Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has remained hopeful that the club can still find a way to keep star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The 30-year-old’s current deal at Emirates Stadium expires in June 2021 and he told French football programme Telefoot his next move represented a “turning point in my career”.
Aubameyang also expressed frustration over the lack of progress on extension talks with Arsenal, where he has scored 61 goals in 97 appearances since joining from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.
“We have many discussions with Pierre, his family and his agent. I’m pretty positive we can find the right agreement with all parties,” Arteta told a virtual news conference ahead of the Gunners’ Premier League return at Manchester City on Wednesday.
“It’s our responsibility to make him feel that this is the right next step in his career.
“For us to do that he needs to feel valued. I think he needs to feel that he belongs to us and we want him, and then he really needs to believe that we can take this club forward the way we want to do.
“He’s going to be a key player to do that. At the moment I am extremely happy with how he’s been performing and behaving.
“I have a really good relationship with him where we can discuss a lot of things face to face. So far, as far as I’m aware, I think he is happy at the club.”
In terms of Aubameyang’s frustrations over a delay in negotiations, Arteta suggested this could simply be an inevitable consequence of the coronavirus lockdown that made its presence felt throughout elite sport.
“In a different context we would have liked to do things much quicker,” he added.
“We were really tight with time and communications as well.
“Obviously these unpreceded times bring a lot of uncertainty. Things are getting clearer and clearer every day that we are getting a step closer to playing football. I’m looking forward to it.”
Arsenal are ninth in the Premier League table ahead of Wednesday’s restart, with the trip to City their game in hand on many of their rivals for Champions League qualification.
They lie eight points behind Chelsea in fourth, although the five-point gap to fifth-placed Manchester United could be more significant, as second-placed City await the outcome of an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against their two-year ban from European competitions.
The Gunners last competed in the Champions League in 2016-17 and Arteta knows securing a return to Europe’s top table would make a persuasive argument to Aubameyang and others.
“I think that will help to persuade anybody,” he said. “We’re very lucky to have the club right behind us. A lot of players want to come and join us. But it is also about how happy are the players that are here? How convinced are they that they are at the right place?
“It is our obligation to be fighting for every trophy and playing in the Champions League with this club.”
One man who could benefit from the uncertainty around Aubameyang’s future is Eddie Nketiah.
The 21-year-old striker has scored three times in seven outings across all competitions since being recalled from his loan spell at Leeds United in January.
“Eddie is an important part of our squad,” Arteta added. “We had to make a very important decision not to let him go on loan again after the spell he had at Leeds.
“I watched him train and I was very convinced that he was the right player for us to move us to the next level.”