Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang “needs time to recover” after being stripped of the captain’s armband and refused to rule out the possibility of letting the striker go in January.
It was confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that the 32-year-old would not wear the captain’s armband following a “disciplinary case” that sources told ESPN said included the striker’s late return from a sanctioned holiday.
Aubameying was left out of the squad in the 3-0 win over Southampton on Saturday and will not be seen again when West Ham visit the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
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Asked if he would consider letting Aubameyang leave in January, Arteta gave a more vague answer than last Friday to the same question, when he said the club had “never discussed it”.
“I can say now that we made that decision. Unfortunately, it’s a really tough decision, and obviously if I had to choose, I wouldn’t want to sit here to talk about it but we had to. But for now, it is,” Arteta said. He is not part of the squad,” he said, adding that he had informed the Gabon International of his decision in face-to-face talks.
Arteta, who was pressed when Aubameyang might return to work, added, “What I can say now is the decision we’ve made is that he was really hurting, it’s still so and he needs some time to recover. So far, he’s not on the team.
“Since I’ve been here, [my relationship with Aubameyang has been] Really, really good. That is why it is painful.”
Responding to the way Aubameyang took the news, Arteta replied clearly: “He had to accept the decision.”
Arteta sidestepped questions about the details of Aubameyang’s reckless actions but added, “We made this decision based on certain moments when he did not perform his duties.”
There would be no immediate successor designated with Arteta happy to share responsibilities among his leadership group, which includes Granit Xhaka, Alexandre Lacazette and others.
Xhaka was stripped of the captaincy himself after he was sworn in by Arsenal fans booing him as he was substituted in the October 2019 match under former coach Unai Emery.
He has quietly rehabilitated himself under Arteta, who said: “We have the leadership group and we have different players nominated to be captain, in the last match it was Laka, and we had Granit who was captain as well, so we’ll follow that.
“It’s a really unpleasant situation and it’s not the time for that [make] No rash decision. This leadership group is really strong, it is the group that communicates with me, with the coaching staff and with the club in a really strong and clear way and we will continue to do so.
“That’s one of the decisions we’re making, to make this group a little bit better and try to educate them and try to get the right feedback all the time and build trust and a strong culture around the club. It’s working really well so we will continue to do that.”
Timekeeping in Aubameyang had previously been a problem. In March, he was left out of the squad for the north London derby at Tottenham due to being reported late for the team meeting on match day.
A month ago, he was ‘reminded of his responsibilities’ after footage emerged of him getting tattoos despite strict COVID-19 protocols in place at Premier League clubs as well as nationwide.