Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can continue to lead Arsenal to silverware – but the club should not be held to ransom over his new contract, according to former Gunners defender Martin Keown.
The PA news agency understands an agreement has been reached for Aubameyang to extend his Arsenal stay, with the deal possibly announced in the coming days.
The 31-year-old has less than a year to run on his current contract and would be able to leave the Emirates Stadium for free next summer if no fresh contract is signed.
The Gabon international captained Arsenal to FA Cup success last weekend, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over London rivals Chelsea.
Aubameyang has been the go-to man for goals since he joined from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018 – finding the back of the net 54 times in just 85 Premier League appearances.
But it is also as a leader of Mikel Arteta’s young squad where Keown believes Aubameyang has excelled recently.
“I think it is really important that the club get this one right,” he told PA when asked about Aubameyang’s new deal.
“When you watch him play, we know he has all of the qualities on the football pitch, but he seems to me like a very decent young man.
“He is a very good individual who loves the club, the players are all around him as we saw them celebrating the FA Cup.
“You can tell there is a buzz, something is growing and a new culture is developing and of course Aubameyang was the right choice for captain.
“He sets the standard on the pitch and he carried that responsibility and will look to continue to do so – they wouldn’t want to lose him.”
Keown also praised head coach Arteta for getting involved in the discussions to keep Aubameyang at the club, after former boss Unai Emery distanced himself from similar talks with Aaron Ramsey, who then left for Juventus on a free transfer.
“Arteta has been there less than eight months and walked away with an FA Cup, he is someone who can make a difference (to Aubameyang’s decision) and if he wants the striker at the football club he will be influential,” added Keown, who was talking in his role as ambassador for McDonald’s and their Grassroots Football Awards.
“The previous manager, Unai Emery, was saying he wasn’t part of the negotiations for Aaron Ramsey.
“Well this time round Arteta made it his place to be involved in the negotiations and that is only right and proper.
“I don’t think they should be held to ransom as they appeared to be over the Mesut Ozil contract but on the pitch Aubameyang seems like a different person.
“Just getting him to sign keeps a huge amount of belief and hope for the future – but not one individual is bigger than the football club as the Ozil saga has shown.”
Arsenal announced earlier in the week they were to make 55 redundancies after finances were hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
It is understood the job losses will come across football departments as well as commercial and administrative roles and some staff members have already been given the news.
Further cuts not associated with the 55 redundancies have been made to Arsenal’s European scouting network, following on from the departures of head of international scouting Francis Cagigao, head of UK scouting Peter Clark and scout Brian McDermott.
Chelsea winger Willian, meanwhile, continues to be heavily linked with a free transfer to the Emirates Stadium.
Despite positive news in terms of securing Aubameyang’s future and also strengthening the squad during the summer, the Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association feels “creative solutions to difficult problems” should be found to avoid compulsory job losses.
The planned redundancies appear set to go ahead despite most of the first-team players and also head coach Arteta having already accepted 12.5 per cent pay cuts earlier this year in a move to protect their colleagues – a figure that was then reduced when they qualified for the Europa League next season.
“AISA is very concerned at Arsenal FC’s decision to make 55 posts redundant at the club,” a statement from the group’s committee read.
“We have been and remain supportive of the club in this very difficult time and note the efforts that have been taken – not least by the playing staff and senior management team – to make significant cost savings, but we would have hoped that redundancies could have been avoided.
“The Arsenal family needs to pull together in these unprecedented times and find creative solutions to difficult problems. This is what we expect from a club that is ‘always ahead of the game’.”
:: Former England and Arsenal defender Martin Keown paid a surprise visit to Newhaven McDonald’s to celebrate their 2020 McDonald’s & FA Grassroots Football Award win. To find out more about the awards visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards.