Almost four years to the day after it began, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal career has come to an end.
The 32-year-old enjoyed a successful time in north London, captaining the Gunners to two trophies, but after being stripped of the armband due to disciplinary breaches in December, his stint in red and white ultimately ended up finishing in acrimony.
His departure was not something Arsenal had planned, but as has been the case with pretty much every big decision since he took over at the Emirates Stadium in 2019, Mikel Arteta was backed by Edu as well as Stan and Josh Kroenke in making the call.
Unsurprisingly, though, it has split opinion among the club’s fanbase.
As news came through that Aubaymeyang‘s time with Arsenal had come to an end, social media has largely been filled with tributes to the Gabon international, but there are many who were also in a more celebratory mood.
To consider which of these schools of thought is right, it’s worth looking back on the former Borussia Dortmund man’s time at the Emirates Stadium.
In the dramatic haze of the 2018 January window, a decision was hastily made to bring Aubameyang in as Arsene Wenger looked to find a way to replace the goals of Alexis Sanchez, and appease fans baying for blood after the Chilean’s departure to Manchester United.
For the first two and a half seasons, the Gabon international did exactly that.
His early Arsenal form saw him claim a Premier League Golden Boot, while essentially carrying the team to a Europa League final and leading them to FA Cup and Community Shield glory.
However, as time passed and the goals eventually began to dry up, the haste of Aubameyang’s arrival finally came back to bite Arsenal.
The Gunners had this world-class goalscorer in their ranks, but seemingly could not figure out a way to use him, while getting the best out of the rest of the team.
Initially, he had featured heavily on the left-wing, but when young talents like Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka began to emerge as consistent goal threats, it became clear that the only role Aubameyang could fill in the team was up front.
Here, though, the floors in his link-up play became exposed, as the 32-year-old struggled to drop deep and link the play as Arteta wanted, given his natural inclination to use his pace to get in behind.
It was not so much that Aubameyang had become a bad player overnight, but rather that Arteta’s Arsenal had evolved beyond him as a centre forward.
With this in mind, it seems that letting him leave to join Barcelona is the right call. As is often the case at the Emirates Stadium though, the situation is far less binary.
Despite being linked with Dusan Vlahovic, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Alexander Isak, Jonathan David and Raul de Tomas last month, the Gunners ended up failing to bring in a centre forward.
As a result, their two main options at centre forward – Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah – now have just three Premier League goals between them. Martinelli can play there if needs be, but it still represents a risk to Arsenal’s top-four hopes going into the back end of the season with a squad as unproven in front of goal as this.
Aubameyang will undoubtedly score goals in Barcelona, and with each game that passes where the Gunners struggle to find the net, questions will be asked over the wisdom of this decision in the short-term.
Curiously, it can be true at the same time that letting Aubameyang leave was the right thing to do in the long-term, but also an unnecessary risk in the short-term.
Whatever happens, it seems this incredibly complicated decision is set to define Arsenal’s remainder of the season.