Arsenal committed £150 million in fees and wages yesterday to make Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil the highest paid players in their history and the centre-piece of Arsene Wenger’s attacking overhaul.
With Alexis Sanchez already at Manchester United and Theo Walcott sold to Everton, Arsenal sanctioned Olivier Giroud’s £18 million move to rivals Chelsea before completing the club record £55.4 million signing of Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund.
They then followed that up by breaking the contract stand-off with Ozil that has lasted more than a year and agreed to make him the highest paid player in their history on a deal worth £350,000-a-week.
With Aubamayeng signing a deal worth almost £200,000-a-week and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in a swap deal with Sanchez, Arsenal have gone from total uncertainty about their main attacking players at the beginning of the month to having all of their stars tied down to contracts until at least 2021.
Their one big gamble was to allow Giroud to strengthen Chelsea but that deal had become crucial in completing the priority transfer of Aubameyang. Dortmund had agreed a fee with Arsenal on Sunday but were refusing to sign off on the transfer without a replacement and have now ended up with Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi on loan until the end of the season. Chelsea were not in turn allowing Batshuayi to go until they had Giroud, who has been Arsenal’s top scorer twice in the last four season.
Where will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fit in at Arsenal?
While Arsenal say that the Ozil contract is not yet formally signed, the expectation is that it will be announced and confirmed imminently after a verbal agreement was reached.
Ozil had been expected to wait until the summer before deciding his next move when he would be a free agent but, even amid interest from Manchester United, was always keen to stay in London. The signing of Aubameyang is understood to have been a factor in Ozil's decision but Arsenal were currently also offering him more than any rival. Aubameyang had made it clear over the past two weeks that he was desperate to join Arsenal and, having scored 141 goals in four-and-a half year at Dortmund, compared himself yesterday to club record goalscorer Thierry Henry.
"I'm really happy to be here in this great team,” said Aubameyang. “The club has such a big history and great players like Thierry Henry. He's an example for us strikers. I'm a fast player and I score goals too, like Henry a little bit. I think I have to work a lot to be like him, but I will do.”
The loss of Giroud after more than five years and 100 goals was an especially difficult decision for Wenger but the France striker had not started a Premier League game this season and wanted to play regularly ahead of the World Cup. He will now be competing with Alvaro Morata to be Chelsea’s main striker but, with Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette ahead of him at Arsenal, should now get more football.
98 - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's 98 Bundesliga goals:
Inside Box - 97
Outside Box - 1
Penalties - 10
Headed - 13
Right Foot - 64
Left Foot - 20
Other Body Part - 1
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 29, 2018
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had wanted a stronger aerial presence and was pivotal in persuading Giroud to choose Chelsea rather than Dortmund. “Basically for me the most important thing has been talking with the coach Antonio Conte,’ said Giroud. ‘I really feel like that he really want me. He really wanted to work with me. Obviously Chelsea is a massive club so it was a great opportunity for me to start a new adventure with Chelsea. I’m very proud.”
Arsenal have also wanted to sign a defender this month but would restricted financially following the Ozil, Aubamayeng and Mkhitaryan contracts and, having had a £12 million offer rejected for Jonny Evans, may return with another bid in the summer when his value will have further diminished. It has been arguably the most radical transfer window of Wenger’s entire 21-year tenure at the club and the first since chief executive Ivan Gazidis appointed Sven Mislintat as the club’s new head of recruitment.
Gazidis has promised supporters that last season would be a “catalyst for change” and, as well as allowing five senior first-team players to leave this month, it has been particularly striking that huge resources have been committed to players in Ozil, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan who will be 32 and of limited transfer value when their contracts expire.
Arsenal are currently sixth in the Premier League and eight points adrift of Liverpool in the fourth Champions League place. They play Manchester City in the League Cup final later this month but their best realistic chance of returning to the lucrative Champions League may now rest in winning the Europa League. Arsenal’s contract priority now will be deals for Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey. Wilshere is out of contract this summer and Ramsey has only 18 months remaining on his current deal.