Arsene Wenger rarely wastes an opportunity to highlight Manchester City’s lavish spending, especially amid criticism of Arsenal’s inability to compete for the game’s biggest prizes.
Last month City took their outlay to a staggering £448 million since Pep Guardiola took charge 20 months ago.
The Gunners’ self-sustainable model is the opposite of City’s Abu Dhabi‑financed pursuit of glory and while Arsenal have proved incapable — or unwilling — of matching that level of investment, an anomaly exists: only once have City surpassed Arsenal’s £56m buy of Pierre‑Emerick Aubameyang in a single transfer.
Aymeric Laporte’s £57.2m arrival from Athletic Bilbao is the single deal bigger than the Aubameyang one and while Laporte, aged 23 and without a senior cap for France to his name, has time on his side, Arsenal need Aubameyang to be ready now.
City’s greater financial power magnifies the requirement for their rivals’ business to be effective. The monetary constraints of Arsenal’s self-funded move to Emirates Stadium are well-documented but less so is the questionable return from the major signings of recent years; Alexandre Lacazette, Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka have all struggled to justify big price tags.
Mesut Ozil is undoubtedly in credit but has never completely silenced his critics and even Alexis Sanchez, as supremely successful as he once was, gradually became a disruptive influence in the year or so his future dominated the agenda before departing for Manchester United.
In this context, Aubameyang is under pressure to deliver. The 28‑year-old’s arrival last month caused great excitement around Emirates Stadium yet there was also a degree of consternation over why other areas of the team requiring more immediate surgery were not strengthened, especially given Lacazette had only joined six months earlier to bolster the attack.
Then again, everyone loves a goalscorer. Aubameyang’s classy debut strike against Everton was a promising start but he cut a peripheral figure in the north London derby as Tottenham steamrollered the Gunners.
He returns to the national stadium this weekend without his partner-in-crime from Borussia Dortmund. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is cup-tied and so Aubameyang must rely on Ozil and Alex Iwobi among others to provide him with the service necessary to trouble City.
Aubameyang may require a period of adaptation but with Lacazette injured, he has to show the same application Sergio Aguero has managed in Gabriel Jesus’s absence.
Since Jesus damaged knee ligaments on New Year’s Eve, Aguero has scored 14 goals in 12 games — no wonder Wenger enquired about the possibility of including Aguero in any deal with City for Sanchez last summer.
With Olivier Giroud departed, Lacazette out for at least another three weeks and Danny Welbeck short of form, Aubameyang will take centre stage in forthcoming domestic matches as he aims to prove value for money. Sunday would be a perfect time to make his point.