Neil Humphreys: Arsenal must not repeat Robin van Persie mistake with Aubameyang
Gunners must convince star striker of club's ambition
At Wembley, the legendary Arsenal forward laid out Mikel Arteta's dilemma. The money will never be enough to convince a multi-millionaire to stay.
There has to be something more than a pay rise and the odd FA Cup win.
A new contract must come with the promise of a place in the pantheon and a legacy that befits a peak performer's stature within the world game.
The legendary Arsenal striker didn't get those assurances. So Robin van Persie left in 2012 and won the English Premier League title somewhere else.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will do the same if he believes the Gunners' ambition does not match his own. At 31, his age determines his impatience, just as his current form justifies his selfishness.
Aubameyang has earned the right to leave because - and this is the unpalatable reality for the Gunners - Arsenal do not really deserve to keep him.
In winning the club's 14th FA Cup essentially on his own, the No. 14 showed again that he is not so much guiding Arteta's men as he is carrying them, which isn't a reflection of Arteta's ability but an acknowledgement of the basket case he inherited.
Arteta's good fortune was to inherit a Champions League striker trapped within a Europa League squad.
Indeed, the Gunners' qualification for the second-tier European tournament was secured only with an Aubameyang brace in their 2-1 FA Cup final win over Chelsea, after knocking in a double in the semi-final against Manchester City.
Take away those FA Cup goals and Arsenal are a transitional, schizophrenic squad of ageing brands and youthful potential that managed only an eighth-placed finish in the EPL.
Take away Aubameyang's 29 goals in all competitions and the Gunners might have flirted with relegation.
Two extremes, perhaps, but the difference between the two was Aubameyang.
He ended the season one goal shy of that other Arsenal legend's tally back in 2013. But van Persie's 30-goal haul was delivered in a Manchester United jersey, securing a final title for Sir Alex Ferguson in his last season.
Van Persie was back at Wembley for the FA Cup final, in a commentary box this time, watching a Gunners striker who was clearly greater than the sum of Arsenal's parts. The deja vu must have been overwhelming.
In recent interviews, the Dutchman has repeated words that Arteta should never tire of hearing. Rich footballers at the peak of their powers are rarely swayed by dollars and cents. Ambition trumps avarice.
Like Aubameyang, van Persie had a year left to run on his contract when he met with Arsenal's then-chief executive Ivan Gazidis to discuss the club's future.
According to the Dutchman, his demands related to squad investment. In a financial sense, it really wasn't personal, but strictly business. Van Persie wanted to know how much was likely to be spent on the first team, rather than himself.
Arsenal's answers lacked conviction. So van Persie joined United and gave the Gunners 30 reasons to regret not complementing his ability with better teammates.
The Dutchman was already extremely wealthy before his move to Old Trafford. But the Theatre of Dreams gave him an EPL winners' medal. And that's priceless.
From his vantage point at Wembley, van Persie could probably see the same cogs turning in Aubameyang's evasive, post-match interview. The Arsenal captain isn't willing to commit his future to anyone at the moment.
He wants what van Persie never had. He wants a promise.
Neither the prospect of another Europa League campaign nor a reported offer of a new contract worth £250,000 (S$450,000) a week will be enough to persuade the skipper to hang around in north London.
Arteta has to succeed where Gazidis and Arsene Wenger failed, and sell his vision and the scope of Arsenal's ambition to their best player.
At Wembley, the Spaniard had not one but two ghosts of seasons past to remind him of the club's poor track record when it comes to mismanaging restless superstars. Van Persie was in the stands. Mesut Oezil was away with the fairies.
The club's highest earner on £350,000 a week didn't make the bench. So, in keeping with social distancing guidelines, Oezil didn't make it inside the stadium.
The German's absence spoke volumes, reminding Arteta of the broken dressing room that he inherited from Unai Emery.
Aubameyang's amiable personality makes him a popular, inspirational character in the dressing room, a rare and necessary quality for a developing squad. He is everything that van Persie once was and nothing like Oezil now.
Arsenal have blundered twice with their most prized assets. Hopefully, third time's the charm for this charming man up front.
The Gunners can't guarantee the title with Aubameyang. But they'll win absolutely nothing without him.