“Aubameyang is a gift from heaven”
Xavi, the Barcelona manager, described Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s stunning start to life in Spain earlier this month.
When you consider that the Gabon international has eight goals in 11 appearances since joining Barcelona in January, it’s no surprise that everyone at Camp Nou is overjoyed with the way their January signing has settled.
At the weekend, Aubameyang added two more goals to his tally in the El Clasico, as a rejuvenated Barcelona upset La Liga leaders Real Madrid 4-0 at the Bernabeu.
It was a win that made international headlines, and Xavi’s “gift from heaven” was at the center of it.
“After the triumph, Aubameyang posted on social media, “Hello from the finished player,” in what appeared to be a clear message to those who thought his best days were behind him after his struggles at Arsenal in the first half of the season.
In Spain, the 30-year-old has been revived. His smile has returned, and the goals are flowing again.
So, did letting him depart in January proved to be a huge mistake for Arsenal? The answer is simple: no.
In fact, this is one of the few times when a move goes off without a hitch for everyone involved.
Aubameyang has regained his form, Barcelona has acquired a superb striker, and Arsenal has vastly improved in his absence.
It’s been a win-win situation for all parties involved.
It remains to be seen whether that remains the case at Arsenal, as concerns will definitely be raised about the prudence of allowing Aubameyang to depart if the Gunners fail to qualify for the Champions League in the final ten games of the season.
For the time being, though, there is a firm belief within the north London club that the choice was correct.
Mikel Arteta remarked shortly after Aubameyang’s departure, “I’m incredibly grateful for what Auba has done.”
“In that relationship, the way I see myself is the solution, not the problem.” 100% of the time, I’ve been the answer. I can look anyone in the eyes.
“The goal is always to do the best for the club and the team, not for myself.”
“You had to decide that letting him go was the right thing to do, and now he plays for Barcelona.” I believe that was the greatest possible outcome for everyone.”
Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine many transfers that are mutually beneficial.
Going into the transfer window, it was evident that his time with the Gunners was up.
Arteta had already expelled him for the latest in a long string of disciplinary issues, and he hadn’t played since the 2-1 loss to Everton on December 6.
So, when January rolled around, it was simply a matter of trying to locate a new club for the striker.
As the month continued, it appeared that Arsenal’s efforts to find a buyer would be fruitless, only for Barcelona to enter the picture with just days to go.
As the deadline drew nearer, the discussions became more heated.
They started out as a loan, but due to arguments over what part of Aubameyang’s salaries Barcelona would cover, the talks shifted to a permanent move in the last hours of the window.
When the trade was finally disclosed, many people were surprised to learn that Arsenal had terminated Aubameyang’s contract 18 months early and given him away for free.
The Gunners, on the other hand, were overjoyed with the result.
They didn’t get a transfer price for their former captain, but they saved up to £18 million ($24 million) in salary and avoided a situation they believed they’d have to deal with again in the summer.
“We wish him the best,” Arteta said, “and we move on with no regrets.” “I’d rather think about all the wonderful things we’ve done and all the fantastic times we’ve had.”
“It’s critical to learn from your mistakes and reflect on what you could have done better, especially from my perspective.
“I believe [the squad] has been really understanding; they were aware of what was going on, and it’s a nice outcome for everyone.”
It was evident that Aubameyang had lost his spark at Arsenal for whatever reason.
Prior to his leaving, his form was uneven at best, and he was squandering big opportunities that you would expect him to take with ease.
In his last 40 games for Arsenal, he has failed to score in 28 of them across all competitions.
When he was the spearhead of Arteta’s attack, those around him were also battling to locate the net.
However, since Arsenal’s defeat at Goodison Park in December, when Aubameyang made his farewell appearance, things have altered radically.
In the Premier League, Arteta’s team has won 31 points out of a possible 39, losing only twice — to Manchester City and Liverpool.
Prior to Aubameyang’s final appearance at Everton, Arsenal had been averaging just 1.2 goals per game. Since then, they’ve averaged 2.0 goals per game with Alexandre Lacazette as the key striker.
They also take more shots (16.8 vs. 14.0), have more shots on target (5.4 vs. 4.8), and have more touches in the opposition box (31.8 to 23.1).
They currently have 54.0 percent possession compared to 49.1 percent previously, and they are averaging 2.4 points per game, up from 1.5 previously.
The improvement in form and outcomes is obvious, and statistics comparing Aubameyang’s personal performance before and after his move paint a similar picture.
He was averaging 0.6 goals per 90 minutes in all competitions for Arsenal this season, but that has risen to 1.1 with Barcelona.
He’s taking more shots (4.0 vs. 3.2), getting more touches in the opposition box (6.7 vs. 4.7), and his shot conversion rate has risen from 18 percent to 28.1 percent.
But it’s not just what he does on the field in Barcelona that has people talking; he’s also astonished many behind the scenes.
The way he adapts to his new surroundings, the manner he approaches training, and the work he is putting in has wowed the staff at the Spanish giants.
Aubameyang has found a new lease of life since the switch, and Barcelona is now reaping the advantages of having one of Europe’s most prolific attackers guiding their assault.
“Everyone benefits from a separation sometimes,” Aubameyang stated earlier this month on social media. “The most important thing right now is that everyone is happy.”
You won’t hear anyone at Arsenal or Barcelona objecting with the way things have turned out.