14 December 2021

Mikel Arteta tells of painful decision to strip Aubameyang of Arsenal captaincy

14 December 2021

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta accepts it will take time for the rift with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to heal – but refused to be drawn on whether the former captain had played his last game for the club.

Aubameyang was dropped for Saturday’s 3-0 Premier League victory over Southampton for what boss Arteta said was a “disciplinary breach”, which reportedly concerned a late return from a trip abroad to visit his ill mother.

On Tuesday morning, the club confirmed Gabon forward Aubameyang would no longer wear the captain’s armband and would also not be considered for the visit of West Ham on Wednesday night.

Arsenal’s statement said the club expected “all our players, particularly our captain, to work to the rules and standards we have all set and agreed”.

It is not Aubameyang’s first transgression, having previously been benched for March’s north London derby against Tottenham after what was described as a breach of the club’s pre-match protocol.

“What I can say now is to make the decision that we made is really hurting, and it is still like this and it needs a bit of time to heal, so for now, he is not involved in the squad,” said Arteta, who could again name Alexandre Lacazette captain against the Hammers.

Asked if Aubameyang, 32, had played his last game for the club, Arteta added: “All I can say is that for now, he’s out of the squad, he’s not involved and sadly, this is the decision that we’ve taken.”

Mikel Arteta (right) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were all smiles after Arsenal’s 2020 FA Cup success at Wembley (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Archive)

A former Gunners captain, Arteta admitted it was a difficult experience having to take action against Aubameyang, whose double strike helped win the 2020 FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley.

“Since I have been here (my relationship with him has been) really, really good. That is why it is painful,” said Arteta, who confirmed he had a face-to-face conversation with Aubameyang.

“When we had to make that decision, it was because it was the right one to defend the interests of the football club.

“It’s a really particular situation, first of all with the importance that the player has at the club, with their role, with the relationship that I have with him.

“But unfortunately, this is the situation that we have and we have to face it.”

Arteta added: “We have made this decision based on certain moments where he has not fulfilled his duties, and that’s it.

“That expectation and commitment that we need from every player, that’s at a different level. That’s why we were forced to make that decision.

“I think that this club and its people, and every supporter needs transparency – whether they agree or not – to be told what happened, and (to be told) the truth and why we have made that decision.”

Arteta confirmed there would be no rush in appointing a new permanent captain, with a choice set to be made from the leadership group which also included former skipper Granit Xhaka.

“It is a really unpleasant situation and it is not the moment to make any rash decision,” Arteta said.

“That leadership group is really strong, it is the one that communicates with myself and the coaching staff and with the club in a really strong and clear way and we are going to continue that.

“That is one of the decisions we make, to make that group a little bit better and try to educate them and try to get the right feedback all the time and build the trust and a strong culture around the club. It is working really well so we will continue to do that.”

Arteta reported no fresh selection worries or Covid-19 concerns ahead of Wednesday’s match against the Irons, who drew 0-0 at Burnley on Sunday.

The Gunners could move above their London rivals into the top four with victory at the Emirates Stadium.

“I’m hoping that the team tomorrow is going to get out there with the fire in their eyes and knowing the importance of the game,” Arteta said.

“West Ham are within catching distance and tomorrow we play at home in front of our people and we expect a great performance and a great result.”

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