Arteta vs Aubameyang: Why Arsenal captaincy axe had to happen

Posted Friday, December 17, 2021 by

Arteta vs Aubameyang: Why Arsenal captaincy axe had to happen

COMMENT: It was a shock. If a shock can be inevitable. Mikel Arteta's decision to dump Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as Arsenal captain was long in the works. Perhaps the ruthless nature of the call was a surprise. But the decision itself was always going to happen...

This column has said it before. Mikel Arteta is a serious, serious football man. And he doesn't suffer fools. He'll give them leeway, sure. But that'll only go so far. And as we've seen these past 18 months, Arsenal's manager won't tolerate being consistently let down - no matter the profile of the player concerned.

As we say, the Aubameyang blow-up was always going to happen. They talk about three transgressions, but it's more. Indeed, having Aubameyang as his on-field representative has never sat well with Arteta. The striker never reflected the manager's ideals. His principles. Think of Tony Adams and George Graham. Patrick Vieira and Arsene Wenger. You get the picture... Arteta, as a traditional football man, wants his captain to reflect his own values and approach. Whether that be on the pitch or in the dressing room. And no matter how Aubameyang's apologists rationalise such a litany of disciplinary breaches, no-one can argue in good faith that he mirrors the image of his manager.

With his explanation on Tuesday, Arteta may as well have put us all in his office. Sat us next to him as he informed Aubameyang of his decision. There was no flowery language here. No touchy-feely stuff. As we said, Arteta is a serious football man.

"What I expect from any person in this football club, that is representing this badge, with passion and that he gives absolutely 100 per cent, that he puts the club in front of any personal interests and is able to do anything to fulfil the badge we have on the chest," declared the Basque.

“Apart from that, you can listen to individuals and you can understand different cultures, but that commitment and passion has to be there. Unfortunately, it wasn't. The decision that we have taken as a club is very clear. It is because we believe that he has failed to be committed at the level that we all expect and agreed. It is as simple as that."

No room for sentiment. No room for excuses. Arteta, as we've learned since his arrival from Manchester City, doesn't do that. And Aubameyang can't say he wasn't warned.

It was Arteta who managed to persuadeMesut Ozil to leave after freezing him out for six months. He bombed out Matteo Guendouzi last season - and kept him away from his dressing room for the new campaign. And just this season, he ordered Ainsley Maitland-Niles to train with the academy kids after the midfielder spoke out before the summer market shut.

It was up in his face. But Aubameyang refused to read the situation. The idea that Arteta would demand others adhere to his rules, while Aubameyang avoided action, was never going to happen. It's no surprise we're now getting whispers from the dressing room that many of the squad had been questioning Aubameyang's leadership qualities for some time. The doubts only increasing as the striker's form continued to fade.

As for the reaction, the players couldn't have supported their manager's call any better. Victory over Southampton was followed by Wednesday night's impressive triumph against West Ham. A clean sheet and goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe. And against a top four rival, no less. With the Aubameyang decision sandwiched by the two results, the players didn't skip a beat.

Bukayo Saka and Martinelli in wide positions. Martin Odegaard operating in the No10 role. The kids again responded to Arteta's backing. Players of similar character. Similar approach. You can see a lot of their manager in these youngsters. Indeed, if it carries on like this, we'll soon be saying, 'Yeah, he's an Arteta player...'.

Which is why Aubameyang is on his way out. He doesn't fit. At least not for what Arteta is trying to build and establish. On the field, ability-wise, the answer would be affirmative. But with Martinelli, Saka and Smith Rowe, the veteran isn't the only flair player available to Arteta. The difference being in approach and character. The young trio are far closer to being an Arteta player than Aubameyang ever was. The former captain, as it's becoming increasingly apparent, belongs to a former Arsenal team. A former Arsenal era.

These days. In the midst of this rebuild. It's not enough for a manager to sign entertainers and enjoy himself watching them on the London Colney pitches. The time for such indulgences is over. The time to indulge such players is over.

He's had his wobbles. But he's now stronger for them. And as the results arrive from the hard decisions made, it's becoming more clear that Arteta is the right manager for this time in Arsenal's history.

The Aubameyang decision was just the latest. An inevitable shock if there ever was one. But given the response of the players this week, for Arteta, it could be one of the last of it's type he'll have to make.

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