LONDON — There was sadly no crowd to witness Arsenal’s 14th FA Cup final success — a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over 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 as he has done time and again during a turbulent campaign that ends on this most improbable high here at Wembley.
Chelsea led 1-0 through Christian Pulisic’s early strike and threatened to run away with proceedings before Mikel Arteta injected some life into Arsenal in an animated drinks break and Aubameyang sprang to life. He won and converted the 28th-minute penalty after getting goalside of Cesar Azpilicueta before being hauled to the ground. His winning goal benefitted from some equally errant defending as Kurt Zouma was beaten easily, but the skill Aubameyang produced in that moment, feigning to shoot before shifting the ball onto his left foot and dinking a sublime finish over Willy Caballero, was a match-winning moment so few strikers are capable of producing. It was his 29th and final goal of a remarkable season.
Where would Arsenal be without him? Surely they don’t want to find out.
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ESPN revealed last month that Aubameyang has requested a three-year deal worth £250,000 a week. The Gabon international has indicated he is willing to stay and Arsenal want to keep him, but their precise summer budget has been indeterminable for weeks with European qualification uncertain. That ends now. Aubameyang may have just secured his pay rise in the most literal way possible by scoring the goals that increase the resources from which the club can boost his salary.
He gave nothing away in the immediate aftermath when asked by BT Sport about his future.
“I’m really not thinking about this,” he said….