Something we're not talking about from the Wrighty x Auba Video
Yesterday, amidst the furore of the announcement that Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had penned a new 3 year deal with the club, the club released a rather special 10 minute video. It sees an Arsenal legend of old in Ian Wright speaking with an Arsenal legend of the future, in Aubameyang. At least, he hopes to be, he says. They walk around the Emirates pitch in suitable Adidas gear, and Ian quizzes Auba on his decision.
It's one of those videos that might pass you by if you're not careful. Indeed, I nearly passed it by myself, with no real fanfare around it on Twitter or any other Arsenal communities online, and only now is it the feature on the official Arsenal website's homepage at time of writing. It sort of gives the impression from the thumbnail and its release that it's one of those promotional videos where you think know what will be said: "Blah blah blah I love my team mates blah blah blah I love the fans blah blah blah thanks to my family" and so on, possibly with an ad for a sugary drink at the end or Ian Wright inexplicably telling us he Visits Rwanda religiously. But I think it reveals more than might first meet the eye, and there's something we should be talking about a bit more about.
PEA: "I had a chat also with Mikel [and] he gave me something very clear about the idea of the future of the club and about me. He was straight and honest and that's what I like because we are always honest. He said 'Ok, you can leave. I don't know what your mind is [thinking] right now, but you can leave and go for trophies in other clubs, or you can stay here and have [a] legacy.' This for me was the key word."
For a club that has seen prospective legends come and go in the modern era - from the way Koscielny departed, to Ramsey's willingness to run down his contract, to Van Persie, to Fabregas and even further back, an Arsenal captain or player who is interested in their legacy at a club is a rarity. It makes sense. A player's career is short, and they have to maximise their earning potential. When they don't see the club going in the direction they think will suit them, they move on, and 9 times out of 10 they're right to do so in terms of the titles they might win. I think the most exciting thing about this is that despite that, Mikel has been able to convince him that this is what he wants, and what that might mean further down the line with other negotiations.
Despite his age. Despite the mess Mikel is still cleaning up from the Emery era. Despite offers from elsewhere on big money. Despite finishing 8th last season. Despite the three big titans of the post Wenger era in Gazidis, Mislintat and Sanllehi now gone... he still signs. And that must mean something: he believes in the project. As reported elsewhere, Mikel Arteta's influence has been crucial in keeping Aubameyang, but it's great to see that validated in such blatant terms by such a player on such a big platform, who is ready to buy into the project. He goes on to say:
PEA: "As I said, he convinced me. We had a chat when we were in lockdown. He called me. Normally we have to speak about the game. I had to do a summary, explain how the game works. He called me and said, forget about it. I prepared maybe 2 pages, he said 'Forget about it. Let's talk about real things. I want to be honest with you - how do you feel?' I was like: I have to say the truth. I feel very good. It was maybe two months or three months [since he was] here. The training, you can feel the passion, you can feel the... everything on this guy. He's so good. He's the kind of guy you can trust. Thats why I said to him, I feel very good. And what you said about legacy, I've really [thought] about it... I think it's the right way to go."
This kind of validation for such a young coach is crucial. Aubameyang, trained by some of the best coaches in the world in Klopp, Wenger, Ancelotti and Tuchel is saying publicly that he trusts in the manager, and rates his training. And he's not the only one - Martinez, Tierney and many others have come out to say it too - but their names don't quite carry the same weight.
Of course Arteta won't be the only influence - it's clear Pierre's dad, Willy Aubameyang has a massive influence on his career, and I'm sure Edu had a say in this as well. But for the manager to have this kind of pull at this stage in his career is frankly sensational, something we should take note of, and should send big shockwaves around the league. Big players attract big players, and Auba having great things to say about Mikel can only be a good thing and will be a nice lubricant for other moves. Ultimately, Aubameyang is one of the best strikers in world football - and he wants to spend his last contract with Mikel, citing him as the main reason.
PEA: "He convinced me."
The delay in Aubameyang's contract renewal has been an interesting one. He even says he's been mulling this decision over for a year. As discussed on this week's podcast, there's a theory that he's been waiting for assurances on new signings, and may have got just that. Wrighty and Auba discuss the goal scored at Fulham, an indication this was done fairly recently, perhaps even on Sunday last week or Monday this week. Indeed, in an Instagram live last night, when asked about new signings, he let out a sage "you know".... The move to get this done may indicate big things are on the way.
Mikel's influence on this one is a big step forward. Think back to last summer when Emery asked for a right footed LW and got a left footed RW. This is clearly a man in high regard inside and outside of the club. From his new job title, we knew he was taking steps, but it's an altogether new level to receive this type of praise from such a big character and player. As for Aubemeyang himself, who knows if he can become a club legend. If he can keep up his form, stave away the ageing signs and keep performing, who knows. I think he may be a victim of his short lived time here, and of the dire straits he has seen the club through in terms of our position to challenge for the top titles. But despite that, he stays - and perhaps that's what makes him a legend.
You can watch the video here.