New Barcelona signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang points finger at Mikel Arteta for Arsenal rift

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has insisted that his problems at Arsenal were only with manager Mikel Arteta after he brought an end to his north London exile by joining Barcelona.

Aubameyang was stripped of the club captaincy and frozen out of the first team in December for what Arsenal said was the latest in a number of disciplinary breaches; the Gabon forward had flown back later than agreed from a club sanctioned trip to visit his mother in France, a move that brought with it COVID protocol implications for the club. That set the 32-year-old on a path that ended with him joining Barcelona on deadline day, his contract at the Emirates Stadium ripped up though his former club will subsidise his wages until the end of the season.

“My last few months at Arsenal were complicated, that’s football sometimes,” said Aubameyang at the press conference to unveil him as a new Barcelona player. “For my part, I never wanted to do anything wrong. My problem was only with Arteta. I can’t say much more, I wasn’t happy.

“It was just him and he made that decision. He wasn’t happy, I can’t tell you more. He wasn’t very happy, I stayed very calm and that’s it.

“They were difficult months but I think that’s how football is sometimes … For my part, I have never wanted to do something wrong and now I think that this is the past and I want to think about the present and right now that is my answer.”

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Having been stripped of the captaincy, Aubameyang was subsequently instructed to train on his own and when he returned early from last month’s Africa Cup of Nations, he was not invited to the club’s training camp in Dubai. With Arsenal keen to move on from their $400,000-a-week highest earner, Barcelona offered salvation for the striker, who had rejected a sizeable offer from Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr to remain in Europe.

Instead, he agreed to a free transfer with Barcelona after a tortuous day of negotiations between them and Arsenal, one which Aubameyang did not entirely aid by turning up in Catalonia with both sides unaware of his location. Ultimately, the Gabon international agreed to a three-and-a-half year contract — understood to be on significantly lower wages than he earned in the Premier League — at the Camp Nou with a break clause at the end of the 2022-23 season. His contract includes a $113 million (€100 million) buyout clause.

Aubameyang struggled for form at Arsenal after signing a new contract before the 2020-21 season, scoring just 14 goals in 43 Premier League games since. He arrives at Barcelona having not played a competitive minute since Dec. 6; though Xavi envisages him as a key part of the push for a top-four berth in La Liga, Sunday’s game with Atletico Madrid may come too soon for the new signing to play a significant role.

“I haven’t played a game in a long time but it’s very clear in my head that I’ll be ready soon to play and to help,” said Aubameyang. “I know we’re going to get back to the top little by little. 

“I’ve spoken a bit with Xavi. He sees me playing as a number nine and I’ll be there soon. But if he needs me on the wing that wouldn’t be a problem.”

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