Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cut a forlorn figure as an unused substitute during Arsenal’s north London derby victory over Tottenham on Sunday.
The Gunners captain was surprisingly left out for the game against Spurs in a late decision made by Arteta shortly before the match.
Aubameyang was replaced in the team by Alexandre Lacazette, with Arteta confirming before the game that the decision had been made for disciplinary reasons.
It’s understood that Aubameyang arrived late to Emirates Stadium for the game, which is a breach of club protocol and something that Arteta doesn’t take lightly.
“I made what I thought was the right decision,” he said.
“We draw a line there. Let’s move on again. We know how important Auba is for the club. It’s been dealt with and let’s move on.”
But was Arteta right to publicly call out Aubameyang?
Our Gunners writers have their say on the Arsenal manager’s treatment of the club captain.
Kaya Kaynak – Arsenal writer
Mikel Arteta has always been very clear that for him discipline off the pitch is as important as performances on it.
We’ve seen Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil fall foul of it in the past as Arteta has sought to stamp his authority on the Arsenal squad.
The case with Aubameyang is no different.
The Spaniard has shown, where he deems the timing to be right, that he is happy to cut his players some slack in public. In the case of Aubameyang, for example, Arteta has backed his captain through a poor patch of form earlier in the season and allowed him special dispensation to tend to family issue.
But at a certain point there is a line that has to be drawn.
By arriving late for team meetings on more than one occasion the 32-year-old has crossed it.
He is the leader in Arsenal’s young dressing room and Arteta cannot be seen to be allowing any players – regardless of their status – to fall short of the “non-negotiables” he set out during his first ever press conference in the job.
Perhaps the matter could have been dealt with internally rather allowing Arsenal’s dirty laundry to be aired in public once again. No one would have batted an eyelid if the club had said Aubameyang had been left out for rotational purposes.
But football.london understands that Sky Sports were prompted to ask Arteta the reasoning behind his decision to drop his captain.
It is clear the Gunners boss wanted to make a statement to the dressing room to remind them of standards he expects from every player in his squad.
Indiscipline is ultimately what brought down Unai Emery, and Arteta has made it clear that he has no intentions of suffering the same fate as his predecessor.
Chris Wheatley – Arsenal reporter
Make no mistake about it, Mikel Arteta was right to discipline Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after he breached club protocol by arriving late to the stadium.
Calling the Arsenal captain out publicly is not a good look for anyone involved, though.
Aubameyang has had a tough season. He was given time off to care for his sick mother last month and had previously endured a slump in form earlier in the campaign.
What is likely to have played a part is the episode over Aubameyang allegedly breaking COVID-19 regulations when he got a tattoo last month.
There is no excuse for being late but the most simple and obvious punishment would be to fine the Gunners forward and make it clear internally that no exception can be made regardless of his status.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles admitted last season that Arteta dropped him after he was late just once to training. It’s clear that the Arsenal boss takes a tough stance on any rule breakers, but was there really any need to call out Aubameyang?
“Ok I was late, maybe once during this manager’s time,” said Maitland-Niles.
“It was a mistake, I spoke to the manager and put my hands up and took the consequences. Since then I haven’t been late.”
Auba is a player who has a huge impact on team morale. His infectious personality makes him one of the most-liked players in the squad, so what does Arteta achieve by leaving the team’s best player on the bench? The punishment could have affected the result on Sunday.
Fortunately for the Arsenal manager his team won the north London derby without needing to bring on Aubameyang, who was desperate to make an appearance in the second half but got told he wasn’t coming on.
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Arteta has spoken passionately about the ‘non-negotiables’ he insists on in order to help restore Arsenal to its former glories, but in the case of Aubameyang it appears to be more about an ego trip rather than setting an example to others.
The captain will certainly move on from this situation and Arteta is right to draw a line under it. However, in future he would be better placed to keep things inside the camp instead of publicly shaming the captain who has helped win him two trophies in his first managerial job.