Wembley hadn’t been a happy hunting ground for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He was overshadowed by Harry Kane when Tottenham beat the Gabonese’s Borussia Dortmund in 2017; he lost the League Cup final in one of his first outings for Arsenal, just weeks after losing there to Spurs again; his meek penalty late on in the north London derby a season later would have ultimately been enough for the Gunners to leapfrog the Lilywhites in the table last year had it gone in.
And yet Aubameyang’s three most recent games at the National Stadium will likely define his legacy as a player. Five goals, the FA Cup and the Community Shield to boot have rewritten how he’ll be remembered in N5.
Aubameyang now has somewhere he can truly call his home, and it's ironic that a man so often seen inanely smiling from ear to ear has found it at a place that's been as unhappy as the Emirates Stadium in recent years.
For so long he had been in the footballing wilderness unfairly labelled as a nuisance, a bad egg, pundits describing him as lazy and questioning his attitude. It’s easy to forget that there’s a whole world inside the sport that most people don’t know about, but the only way to change public perception is by winning - now that he's done that, maybe he can play out the rest of his Arsenal career with a little less public pressure.
He’s also been accused of being a simple flat-track bully (he scored eight goals in all competitions against top six sides last season alone, by the way), and it detracts from the fact that he’s been one of the world’s leading marksmen since he initially joined Dortmund in 2013.
Since Mikel Arteta’s arrival at Arsenal, he’s almost exclusively played from wide positions, usually off the left. For all the rhetoric that Aubameyang is a poacher and nothing more, he’s still adding to his game at the age of 31, he’s coming up with clutch moments even as he begins to slowly decline physically while the team around him quickly declines massively.
Looking at his stats per 90 minutes when playing on the wing this season, Aubameyang has averaged more non-penalty goals, assists, touches, tackles, interceptions and blocks - he's involved a lot more and it's paying off, with Arsenal averaging 1.57 points per game with their captain out wide as opposed to 1.14 when he's up top. Arteta clearly sees Aubameyang as a man of responsibility in the dressing room and on the pitch, ensuring his star man is in play as much as possible.
While other top earners at Arsenal have failed to show up, let alone deliver, Aubameyang's reward for saving their season should rightfully be to help guide them through this next stage of their rebuild - they simply aren't going to find a more potent goalscorer within their reach. Barcelona were linked with a move for him earlier in the year, but with all that's going on over at Camp Nou, perhaps it's a blessing in disguise that he remains at a place where he's truly loved.
As a leader by nature and example, his presence as the senior figure and key man will undoubtedly be useful to the next generation of Arsenal superstars - Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka should benefit the most from working alongside him.
Aubameyang’s spell at Arsenal has already been an emotional one, the searing highs of an unforgettable FA Cup win mixed with the lows of some huge misses crucial to the club's recent history. But on this trajectory, he’s more likely to be remembered fondly just beneath the likes of Thierry Henry and Ian Wright, rather than outcast with Robin van Persie and Alexis Sanchez.