In Focus: Arteta must solve Auba conundrum to get Gunners firing
Christmas is just around the corner — and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is on Mikel Arteta's naughty list.
The Gabonese ace, 32, was left out of the Arsenal squad for last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Southampton after returning late from a trip abroad before being stripped of the club captaincy yesterday.
As the Gunners prepare to take on West Ham tonight without their star marksman, who has been made unavailable once again, we consider how things got so bad and what the future now holds for him.
Mikel in a pickle
Arsenal may have beaten Southampton comfortably, but Arteta was not best pleased to be without Aubameyang — especially for such unusual reasons.
Speaking ahead of the game, the Gunners boss said: "I think we’ve been very consistent with no negotiables as a team, that we have set ourselves as a club, so [Aubameyang is] not involved.
"Certainly, it’s not an easy situation, a situation that we want our club captain to be in."
Three days later, Arsenal's No14 was no longer in possession of the armband.
One misstep too many
Aubameyang does not appear to have learned his lesson from the last time his tardiness landed him in trouble.
In March, the striker found himself dropped from the starting XI for the North London derby against Tottenham, having turned up late for a team meeting.
Only a month earlier, he was alleged to have breached Arsenal’s coronavirus protocols to get a new tattoo.
Controversy seems to follow the 71-cap international — and it appears the Arsenal hierarchy have now finally had enough.
Last season was not Aubameyang’s best by any means, with the ex-Borussia Dortmund forward managing only 10 Premier League goals — 12 fewer than in each of the previous two campaigns.
And with just four goals in 14 league appearances so far this term, he might not even reach double figures.
The striker is currently on a run of six games without scoring — his joint-longest since arriving at the Gunners.
On the whole, Aubameyang’s levels have plummeted and this week’s big development raises significant questions about where he fits into Arteta’s plans moving forward, if at all.
Ozil all over again?
Having been frozen out at the Emirates, Mesut Ozil joined Fenerbahce in January after Arsenal agreed to terminate his contract early.
The difference with Aubameyang is that he still has 18 months left to run on his deal, which makes that kind of relatively easy departure a non-starter.
But with the 2018-19 Premier League Golden Boot winner turning 33 next summer and on the decline, what sort of fee can the Gunners realistically expect to receive if they do look to sell him?
It is not the kind of situation any club would want to be in with one of their biggest earners.
Passing the armband
For now, the Gunners will lean on their leadership group of Alexandre Lacazette, Rob Holding and Granit Xhaka to take over captaincy duties.
But with Lacazette out of contract at the end of the season, Holding not a regular and Xhaka having lost the armband himself two years back, one would expect a new name to take the role further down the line.
As Arsenal continue to build for the future, expect the likes of Kieran Tierney and Norway captain Martin Odegaard to be touted as their next leader.