Age ain’t nothing but a number for Aubameyang

But Aubameyang is 31 at the end of the season was the response why I proposed on Twitter that we should be looking to tie him down to a new deal, even if it means increasing his weekly wage.

Arsenal fans (and perhaps football fans in general) have been conditioned over the years that passing through 30-years-old is something that is bad. That suddenly you go down hill rapidly. That you are done. That you should not get a contract beyond one year.

Arsene Wenger had the philosophy that players over 30 should only get a one year extension. But this theory is built on 1990s players who had not looked after themselves from a young age. These days players know a lot more about diet, fitness and drinking.

It is true that tying up money in someone at their peak is a danger. If they are at their peak they will soon by over the hill and going down the other side.

When a player is at his peak is when they usually command their highest wages in their career. But it is also when they are most likely to begin declining.

Andriy Shevchenko is the most obvious example of this.

Shevchenko left Milan for Chelsea for £30.8 million a month before his 30th birthday. He was one of the hottest strikers in Europe. 127 league goals in 226 games. He became the most expensive player in English football, and one of the highest paid.

He scored just 9 league goals in the 2 seasons he was at Chelsea before being loaned back to AC Milan.

But then you have the story of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo signed a four-year contract with Italian club Juventus after completing a €100 million transfer. He was already 33.

In the one and a half seasons that have followed, he has scored 50 goals in just 70 games across all competitions. Ronaldo has shown that age is nothing but a number.

When it comes to a players age and how long a contract you offer them, it is perhaps better to look deeper than their birth certificate.

Look at how many games he has on the clock, how often he picks up minor injuries, how many major injuries he has had throughout his career, and how naturally fit he is. It is also important to establish whether he has any long term injuries that he has been managing.

Aubameyang has played 488 games in his career. It is a huge chunk. But he was not a teen sensation who was playing week in, week out since he was 17 or 18. He had only played 39 games prior to his 20th birthday.

After this season he will have had 12 full seasons under his belt. Wayne Rooney and Nicolas Anelka were both 29-years-old when they completed their 12th full season.

Rooney played a further 3 seasons for Manchester United; Anelka 3 seasons for Chelsea.

Both did tail off in their final season, but that is why you offer Aubameyang something along the lines of a 2 year deal with an option to extend to 3 years.

Injuries also play a big part in what age a player begins to decline.

Someone who has had a big year-long injury will usually begin their decline earlier. Especially as a big injury can led to the rest of their career being blighted by further break downs. Think Abou Diaby.

Likewise a player plagued by multiple minor injuries will often give up earlier. Michael Owen or any number of player plagued by hamstring injuries. Gareth Bale springs to mind.

Throughout Aubameyang’s career, he has not suffered too many injuries – neither long term or short term.

A players natural fitness is also very important.

The human body naturally slows down as you age. Your metabolism slows. It is harder to keep those pounds off. But it affects people less who are “naturally fit”.

Compare again to Wayne Rooney. He was not a natural athlete and had to work hard to keep fit. Every pre-season was a slog. Every return from any sort of break he had to lose a couple of kilos. Eden Hazard has similar problems.

You can tell by Aubameyang’s body size and make up, he is a natural athlete. He does not need to work hard to stay in shape.

Finally the underlining injury issues. Think Thierry Henry. His back issue.

He was managing a back problem for a while, and eventually it caught up to him. As far as we know, Aubameyang does not have an underlining issue.

So here we have Aubameyang, about to turn 31-years-old, but his “body age” could be that of a 28 or 29-year-old. The sports scientists at Arsenal will know the score.

Ian Wright scored 30 goals in 41 games when he was 33.

Do not write off a player just because they are the wrong side of 30.

Keenos

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