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Aubameyang’s Barcelona move: Desperate or sensible?

21:57 GMT+4 02/02/2022
Aubameyang Barcelona
The former Arsenal captain was let go by the North London club, but where does that leave the player and both clubs involved in the deal?

In the end, it appears everyone got what they wanted in the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saga that escalated since the Gabon superstar lost the Arsenal captaincy in mid-December.

The striker gets a relatively good move to a Barcelona side admittedly not where they used to be, the Spanish giants acquire a natural goalscorer that has been lacking at the club for a while and the North London side will benefit from saving around £25 million in Aubameyang’s wages.

The latter, in particular, raises questions over how desperate the Gunners were to see the back of the marksman, owing to the absence of incomings either temporarily or permanently.

Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are Mikel Arteta’s only recognised strikers, a huge gamble due to Arsenal’s target to end in the Premier League top four by season’s end. Surely, keeping hold of the Gabon international until May before revisiting his situation was the right call?

Surely, he could have been reintegrated into the side after his disciplinary breach, rather than leave unceremoniously through the back door. Maybe there is more to the situation than the club have let on.

Be that as it may, Barcelona are beneficiaries of the 32-year-old’s talent in front of goal and he theoretically offers solutions for Xavi in an area of great need.

Since Luis Suarez departed in the summer of 2020, Barca have lacked a natural central striker capable of leading the line on his own. Of course, Lionel Messi’s goals papered over the cracks for the 2020/21 season and Antoine Griezmann’s continued struggles meant this need grew over the preceding campaign.

While the Spanish giants’ move for Sergio Aguero showed they recognised their striking problems, the Argentinian’s injury troubles and eventual retirement precipitated calls for attacking firepower.

Throw in Messi’s departure over the summer and Griezmann’s return to Atletico Madrid, and one understands why the Blaugrana pushed for the former Arsenal striker this month.

Having said that, there are obvious doubts over how the 32-year-old fits stylistically in Xavi’s possession-based approach, prompting questions over the club’s wider approach in the January transfer window.

Ferran Torres gives the side another dimension in attack, but, despite Auba and Adama Traore’s varying levels of talent, their strengths may be limited in a side looking to dominate the ball.

Indeed, the Gabon frontman thrives on service and space in behind, regularly afforded in his time with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and evident in his Arsenal heyday as they claimed that FA Cup success post-lockdown in 2020.

While the temporary nature of Adama’s contract means both parties can go their separate ways in the summer, offering the ex-Dortmund forward a three-and-a-half-year deal seems absurd, although there is an option to cancel the contract in 18 months.

Admittedly, there is a gratifying feeling seeing the 2015 African Footballer of the Year given a new lease of life in Spain, yet you wonder if the strength of the Barca squad allows Auba to achieve anywhere near the achievements of past African greats to have played for the five-time European Champions.

Only time will tell if the 32-year-old’s time in La Liga will be rewarding, but it will undoubtedly be an interesting time for both player and club looking to repair somewhat damaged reputations.