LONDON – Unfortunately there was no crowd to witness Arsenal14th FA Cup final success – a 2-1 win from behind on Chelsea – but it doesn't take much to imagine what the Gunners contingent would have sung about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: Sign him up. The 31-year-old made the difference against Chelsea, just as he did in the semifinal against Manchester City, just like he did over and over again during a turbulent campaign that ends at this unlikely spot here at Wembley.
Chelsea led 1-0 through Christian PulisicThe initial strike threatened to get away with the procedures before Mikel Arteta inject life into Arsenal in a lively drink break and Aubameyang came back to life. He won and converted the penalty on 28 minutes after scoring the goal Cesar Azpilicueta before being towed to the ground. His winning goal benefited from some equally erroneous defenses. Kurt Zouma he was defeated easily, but the skill that Aubameyang produced at that moment, pretending to kick before passing the ball to his left foot and submitting sublime over Willy Caballero, was a moment of victory that few attackers are able to produce. It was the 29th and final goal of a remarkable season.
Where would Arsenal be without him? They certainly don't want to find out.
ESPN revealed last month that Aubameyang applied for a three-year contract worth £ 250,000 a week. The Gabonese international has indicated that he is willing to stay and Arsenal wants to keep him, but the precise budget for the summer has been undetermined for weeks, with European qualification uncertain. It ends now. Aubameyang may have guaranteed his salary increase in the most literal way possible, setting goals that increase the resources from which the club can increase its salary.
He did not reveal anything immediately when asked by BT Sport about his future.
"I'm really not thinking about it," he said. "I just want to hang out with the guys and take the trophy now."
Aubameyang certainly enjoyed the moment. After leaving the trophy while carrying him to the elevator with his teammates – the only mistake he made all afternoon – he was the last to leave the field, still holding the trophy with a wide smile on his face.
The Gunners had shirts made with "14 Always Forward" on the back to mark the extent of their proud record in this competition. It is also, coincidentally, the number of Aubameyang's shirt. Given its influence on procedures, it seemed an even more prescient choice.
He is an extremely popular figure among players, a point that Arsenal should consider if history has taught them to be cautious.
The reminder of how big contracts can go wrong Peru as Mesut Ozil, the club's highest earner with £ 350,000 a week, received a license earlier in the week for not being on the bench or being one of 10 members who did not play for each club. Arsenal's desire to sell Ozil couldn't be clearer, but where his salary was once a sign of the club's determination to return to the top of English football, it is now a financial burden that is delaying a review that this team urgently needs.
Aubameyang is of the same central importance as Ozil and Alexis Sanchez were then. But, unlike Ozil, there is no question about Aubemeyang's ability to influence big games, nor any particular concerns about whether he is a divisive figure behind the scenes.
He is a quality Champions League striker who plays for a Europa League club. Replacing it will be more difficult than maintaining it.
"He knows what I think about him. I want to form a squad around him. I think he wants to stay and just make the deal," Arteta told the BBC. "But I think these moments will help him to realize and believe that we are on the right path and he is a big part of that. He is loved by everyone at the club. I hope he can stay with us."
And the belief that Arteta can instigate a revival is now supported by his first trophy as a manager. He is the first to win the FA Cup as captain and manager of Arsenal.
As in 2017, Arsenal beat Manchester City and Chelsea in the last four to win the competition. This was no accident, and new signings now have clear, on-the-ground evidence of a new Arsenal team being formed.
They took advantage of luck sometimes, of course. Referee Anthony Taylor, the first man to make two FA Cup finals in 119 years, has not had one of his best afternoons, especially with his second yellow card Mateo Kovacic when it appeared Granit Xhaka stood up.
Chelsea were then outnumbered, aggravated by injuries to Azpilicueta, Pulisic and, right at the end, Peter, in his last appearance in the Blues. But they didn't create enough to make the most of this final, and Aubameyang made them pay. Now Arsenal should too.