Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal form has dipped since he penned a lucrative new deal last summer, but Mikel Arteta says he is not “suspicious” of the situation.
The Gabon forward looked like he may leave north London last summer with his contract with the Gunners running down. Barcelona were linked with the 31-year-old after Aubameyang had blasted 29 goals. The striker though decided to extend his time and vowed to become an “Arsenal legend” after penning a three-year contract worth about £55m.
Aubameyang saw his wage increase from £250,000 a week to nearer to £350,000 a week once loyalty payments and bonuses are taken into consideration. It made him one of the best paid players in England behind Man Utd goalkeeper David De Gea and Arsenal old boy Mesut Ozil.
However, the striker has not been at his best this season and his form has been well below par. He has just 13 goals to his name in all competitions. And was axed from Arsenal’s starting XI for last month’s north London derby after reporting late for the fixture.
Arteta though has defended the former Borussia Dortmund man and says he needs to get back firing if Arsenal are to finish the season with a flourish.
“It’s not been where it’s been in recent years and it’s a factor that is contributed by a lot of things that the team has to do on the pitch. It’s not just his thing,” Arteta said at his press conference.
“But obviously we need Aubameyang in a different form in the next games to give us our best chance to finish where we want to finish the season, that’s clear.”
Asked if he thought the “dropping off” was a conscious effort after securing himself a mega new contract, Arteta added: “No, it’s easy to connect things when they are relating like that but I’m not suspicious of that.
“I have seen, and we have had many conversations, about what he wanted to do from last year’s point of view to his near future in the next two years, and he was very ambitious with that.
“To maintain that level is really complicated but he is trying his best, he is trying hard. That is what he is aiming to do.”
Meanwhile, a report from Football Insider claims some figures at the club believe Aubameyang is past his peak and they may have made a mistake.
With funds due to be tight if the Gunners miss out on European football for next season, Aubameyang is now seen as someone who can be sold. But they will have to receive the right price.
Aubameyang will be 32 in June and his market value will begin to decrease over time. However, given he is still under contract until 2023, Arsenal could still get a decent fee for him this summer.
Therefore, if any of the clubs who were trying to prise him away last year retain an interest, Arsenal will consider entering negotiations. But the report warns that it may be difficult to find a club willing to invest as heavily in the striker.