Friday, January 28

The curse of the Arsenal captaincy continues as Aubameyang gives Arteta a new test | Arsenal


TOArsenal can feel that the captain’s armband is cursed. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the 10th player to have received and resigned since the departure of Patrick Vieira in 2005 and it is difficult to argue that any of its bearers have been particularly successful. The long list of short-lived leaders speaks succinctly to the uncertainty that has plagued the club in recent years and Mikel Arteta will be exasperated that the issue of leadership has come up again in the last week.

Arteta could be considered one of the few captains of today’s Arsenal whose tenure, between 2014 and 2016, did not end in rancor or simple disappointment, even though he was out with injury for long periods. However, on Tuesday it became clear that the history lessons would cut the ice little. “I think it is more than enough to just discuss that matter,” he said, making it clear that he would only speak about the dismissal of Aubameyang and not about the ignominious trend that it underlines. The immediate problem is severe: captain or not, what does Arteta do with the highest paid player on his team and a true world star?

That question had started to surface even before Arteta dropped him for repeated disciplinary infractions, focused on punctuality issues. “Without a doubt,” he answered the question whether, if Aubameyang had scored goals at will, it would have been so easy for him to take such drastic action. But the issue was moot. Aubameyang has found the net 21 times in his last 53 appearances, from the start of 2020-21, and this season’s count of seven is inflated by a hat-trick against West Brom’s youth in the Carabao Cup. It’s a record few mid-table forwards could sniff out, but Arsenal have come to expect much more from their prize pool.

Now they run the risk of being burdened by a 32-year-old high-earning player who may discover, within weeks, that Arsenal have simply moved on. Unless called up to face Leeds or Norwich in the next 12 days, Aubameyang will not be available again until Gabon completes its participation in the African Cup of Nations. That takes him past the top flight “winter break” and into February, which means he will miss his next seven Premier League games.

Hat-trick of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in West Brom
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s hat-trick at West Brom in the League Cup earned him nearly half of his seven goals this season. Photograph: Nick Potts / PA

Given that Emile Smith Rowe and more recently Gabriel Martinelli have excelled in Aubameyang’s former position on the left, while Alexandre Lacazette has added stamina and presence up front, it’s hard to see where the older statesman would fit in if Arsenal enjoy a profitable winter run. His attack clicked against a admittedly poor Southampton in his absence, after a questionable start, and is the only area of ​​the team where Arteta has yet to attempt a full overhaul.

While a better-functioning frontline may be an inadvertent consequence of Aubameyang’s exile, it’s not hard to see the potential danger. Arsenal already has a long to-do list in that department, with Lacazette able to seek a pre-contract deal elsewhere given there is no new deal in sight and Eddie Nketiah recently turned down new terms. Chances of landing a Nicolas Pépé tune appear to be plummeting and Folarin Balogun, the vaunted young forward, will be loaned out at least once before being seriously considered. If Aubameyang cannot be reinstated successfully, the required short-term review becomes much greater, especially since a salary package of roughly £ 300,000 a week cannot be allowed to gather dust.

Fast guide

Arsenal club captains from Vieira

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Thierry henry 2005-2007
William gallas 2007-2008
Cesc Fabregas 2008-2011
Robin van persie 2011-2012
Thomas vermaelen 2012-2014
Mikel Arteta (pictured) 2014-2016
Per Mertesacker 2016-2018
Laurent koscielny 2018-2019
Granit Xhaka 2019
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 2019-2021

Photograph: Andy Rain / EPA

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Arsenal have been there before, even if the popular Aubameyang’s situation cannot be directly compared to Mesut Özil’s right now. Arteta has made good habits and “non-negotiable” a priority since taking office, and while there have been bumps along the way, he has largely managed to change the dynamics and sense of purpose on the boot camp. by London Colney. “We’ve come very, very far and you can probably only see that when you’re around here,” he said. “But it is not there yet and we had another incident that reflects that we are not there yet.”

No one can sensibly rule out the future of Aubameyang Arsenal just yet. Most viewers thought Granit Xhaka was finished when he violently threw the captaincy, but the midfielder has been rehabbed as a key member of the team under Arteta. The partisans have not turned against Aubameyang like Xhaka does; on the other hand, Xhaka’s flash point did not occur during Arteta’s watch.

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The immediate prospects for Arsenal’s newest captain may depend on whether he is willing to become another member of the team: Aubameyang has also been kicked out of the coach’s “leadership group”, which essentially means his voice no longer carries weight. than his youngest. Teammates.

“I am here to make the right decision every day and defend the club,” said Arteta. “To be consistent in something we want to do, on and off the field, we have to be consistent in our decision making.” A little less tiring predictability regarding the fate of their captaincy would serve them just as well.


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