Mikel Arteta forced into Arsenal squad overhaul with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang desperate to leave

Aubameyang wants to join a club he feels can better challenge for the top trophies with as many as ‘half the squad’ wanting to join the captain in jumping ship

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Thursday 19 December 2019 14:45
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One of Mikel Arteta’s first tasks at Arsenal will be to either convince big players to stay or overhaul his squad, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leads a number who are considering their futures.

The striker’s brother Willy Aubameyang caused controversy this week by criticising the choice of Arteta on social media, but The Independent has been told that the captain actively wants to leave, reflecting a growing mood in the squad.

Arsenal could be facing a similar situation to Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in the last few seasons, as the contract of their best-paid player runs out within a year and a half and he shows no willingness to sign a new one. Aubameyang wants to join a club he feels can better challenge for the top trophies quickly, and has little desire to commit to a medium-term project.

Alexandre Lacazette and Granit Xhaka are among others considering their future, but several sources say it is a feeling spreading among “half the squad”. That is not specifically related to the appointment of Arteta, but more about the general lack of direction at the club.

On the other side, however, the Arsenal hierarchy have realised that a significant clear-out may be needed. The events of the last month have been seen as a tipping point, particularly with how the poor performance of many players greatly influenced institutional decisions.

Arsenal had hoped to buy time after the sacking of Unai Emery through the interim appointment of Freddie Ljungberg, and put due consideration into the appointment of the next full-time manager, which they hoped would not be required until the end of the season. That plan was scuppered when it became evident that the players were not responding, endangering the club’s entire campaign and even putting in what amounted to relegation form with a return of just 22 points from 17 games.

Ljungberg told the hierarchy that too many of the players didn’t care, and that was unlikely to change until a permanent appointment was made. Both the interim manager and key officials are said to have been taken aback by just how much the players have dropped off, and how slack some attitudes were. It has fired the mood for a clear-out.

A further problem for Arteta is that Arsenal do not currently have that great a transfer fund, with finances likely to be further affected by another season out of the Champions League, and maybe even without European football altogether if they cannot drastically improve this season’s form.

It means that the sale of want-away assets like Aubameyang may be necessary for the future, rather than any kind of blow.

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