Why Arsenal’s Aubameyang was stripped of captain’s armband by Mikel Arteta

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has taken a strong and decisive measure by removing striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the club captaincy after his ‘latest disciplinary breach.’

The club announced the decision Tuesday morning, with a breach of club discipline having been cited as the reason for the decision. The Gabon international was dropped by Arteta for a Premier League meeting with Southampton on Saturday, with GOAL reporting that he had missed a final pregame training session.

It remains to be seen when the 32-year-old striker will figure again, with the north Londoners having confirmed that he will not be considered for selection against West Ham on December 15.

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What happened with Aubameyang?

The club has been incredibly vague over the past week in its public handling of the matter, failing to specify details of the incident beyond a ‘disciplinary breach.’ 

Multiple reports indicate that Aubameyang was given permission to return home to France for a one-day trip, but was requested home the same night so he could be back in time for a morning training session.

According to the reports, Aubameyang failed to return home at the time the club requested, and the situation was exacerbated further by local COVID-19 travel requirements, causing Aubameyang to miss the training session.

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Given the wording in the club’s official statement, it seems clear that this one incident alone did not trigger the disciplinary action, but instead was due to repeated violations.

“Following his latest disciplinary breach last week, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will no longer be our club captain, and will not be considered for selection for Wednesday’s match against West Ham United,” read the statement on Arsenal’s official website

“We expect all our players, particularly our captain, to work to the rules and standards we have all set and agreed.”

The bigger picture

Aubameyang has now been informed that he will no longer be asked to lead the Gunners out again, with that responsibility set to be passed to someone else. He had been entrusted with captaincy duties back in November 2019 after seeing the armband taken away from Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka on the back of a public outburst against disgruntled supporters.

Fellow frontman Alexandre Lacazette captained Arsenal in their victory over Southampton, but his future remains unclear as the Frenchman is yet to sign a new contract at the club. With there a number of factors to mull over, Arteta will not be rushing into appointing a permanent successor to Aubameyang.

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The Spaniard has said on that decision:

“Well, we have the leadership group and we think that we have different players that are nominated to be captain in the last game it was Laca and we have Granit as well who has been captain so we will follow that. Obviously, it is a really unpleasant situation and it is not the moment to make any rash decision.”

He added on the reaction of his dressing room to the decision on Aubameyang: “They accepted the decision and I think they know because they have committed to it and they have demanded that we want to take our culture, our demands and who do we want to be as a club and how do we want to represent this football club to a different level and when those standard are not met you know that you can not participate in our daily basics.”

Aubameyang’s history of discipline issues

The Gabon international joined Arsenal in January 2018 from German club Borussia Dortmund for a transfer fee reported to be worth over $70 million. 

Just before his transfer to Arsenal, Aubameyang was suspended and fined by Dortmund for missing a team meeting after training. Some speculated that he did it to help force a transfer, which later materialized.

“It was an important meeting,” then-Dortmund coach Peter Stoger said. “If he does not want to be part of that, another player will be get his chance. He briefly said that he forgot it, but we all know that’s not the case.”

It wasn’t Aubameyang’s first transgression at Dortmund. He was also reportedly suspended in November 2016 after taking a trip to Milan without approval from then-coach Thomas Tuchel, and in November 2018 German outlet Bild reported that he was late for training on more than one occasion.

Arteta, who took over Arsenal on December 2019, previously dropped Aubameyang from the starting lineup in March 2021 for a derby match against Tottenahm after what the club called a “breach of prematch protocol,” but which ESPN reported to be a late arrival for the match that same day. 

Just a month before that, in February 2021, the club was forced to investigate a potential breach of COVID-19 protocols by Aubameyang after footage appeared on social media of the forward getting a new tattoo. There was no word on the fallout from the story, though the coach explained at the time that the issue was to be handled internally.

Aubameyang’s 2021-22 season for Arsenal so far

After a hat trick in the Carabao Cup in August, Aubameyang went on a run of four goals in six Premier League matches, leading many to believe that he might be turning a corner and returning to the form that saw him score 29 goals in all competition in the 2019-20 season.

But Aubameyang hasn’t enjoyed the best stretch of matches recently — five Premier League starts without a goal — and Arteta left him out of the starting lineup in the recent 2-1 loss to Everton (he came off the bench for five minutes).

The Arsenal manager was forced to answer questions about his relationship with Aubameyang in the lead-up to the Week 16 match against Southampton.

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“I have a very good relationship with my players. I always do the best for the club and the team. The decision is not personal, the decision is just performance and to get the best out of the team,” Arteta said.

In September 2020 Aubameyang signed a contract extension with Arsenal that ties him to the club through June 2023 when he will turn 34. 

“We have never discussed something like this,” Arteta said when asked about a potential transfer. “When players are having difficulty, what we have to give is support.”

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