Mikel Arteta has revealed how close Arsenal came to losing star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gunners skipper signed a new three-year contract on Tuesday worth £250,000-a-week to finally end months of speculation about his future.

But with the likes of Barcelona circling, Arteta revealed he never felt confident Aubameyang would stay - until the pair had a heart-to-heart during lockdown.

Arteta, whose side face West Ham today, said: ”It was a conversation I had with Auba first, privately, and then with his father and his agent.

“It is incredible how necessary these conversations are to understand each other’s position and what happened in the past, things that have annoyed people, things that have made people feel important and part of the process.

Mikel Arteta managed to convince Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay at Arsenal
Mikel Arteta managed to convince Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay at Arsenal

“After those two conversations I felt we had a good chance because I felt a really good connection between us and a strong feeling that they wanted to continue with us.

“Those conversations happened during the Covid period and then we started to have some conversations between his representatives and the club and things were evolving positively.

“When I joined the club I wasn’t as positive, that’s the truth. Financially we were in a position where it was difficult. Auba had his doubts at the time. But things evolved.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Arsenal future is still to be confirmed
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Arsenal future is finally confirmed

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“The club has to take credit for that. I am really pleased to have convinced Auba to stay at our club. We have been really clear with each other, how big he was for my plans.

“When you have some restrictions financially with what you can and cannot do, it becomes crucial that you are able to keep the core and the players you believe are vital for the success of the project.”

Despite misfit defender Sead Kolasinac closing in on a move to Bayer Leverkusen, Arteta claims he is “not expecting anyone to leave very shortly.”

But after Emi Martinez was sold to Aston Villa for £20m, it will be Bernd Leno in goal again against the Hammers.

Emiliano Martinez has signed a four-year deal with Aston Villa

Arteta admits Martinez was sold to raise funds for transfer targets like Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar and Thomas Partey of Atletico Madrid.

The Gunners boss said: “We have to find some balance to what we want to achieve with the squad, and our finances.

“You get to a point where you have to make a decision whether to achieve certain things you have to sacrifice others. Time will tell whether we are weaker or not.”

Arsenal hope to sign cut-price replacement Runar Alex Runnarsson from Dijon for less than £2m in the next few days.

Arsenal (3-4-3) vs West Ham: Leno; Holding, Luiz, Gabriel; Bellerin, Xhaka, Elneny, Tierney; Willian, Nketiah, Aubameyang.