Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has revealed he is still in contact with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and has outlined what Mikel Arteta can do to bring out the best of the Arsenal captain.
Aubameyang spent two seasons working under Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund in which he struck 79 goals in 95 matches and won the DFB-Pokal, one of just two major honours the Gabon international has won during his career.
The two developed a close relationship and Tuchel indulged the forward in a manner which Arteta has not at the Emirates. Aubameyang, especially in his role as club captain, is held to the same high standards as his teammates.
Fail to meet those and the 31-year-old will be reprimanded accordingly, as Aubameyang discovered earlier in the campaign when he was dropped from the starting XI for the North London Derby having arrived late for the game.
Punctuality is something that Aubameyang has had issues with throughout his career. And it was no different under Tuchel at Dortmund. However, the German coach was relaxed about his prolific scorer’s lack of time-keeping.
“So when we wanted him to be on time, we told him the meeting was 10.45 when it was actually 11. So there was a good chance at least he’s there with everybody else. You could always hear his car from far. The last kilometre we could always hear, so we could start to prepare everything, start the video because he would soon arrive.
“I don’t really know how he managed to keep his driving licence throughout the two years because, from the sound of the car, I don’t know if he was always on the speed limit to arrive at the last minute. That’s him.
“It’s hard to be really mad at the guy because he comes with a big smile, he opens his heart, gives apologies to everyone. We could accept having one or two guys in the team like this isn’t the biggest problem.
“At the same time, and don’t forget this, he was a top, top professional. I don’t think he missed any training session in two seasons, never sneaked off the pitch early. When he was changed, he was ready. It was nice to have him.”
Tuchel and Aubameyang will reunite at Stamford Bridge this evening. There is likely to be a warm embrace and a few words exchanged between the two ahead of the game. Then it’s time for both to go to work.
The match will highlight the contrasting fortunes of Tuchel’s Chelsea and Aubameyang’s Arsenal. A victory for the Blues, who have reached the final of the Champions League and FA Cup, would all but secure a top-four finish in the Premier League.
The Gunners, meanwhile, are ninth in the table and need to take three points in order to keep their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Europa League alive. What is certain, however, is Mikel Arteta’s side will end the campaign without a trophy.
And that will mean the FA Cup is the only major honour Aubameyang has won at the Emirates since signing in January 2018, something that Tuchel believes isn’t befitting of the forward’s approach and mindset.
“He is a winner,” Tuchel explained. “We won the cup together in Dortmund and I never felt he lacked a certain edge or the mentality that you need if you want to win stuff. Clearly, he can’t do it alone, he needs a top squad to play in to compete at the highest level.
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“I can only say that my experience with Auba was you could push him to the limit and he was always open for the challenge, to take the next step, to stay hungry. He was never lazy and satisfied with one goal, two goals. He was always going for a third one and then in the next game. I had a strong feeling he is a real winner and you could rely on him.”
The Chelsea boss added: “He was a bit of a crazy guy but it was a nice crazy. We still are in touch from time to time and exchange messages when one of us has a big win. He will in some way always be my player. It feels like that. So I want him to succeed and have a good time because the contact has never fully stopped.
“It’s always nice to see him because he’s always on for a hug, so it’s nice to hug him and see him laugh. But now we will have to stop him and there is no exchange [of messages] before the game.”