Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ‘will return to training with Arsenal on Wednesday’ after being stripped of the captaincy – with Alexandre Lacazette ‘set the lead the team against West Ham.’
Mikel Arteta removed the armband from the Gabon striker after he failed to return on time from a trip to France to collect his sick mother last week.
It wasn’t the first time Aubameyang has breached discipline and this latest indiscretion compounded long-standing concerns about Aubameyang’s suitability to be club captain.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is expected to return to Arsenal training on Wednesday after being stripped of the captaincy by manager Mikel Arteta
A late return from an approved trip to France to collect his sick mother last week proved the final straw for Arteta after the player’s previous indiscretions
Alexandre Lacazette will take the armband for Wednesday night’s match with West Ham
However, he reportedly won’t be punished further by being ostracised from the rest of the Arsenal squad and is due to return to their London Colney training ground on Wednesday.
The Athletic say Aubameyang will be encouraged to fight for his place with an eye on Saturday’s trip to Leeds United. He won’t play any part in Wednesday night’s home Premier League fixture against West Ham.
Fellow forward Lacazette is expected to captain the side at the Emirates Stadium, having done the same in Aubameyang’s absence in the 3-0 win over Southampton on Saturday.
Lacazette is a member of Arteta’s ‘leadership group’ in the dressing room and was nominated to take the armband last weekend.
Aubameyang, 32, is Arsenal’s leading goalscorer this season with seven across all competitions and the feeling is he still has much to contribute to the team even without the captaincy.
Aubameyang headed back to France last week to visit his mother, who has been unwell
The Arsenal striker took to social media this week to explain the reason for his absence
That’s despite Arteta informing Aubameyang of his decision in what has been described as a ‘tense’ face-to-face meeting at the training ground Monday.
The move to strip the Gabon striker of the armband stems from a pre-agreed trip back to France earlier last week.
Aubameyang had gained permission from Arteta to return to France in order to visit his sick mother and bring her back to England for Christmas on Wednesday.
The 32-year-old was told that he could go on the proviso that he would report for a Covid test on Wednesday night and report for training as usual on Thursday morning provided he recorded a negative reading.
However, Aubameyang did not report back to the club’s London Colney HQ until Thursday morning.
The former Borussia Dortmund forward is understood to have believed he could take a test on Thursday and then train as normal.
Aubameyang’s agent, Kwaku Mensah, responded to his player being stripped of the armband by posting snaps of him celebrating winning trophies during his time at Arsenal
Premier League unless stated
Wednesday West Ham (H)
Saturday Leeds United (A)
December 21 Sunderland (H)
Carabao Cup quarter-final
December 26 Norwich City (A)
December 28 Wolves (H)
January 1 Manchester City (H)
However, Aubameyang was told he could take the test but not train due to Covid restrictions.
It is claimed that Aubameyang hadn’t realised guidelines had recently changed and his decision to report for duty on Thursday morning rather than Wednesday night wasn’t an attempt at defiance but rather just confusion about the rules.
However, that explanation has carried little weight with Arteta, who is adamant Aubameyang has reneged on their agreement.
Having provided a negative Covid result, Aubameyang was ready to train on Friday but was told not to report for duty. Arteta confirmed ahead of the 3-0 win over Southampton on Saturday that his omission from the match-day squad was due to a disciplinary issue.
With Aubameyang due to miss Wednesday night’s game versus West Ham, it remains to be seen whether the striker will feature for the club again this year with the Africa Cup of Nations on the horizon.
Nevertheless, Arteta faces a delicate balancing act of whether to keep Aubameyang sidelined or reintegrate the forward back into his plans.
Speaking on Tuesday, Arteta refused to confirm whether Aubameyang would play for the club again.
Arteta has grown frustrated at what he views as Aubameyang’s lack of discipline, particularly given his position as skipper.
The Spaniard benched the forward for the north London derby against Tottenham in March due to lateness, while he was also reprimanded by Arsenal in February over a possible Covid-19 regulations breach.
Aubameyang was photographed in February this year with a new tattoo on the back of his hand
Arsenal launched an investigation to see if Aubameyang had broken any Covid-19 restrictions
Sportsmail understands that there was also frustration from within the camp that Aubameyang missed the opening day loss to Brentford with Covid just days after throwing a birthday party for his son where multiple guests were invited. At the time the party was within Government guidelines.
And Aubameyang missing last Wednesday night’s Covid test has been the final straw for Arteta.
Indeed, the fact the phrase ‘latest disciplinary breach’ was used in the club’s official statement is understood to have been a pointed indication towards Aubameyang being a repeat offender.
‘It is a decision we have made following the last incident that we had with the player,’ said Arteta.
Just a month later, the ace was then dropped for the north London derby after reporting late
Arsenal won the game 2-1, and the club were considering also hitting Aubameyang with a fine
‘When we had to make that decision, it was because it was the right one to defend the interests of the football club.
‘Unfortunately it is a really tough one and obviously, if I had to choose, I would not like to be sitting here talking about it. But we had to do it. For now, he is not involved in the squad.
‘What I can say now is to make the decision that we made is really hurting, and it needs a bit of time to heal.’
When asked how Aubameyang reacted to the news during Monday’s meeting, Arteta replied: ‘He had to accept the decision.’
AUBAMEYANG’S THREE STRIKES
With the country in lockdown, Aubameyang was filmed posing with a new tattoo alongside a tattoo artist.
Arsenal investigated the incident to find out if lockdown rules had been breached but kept their findings in-house, with Arteta saying: ‘Whatever we do with our players we keep it internally.
‘It is true that there are a lot of members of our squad that have extended families at home and if any player does something that is not in the regulation obviously the club acts immediately – but always privately as well.’
Aubameyang was left on the bench for the north London derby due to lateness.
‘He was going to start the game,’ Arteta told Sky Sports. ‘We had a disciplinary issue. We have drawn the line and we move on. He is on the bench.
‘We have a process we have to respect for every game and that is it. We have a way of leaving together that we have to respect each other and that is it.
‘But he is an incredible guy and he is one of the most important players in the team, he is our captain, and we move forward.’
Arsenal won the game 2-1, with Aubameyang an unused substitute.
Having returned late from a pre-approved trip to France to visit his ill mother, Aubameyang has lost the captian’s armband at Arsenal and his future has been thrown into major doubt.
In a curt statement on Tuesday, Arsenal said: ‘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.
‘We expect all our players, particularly our captain, to work to the rules and standards we have all set and agreed. We are fully focused on tomorrow’s match.’