Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta hopes he can persuade Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay with the club after the striker’s double secured a thrilling 3-2 win over Everton.
The former Borussia Dortmund frontman is 30 and has been linked with other clubs, including Inter and Barcelona, as he approaches the final year of his contract.
With only a slim chance of Arsenal qualifying for next season’s Champions League, it would not be surprising if Aubameyang were questioning where he will spend the final peak years of his career.
But the Gunners see him as a big part of their future, and his clinical double against Everton was further proof of his value to the team, according to Arteta.
“He’s our most important player,” Arteta told Sky Sports News. “Stats-wise, there are no questions about the impact he has with this team, so as much as I can and the club can, we will try to convince him to stay with us.”
Arteta saluted his team’s spirit after they made it three wins in a week, having beaten Newcastle United 4-0 last Sunday and landed a 1-0 victory at Olympiacos on Thursday in the Europa League.
Aubameyang scored what proved to be the winner just 24 seconds into the second half.
“The best thing is the spirit we showed. That’s coming back from Europe, three games in seven days, conceding a goal in the first minute, the way we reacted,” Arteta said.
“The way we played for 60-65 minutes was exactly what I want from my team.
“And the resilience some of the players showed when they were absolutely knackered, and they kept going and going and going – this is exactly what I want.”
Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti criticized his team for allowing Arsenal’s forwards such glaring goal chances, with Eddie Nketiah volleying a close-range leveler before Aubameyang plundered his brace, all after Dominic Calvert-Lewin had put them ahead in the first minute.
“I think the performance offensively was good, really good, we had a lot of opportunities. Defensively, it was really poor,” Ancelotti said. “We conceded three goals and it’s not acceptable to concede three goals. If you concede three goals like this, normally you lose the game.
“When we were able to score at the end of the first half we knew because they played on Thursday that they could lose energy at the end.
“They lost energy, but we were 3-2 down. We had opportunities to score but we conceded three goals too easily.
“The forwards played really well. We had two fantastic strikers and the full-backs pushed in the second half when there was more space.
“Offensively we were really good; defensively, no. We are [moving] in the right direction but these are mistakes where you have to learn.”
Ancelotti indicated he had wanted to start with Andre Gomes in midfield, but the Portuguese playmaker was not in favor of playing from the off after returning from the ankle injury he sustained against Tottenham in November.
“When Andre came in, the team improved a lot with the possession,” Ancelotti said.
“I have seen him in training. He trained without a problem. I was sure he could play from the beginning. He was not so sure to start. He will start the next game.”