If Arsenal already had a lot to do this summer, that task has been made much harder by the growing uncertainty that surrounds football.
While the circumstances are by no means ideal for any team, Arsenal is in the particularly unenviable position of needing to be active in the transfer market, both as a buyer and a seller.
Mikel Arteta has made a strong start to his managerial career at the club, but concerns remain that, without investment, there is a limit to his side’s potential.
Star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is about to enter the final 12 months of his current contract, while Alexandre Lacazette has just endured his worst season in an Arsenal shirt to date. There are also additional concerns at the back and in midfield to consider.
The first hurdle for the club to overcome is the market uncertainty, with transfer fees and wages likely to be impacted by the global financial situation. If Arsenal could have previously expected bids of around £50m for Aubameyang, it remains to be seen whether clubs will still be prepared to make that kind of investment.
Furthermore, if prices are depressed, Aubameyang will have a far better position in which to negotiate a new deal. This is a situation Arsenal will be desperate to avoid given the situation that unfolded with Mesut Ozil in 2018, but after failing to act earlier it is the situation they could find themselves in again.
Having taken all of this into account, the right thing to do remains to look to move both players on this summer. In Aubameyang’s case, it is simply a matter of age. The fact is, Arsenal cannot afford to offer a 30-year-old striker a significant pay rise and contract extension.
Giving the Gabonese forward a the wage that befits his status would be both costly and risky, with there being no guarantees about how long his prime will continue.
The situation surrounding Lacazette is just as tricky, with the Frenchman’s value likely to be at its lowest since his arrival in North London. Not only are global player valuations likely to be down, but he is also having his worst season since 2012-13 in terms of goals.
However, the 28-year-old has just two years to run on his current deal and therefore is likely to see his value fall even further as he enters the final 18 months of his contract.
Selling two such established forwards would, of course, be a risk and with no pull of Champions League football, it will be difficult to replace 106 career Arsenal goals in the transfer market. The promise of Nicholas Pepe, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka means that the Gunners will still have some options up front, but they will need to be creative as they seek replacements.
However, this should not deter them from making the right decision this summer. Offering an ageing Aubameyang a new deal is not an option Arsenal have the finances to consider, while Lacazette’s poor form and diminishing value mean cashing in now is the best course of action.
Arteta is building a young squad in his own image and the sale of Arsenal’s two big-name strikers will give him the funds to rebuild the squad. If the club chooses to hold on to them, they are simply shackling the new coach with the failures of the previous regime.