Wenger labelled 'disrespectful' by furious Dortmund
Arsenal's £60 million (€68m) pursuit of striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang descended into acrimony and anger yesterday after Borussia Dortmund dropped their star player and accused Arsene Wenger of disrespecting their club.
Wenger had begun the day by largely dodging questions on the potential club-record acquisition of Aubameyang before responding to an inquiry about his character and whether he would fit in at Arsenal.
"Yes," said Wenger, "because character can be a very positive note and it can be a very negative note. I believe, overall, you look at the achievements of a player during his career and usually, when a career has been very positive, the character has been used in a positive way."
Those comments soon prompted a furious reaction from Dortmund, who told Wenger to focus on his own struggling team and then left the 28-year-old Gabon international out of the squad for tonight's Bundesliga match against Hertha Berlin.
Aubameyang was also excluded from last Sunday's match against Wolfsburg after missing a team meeting and, while Arsenal are now closing on a deal that could also involve Olivier Giroud, Dortmund are deeply unhappy at how their player has become unsettled.
"We find it disrespectful to speak about players of other clubs," said Michael Zorc, Dortmund's sporting director, in a club statement.
"We assumed Arsene Wenger would have enough to do to take care of the performances of his own players."
Arsenal have won just one of their past six matches to fall eight points off the Premier League top four and are ready to offer Aubameyang a contract until 2021.
No fee has yet been agreed with Dortmund but following the departures this month of Francis Coquelin and Theo Walcott, as well Alexis Sanchez's imminent move to Manchester United, Giroud could be the next major exit.
Dortmund were also keen on the Frenchman last summer and Wenger noticeably refused yesterday to rule out his departure this month.
Asked whether Giroud, who has scored 105 goals in six seasons at Arsenal, could leave if Aubameyang came in, Wenger, cryptically, said: "'If' can be many theories - at the moment I cannot tell you much more."
Aubameyang has scored 141 goals for Dortmund in four-and-a-half seasons, including 21 this campaign, and has the additional endorsement of Sven Mislintat, Arsenal's new head of recruitment.
Mislintat joined from the German club in November and was previously instrumental in identifying Aubameyang when he moved to the Bundesliga from Saint-Etienne in 2013.
He is understood to have reassured Arsenal over Aubameyang's temperament, although the decision to leave the forward in Dortmund yesterday and away from the first-team squad was apparently taken in response to how poorly he had trained earlier in the day.
"We felt that he is not at 100pc with his mind focused," said Zorc.
"We'll see if this will help him. It's a difficult situation."
Arsenal were also interested in the Bordeaux winger Malcom but Aubameyang is the priority, with Sanchez departing.
Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere are also out of contract in the summer but Wenger remains hopeful that they will both still extend their contracts and is certain that they will not leave this month.
"We have to very quickly get over this transfer period because for us especially it has been more disturbing than ever," he said.
"Why? Because we such influential players close to the end of their contracts and it has been more destabilising than ever." (© The Daily Telegraph, London)