Mikel Arteta is hopeful Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will sign a contract extension at Arsenal but says no talks are currently ongoing with the Gabon international.
The 30-year-old striker has 18 months left on his current deal and newspaper reports from Spain have claimed Real Madrid will make a player-plus-cash offer for Aubameyang worth up to £70m.
However, Aubameyang rubbished those reports in Arsenal’s matchday programme prior to their 1-0 win over Leeds United in the FA Cup on Monday night, insisting he loves playing for the Gunners.
“I was very pleased to read those comments,” Arteta said. “He knows exactly what I think about him and obviously he is a massive player for us.
“But at the moment we are in the middle of the season and we have not discussed anything further on that.”
Arsenal’s managing director Vinai Venkatesham said in May the club would look to sell anyone entering the final two years of their contract should they not wish to renew their deals, in a bid to avoid a repeat of what happened with Aaron Ramsey, who left to join Juventus on a free transfer last summer.
However, the club appear to have softened their stance on that – at least in regard to their leading scorer – and Arteta was clear keeping Aubameyang is a major priority for him.
Arteta explained: “My intention is to keep Auba because I know that if we keep Auba with us, we are going to be stronger and closer to winning football matches.”
Asked if he is confident Aubameyang will re-sign, Arteta replied: “I don’t know. We have not discussed that but I am confident that he is very happy here because that is what he said.”
Arsenal will look to add in January
Arteta does not foresee Arsenal spending big money in January after committing close to £150m in transfer fees in the summer.
But an injury to Calum Chambers, who faces nine months out after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee against Chelsea, means Arsenal are looking for defensive reinforcements.
Asked about signings, Arteta said: “I am not expecting big things [in the market]. I am expecting big things from the players I have at the moment and the players that are recovering from injury.
“[But] if we can find something to help us at the moment to get through the season in a more balanced way in certain areas and it is helpful, then we will look at the options.
“We always have to be looking [to strengthen]. We have some bad injuries to players who are going to be out for a long time and we have to see if we can find options there.”
Arsenal considering loan offers for trio
Arteta also confirmed the club are considering offers from a number of clubs to take Emile Smith-Rowe, Tyreece John-Jules and Eddie Nketiah out on loan for the rest of the season.
“We are assessing the situation with three of them,” Arteta confirmed.
“We are evaluating all the offers that they have from different clubs, what would suit them more and whether it is the right time for them to make that step.
“In the next few days we will tell you exactly what will happen.”
How to follow the January transfer window
Sky Sports will bring you the very latest news from the January transfer market with the return of three shows.
Start your day with Good Morning Transfers at 9am as our team of reporters bring you the latest news and insight. Transfer Talk then follows at midday delivering analysis of the biggest stories. Then join us at 7pm for the definitive round-up of the day’s news with The Transfer Show.