WHO HANDED AUBA AN OZIL-SIZED FORTUNE TO BE OZIL-SHAPED FLOP?
TO HAVE had one £350,000-a-week player who could not get into what is a very average side is unfortunate.
To have a second would be downright careless.
But what odds PierreEmerick Aubameyang is meandering down the heavily gilded Mesut Ozil path?
The best part of a millionand-a-half a month, guaranteed for three years, might sap the motivation of even the most committed player.
There is no doubt Mikel Arteta wanted him to stay, but the Spaniard did not write the lavish Ozil-style contract terms.
That was left to the geniuses upstairs.
It was geniuses upstairs who gave a 32-year-old Willian a three-year deal worth in excess of £100,000 a week, remember. That has worked out well. It was geniuses upstairs who took Cedric Soares on loan and then gave him a four-year contract that will stretch towards his 33rd birthday… before he had even played a game for Arsenal and while he was injured.
You could go on.
Arsenal fans are probably expecting a bumper new 12-month extension for David Luiz any time soon.
There have been changes in management structure and, if only for the £72million wasted on Nicolas Pepe, Raul Sanllehi’s removal as head of football last summer was an inevitability.
But there are no hints that contract issues, or recruitment and sales are likely to feature any joined-up thinking at the Emirates any time soon.
There is no letting Arteta off the hook when it comes to assessing Arsenal’s rather startling mediocrity.
He is, essentially – and for all his time watching and learning from Pep Guardiola – a rookie manager who looks and talks like a rookie manager. On the positive side, you could say he is unafraid to make big decisions.
Ostracising your one attacking midfielder of world-class quality was certainly the decision of a man who knows his mind.
And, of course, you would have to be one of Ozil’s staunchest advocates to imagine he would have been any sort of solution in times of crisis.
There is no suggestion that Arteta is about to similarly ostracise Aubameyang, but not starting him against Slavia
Prague was still significant. The striker (below, with Ozil) was not dropped because he had been stuck in traffic. Arteta was not making a disciplinary point.
He left his marquee player on the bench because he thought he was not part of the team best equipped to get a result out of a very crucial game. And that is just six months after the club moved heaven, earth and their bank balance to persuade the 31-year-old forward to remain with them.
Aubameyang at his best is, obviously, part of Arsenal’s most effective team – and Arteta somehow has to find a way to lift his form.
But it is hard not to think back to THAT contract.
He deserved reward, not least for his wonderful contributions in the FA Cup-winning seasons. There is no rewriting how Arsenal were told by all and sundry they simply HAD to keep him.
But to give a 31-year-old a threeyear deal was risky, bordering on reckless.
If Arteta thought it was a good idea, fine. If not, the geniuses upstairs must take some of the blame for another underwhelming season.