Keep Aubameyang at any cost, Arsenal: Neil Humphreys
Arsenal need to fix their defence to keep EPL's joint-top scorer
With every goal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tries to silence that ticking clock.
With every game, he seems determined to defeat time itself.
He can't. But the 30-year-old is clearly an ageing striker in a hurry, fully aware that he is greater than the sum of Arsenal's parts.
Aubameyang is too good for the Gunners currently, the definitive, finished article surrounded by too many works in progress.
If Mikel Arteta doesn't redress the balance quickly, his centre forward will leave.
He'll deserve to go, too, having earned a final shot at serious silverware and a substantial payday for his peerless ability.
Arteta continues to address his striker's restlessness as the relatively inexperienced manager tussles with the most double-edged of swords.
He desperately needs Aubameyang's goals to cover Arsenal's defensive shortcomings until he can stabilise the squad at the end of the season.
But those defensive shortcomings may convince the Gabonese striker to cash in on a contract with a year left to run and take his goals elsewhere.
The Gunners' schizophrenic performance against Everton - scoring three delightful goals and conceding two daft ones - encapsulated Aubameyang's dilemma.
He's obviously revelling in his new senior leadership role. Playing on the left of an attacking 4-2-3-1 line-up, the skipper pulled off a passable impression of Thierry Henry.
A precise, elegant finish and a thumping, centre forward's header demonstrated the confident, attacking authority rarely seen at the Emirates since Henry or Robin van Persie.
Arteta admitted that he had misgivings about Aubameyang initially, suggesting the striker lacked a certain physical intensity for his size. He doesn't any more.
Aubameyang's work rate against Everton was astonishing. Apart from his goals, he also tracked back tirelessly to support a wobbling back four.
As the Toffees pressed for an equaliser, Arsenal's formation morphed into a panicky 4-5-1, with Aubameyang operating as an extra left-back. Among his teammates, only Shkodran Mustafi matched the striker's tally of three tackles.
Aubameyang plays with an urgency that goes beyond a centre forward at the top of his game, or even a superior teammate carrying weaker or younger colleagues.
He knows purple patches do not last for men of his age and position.
Strikers rarely get faster on the wrong side of 30. He'll be 31 in June.
His peak is now. So Arsenal must improve now to keep him.
And they are, slowly and steadily, but only going forward.
Aubameyang's 17 goals make him the English Premier League's joint-top scorer, alongside Leicester's Jamie Vardy.
He has netted six times in nine matches since Arteta took over in December, perhaps emphasising the forward's eagerness to return to the Champions League - one way or another.
Anything is possible. Just four points away from fifth place, Arsenal's next four league games are against West Ham United, Brighton & Hove Albion, Southampton and Norwich City. In theory, they should win the lot.
In reality, their defenders are like waxwork figures left out in the midday sun.
The term "statuesque" barely does justice to Arsenal's inertia at set-pieces. Everton's goals both came from dead-ball situations. Only Aston Villa have conceded more at set-pieces - 14 - than Arsenal's 12 this season.
When Arteta succeeded Unai Emery, the former Gunner wanted to test Aubameyang's physicality, introduce younger, hungrier players and fix that porous defence.
Two out of three isn't bad.
Goal-scorer Eddie Nketiah displayed a maturity that belied his inexperience - he's 20 - and ensured that Alexandre Lacazette wasn't missed. He led the line wonderfully alongside Aubameyang.
And Bukayo Saka's prodigious talent is so scary it should come with an M18 rating, which means he'd barely be able to watch himself. He's still just 18.
Yet, Saka already has 10 assists this season. At fullback, his final ball is on its way to becoming as dependable as Trent Alexander-Arnold's.
Quietly, Arteta has orchestrated a respectable run of 10 games unbeaten and three wins in a row, building a front line around Aubameyang that is worthy of the captain's remarkable consistency.
But repairing Arsenal's defence is a long-term project, one that is of little consequence to an impatient striker at the peak of his finite powers.
Aubameyang needs assurances that the club can match his short-term ambitions. He craves Champions League football next season. His form merits nothing less.
If Arteta wants to take care of Aubameyang, he's got to take care of his dodgy defence first.