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Aubameyang must resolve Arteta issues – otherwise he’ll be sold in summer

Driving home from the Emirates, it was an eye-opening experience to end up following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

In these strange Covid times, you end up parking near the players at the stadium so it was a pure coincidence that I ended up behind him (I wasn’t stalking him, honest).

Aubameyang is pretty unmistakable on the road in his chrome-wrapped Lamborghini but, with most roads in London now having a 20 mph speed limit, even my not-so-fast car could keep up.

Of course Aubameyang’s car, his time keeping and his driving have been under the spotlight ever since he was dropped for reporting up late for the North London derby when he claimed he got stuck in traffic.

And it was pretty easy to see why. At every set of traffic lights on Hornsey Road, Aubameyang’s car was stopped by autograph hunters. Forget social distancing, the fans were not bothered. Arsenal had just lost to Olympiacos, but that made no difference.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will test Mikel Arteta’s man management skills

At one set of lights, Aubameyang pulled up, stopped and a car behind suddenly roared past, stopped in the middle of the road, two people jumped out and asked for his autograph. He seemed happy to oblige as shirts were passed in through the window and back out again.

Aubameyang kept going up to Crouch End, veered left to go posh, I veered down the not-so-posh road.

This was interesting not because I don’t think Aubameyang would be treated any differently from any other Premier League superstar (although most aren’t quite as instantly recognisable from what cars they drive). But it did suggest Aubameyang probably got held up by autograph-hunting fans as much as traffic the other Sunday.

Aubameyang is also still a firm favourite with the fans – their No1 hero, their talisman and a standout name in a team which has been pretty average this season.

He seems such a nice guy, happy to oblige and seems to give the fans what they want. He smiles and seems to enjoy life. He is a genuine superstar, of course. A great goalscorer and scorer of great goals.

Aubameyang has endured a difficult season by his high standards

Aubameyang is also Arsenal captain and must lead by example both on and off the pitch. I think Mikel Arteta was right to drop him against Tottenham because you have to set the right tone.

You can’t let the captain get away with being late (and it was not the first time) more than you can the squad player with a pretty paltry excuse.

But since then, Aubameyang has played like there is a problem. Like he is sulking. After being left on the bench against Tottenham, he started the next game against Olympiacos and missed chances.

Against West Ham, he was so poor and even TV pundit Jamie Carragher remarked that his most telling contribution in the game was to join in the goal celebrations.

The problem is for top players is that if they are one per cent less than their standard level, then they are off their game. It’s really that simple. Let’s see what happens against Liverpool this weekend.

Aubameyang has not looked great this season, certainly not up to his usual world class standards and has gone from signing a new mega-contract, ending all the doubt around his future, to struggling for form and goals. Has he taken his eye off the ball?

Big performances have been few and far between and you would not be human if you did not get a little wound up by people continually saying that Kieran Tierney or Rob Holding would make better captains. They probably would, by the way. But that’s beside the point.

Arsenal may have to decide between Aubameyang and Lacazette in a bid to save money this summer

Aubameyang has actually scored 14 goals in all competitions this season which does not sound too bad but most Arsenal fans would say it’s been an underwhelming campaign.

He will be 32 this summer, will have two years left on his contract and will be at that stage when strikers begin to slow down and lose their impact.

How unlike Arsenal to break the bank to keep an ageing player and then reach the stage where fans are beginning to ask: was it worth it, after all?

Yes, of course it was. Arsenal had to keep him. Arteta has to get the best out of him for at least another season. That starts with resolving any lingering distrust and that is a test of Arteta’s man management skills.

Alexandre Lacazette is a seriously good striker but Arsenal face a dilemma over his future this summer. Especially if Arsenal don’t get into Europe and have to cut costs.

One of the strikers will have to go because they’ve also got Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli coming through and they will need more game time to flourish.

Monaco like Lacazette and that seems a potential fit and there may be takers for Aubameyang. But in Covid times when money is tight, clubs are unlikely to break the bank for ageing players let alone offer them better contracts.

That means Aubameyang will surely stay – and he must rediscover some form quickly even if the fans will never stop loving him.




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