time, Arsenal are exciting. The football, the vision, the expectations, and the unity of the club are coming together, slowly but steadily. The values of this club seem to be transmitting to the players, the staff and all the parties involved in the operation of Arsenal. What this club need is discipline now more than ever. Difficult decisions need to be made to fix difficult situations. We need time. Scratch that. Mikel needs time. He needs funds. And last but not least, he needs his players to not have 18 months left on their contracts!