The end of Aubameyang? Arsenal captain's future in doubt after missing Southampton win

Posted Sunday, December 12, 2021 by

The Gunners skipper was left out of the squad by Mikel Arteta for a disciplinary breach as Arsenal beat Southampton 3-0 at the Emirates

The end of Aubameyang? Arsenal captain's future in doubt after missing Southampton win
The Gunners skipper was left out of the squad by Mikel Arteta for a disciplinary breach as Arsenal beat Southampton 3-0 at the Emirates

It’s been less than a year since the Mesut Ozil situation was finally resolved at Arsenal and now Mikel Arteta finds himself in another standoff with one of the club’s highest-paid stars.

But this time it’s not just an out-of-favour playmaker he’s dealing with, it’s the club captain, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang banished from the squad for Saturday’s 3-0 Premier League win against Southampton.

"Unfortunately [it’s] due to a disciplinary breach,” Arteta revealed before kick-off.

“I think we have been very consistent that we have certain non-negotiables in the team that we have set ourselves as a club, and he's not involved today.

“It’s certainly not an easy situation, or a situation that we want to have our club captain in.”

This is the second time in nine months that Arteta has had to take disciplinary action against his captain.

He dropped him from the starting XI to face Tottenham in the north London derby in March after he reported late on the day of the game.

And now he has been forced to take action once again and this latest incident must leave the Gabon international’s future up in the air.

The crux of Arteta's frustration over his captain is again down to time keeping, with the forward returning late from a trip away during the week for which he was given permission to leave for.

Exact details of where Aubameyang went and for what have yet to be revealed, but - as reported by GOAL - he was absent from training on Friday and was not present at London Colney at all.

The question now is what will Arteta do with his captain?

He brought him straight back into the starting XI after dropping him against Spurs last season, but it feels unlikely that will be the case this time around.

The bigger question perhaps is whether the 32-year-old will be stripped of the captaincy, or even still be at the club after the January transfer window?

From the moment he first walked through the doors at the Emirates in December 2019, Arteta has spoken of his non-negotiables.

So it could be viewed as a weakness should he let his captain get away relatively cheaply with another disciplinary breach.

This latest incident comes at a time when Aubameyang’s place in the team was already under scrutiny because of his poor recent form.

He was left out of the starting lineup for Monday night’s 2-1 defeat at Everton after a run of five games without a goal and a string of glaring misses.

The striker was introduced late on, but wasted a glorious chance to equalise deep into stoppage time.

Speaking during Sky Sports’ post match analysis, Gary Neville suggested a rift could be developing between Arteta and Aubameyang, but that was something the Gunners boss swiftly denied.

“I have a very good relationship with my players,” he said. “They have to understand that I always do the best for the club and for the team.

“The decisions are not personal, they are just to get performances and the best out of the team.”

Aubameyang’s future will now dominate the build-up to Wednesday night’s clash against West Ham.

Arteta’s side showed that they can perform without their captain as they brushed Southampton aside on Saturday, with Alexandre Lacazette, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Magalhaes all scoring in the 3-0 win, which moved the Gunners back up to fifth in the Premier League table.

Having gone into the game on the back of three defeats in four, the last thing Arteta would have wanted was such a high-profile incident involving one of his star names.

But after a shaky start, Arsenal produced one of their better performances of the season and showed they can still be a threat going forward without an attacker who many view as their talisman.

Given their lack of senior strikers, however, it will be intriguing to see how long Aubameyang will remain on the naughty step.

“It starts today,” is all Arteta would say when asked whether Aubameyang’s absence from the matchday squad would be a long-term thing.

Arsenal’s manager will have been as relieved as anyone that his side performed the way they did against Southampton.

Another defeat would have seen his decision on Aubameyang massively scrutinised.

The win has given him some breathing space, but now he must decide what to do next.

Aubameyang might not be in the last chance saloon yet, but the frontman must be sailing close to the wind.

Ozil found there was no way back after falling to live up to Arteta’s demands, as did Matteo Guendouzi - who was swiftly shipped out of the club after falling out with the manager.

It remains to be seen whether Aubameyang now goes the same way.

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