John Hartson says Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has a huge call to make over whether to keep or sell top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this summer.
Aubameyang has scored 20 goals this season to again underline his status as one of the Premier League’s best marksmen.
But the 30-year-old Gabon striker’s contract expires at the end of next season and Hartson admits that Arsenal cannot afford to lose their prize asset for nothing.
“It’s happened so many times over the years that they’ve allowed good players to run their contracts down and leave for next to nothing,” former Arsenal striker Hartson told the PA news agency.
“These players are worth a lot of money if they are tied down.
“So there’s a decision to make on Aubameyang, because if they are going to sell him his best worth is in the summer with a year left on his contract.
“It’s a big call for Arteta to make so early in his Arsenal tenure.”
Hartson believes Arsenal should extend Aubameyang’s stay, with the former Borussia Dortmund star having scored 60 goals in 95 appearances since his £56million arrival from Germany in January 2018.
But he accepts the matter could be taken out of Arsenal’s hands following their Europa League exit to Olympiacos on Thursday and the risk that they might be not be playing European football next season.
“No European football could affect the likes of Aubameyang,” Hartson said.
“The best players want to be in the Champions League and he’s a world-class striker.
“His work-rate is brilliant. He chases lost causes, technically he’s excellent and he scores goals.
“He’s 30 now, but the way players look after themselves with all the sports science at their disposal these days I expect him to play for some time yet.
“I feel the shape he’s in he could be a top striker for the next four years at least. Arsenal have lots of good youngsters – (Joe) Willock, (Gabriel) Martinelli, (Bukayo) Saka and (Eddie) Nketiah – and that’s why it’s so important to tie Aubameyang down to help them.”
Arsenal head to Portsmouth in the FA Cup on Monday night hoping to keep alive their last chance of winning silverware this season.
Hartson says the fifth-round tie at Fratton Park has taken on extra significance following their shock European exit.
“They’ve got to show some character against a Portsmouth side that has been doing well in League One,” he said.
“The FA Cup is important because it’s highly unlikely that they are going to get into a Champions League spot with the way they are defending.
“Arteta will get a couple of transfer windows to try and get them back to where they want to be and I’m sure he’ll be in the market for defenders who defend properly this summer.
“David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi are two players you wouldn’t hang your hat on to keep clean sheets and you need those solid defensive foundations to make the Champions League and win cups.”
:: Former Wales striker John Hartson was launching the 2020 McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards, ran in partnership with the four home UK Fotball Associations. To nominate a grassroots football club or volunteer go to www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards.
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