With Ivan Gazidis in Germany this week, it looks highly likely that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be Arsenal’s latest signing. The Gabon International, famed for his pace and finishing, would surely score goals. His record over the last three seasons is phenomenal. Last season, he beat former Westfalonstadion favourite Robert Lewandowski to the Bundesliga Golden Boot, scoring 31 times.
It might confuse many, then, why Dortmund are so open to negotiating his sale. The simple answer is that Aubameyang’s professionalism has been brought into question over the past year. Should Arsène Wenger make Aubameyang a part of his team, these issues must be addressed. Otherwise, he could turn into another Alexis Sanchez, hindering as much as he helps and Arsenal’s Aubameyang gamble could end in failure.
A Concerning Pattern
“There are rules which apply to every player, regardless of how many goals he scores or prevents. It would be a shame if he missed out again due to his stupid actions.”
Dortmund keeper Roman Bürki pulled no punches two weeks ago when asked for his thoughts on Aubameyang’s latest internal suspension. This time, the striker had missed a mandatory team meeting called by manager Peter Stoger. Ironically, the meeting was about team spirit and togetherness; Stoger really had no other option. This wasn’t Aubameyang’s first suspension of the season either. The unfortunate Dutchman Peter Bosz handed down a similar experience after the striker’s lateness to training became an issue. Aubameyang complained bitterly, but really should have had no issue with his punishment.
Looking back even further, Aubameyang watched last season’s Champion’s League fixture against Sporting Lisbon from the stands. Why? This time, an unsanctioned mid-week trip to Milan had forced then-manager Thomas Tuchel’s hand. Aubameyang was pulled from the match-day squad all through his own doing.
Setting An Example
The Dortmund hierarchy has also worried what kind of example this sets for the younger players. Ousmane Dembélé, superstar in the making, had been taken in like a younger brother by Aubameyang. This summer, after only a solitary season at the club, he departed under a dark cloud. Barcelona’s approach to signing him left Dembélé to stage his own strike, refusing to play or show up for training until Dortmund accepted the offer. While Aubameyang had no hand on this, one wonders how his behavior might have influenced his young friends. Talented English teenager Jayon Sancho has now taken Dembélé’s place under Aubameyang’s wing. Could he be at risk of developing bad habits from his mentor? One hopes not, but Dortmund are not so sure.
Arsenal have some truly talented academy prospects coming through. Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are at an impressionable age, and Aubameyang is a star player who they would look up to. Arsenal must be certain that he will not disrupt their development before forking over the cash.
Over the past few seasons, Aubameyang has been linked with numerous moves to “bigger” clubs. The forward regularly speaks of promising his grandfather he would move to Real Madrid before the end of his career. This summer on an Instagram livestream, he openly teased a potential move back to his first club, A.C. Milan. Transfer speculation surrounding his players is the last thing Wenger needs post-Alexis. It remains to be seen whether a new club and contract outs an end to these rumours.
Hope for the Future
This behavior, if left unchecked, could be hugely destructive at Arsenal. William Gallas and Alexis Sanchez have shown what a divisive character has the potential to do to a dressing room. However, Aubameyang has shown he is capable of reigning himself in. His first few seasons at Dortmund are a picture of professionalism. Sven Mislinstat, Arsenal’s new transfer guru and formerly of Dortmund, has personally vouched for his character. He regularly forms close bonds of friendship with his teammates, such as the forever-injured Marco Reus. Despite his antics, he seems to have few enemies in the dressing room. Even Roman Bürki conceded he would be welcomed back into the fold, citing his admirable work-ethic in practice.
Aubameyang is supremely talented, and his goals will be a huge boost, should the move go through. But care should be taken to ensure that the bad habits Aubameyang has developed at Dortmund to not follow him to the Emirates Stadium. If Wenger fails, Aubameyang could become the next act in the Arsenal circus.
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