Mikel Arteta determined to keep focus on Arsenal’s win over Southampton
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Paul Merson insists Mikel Arteta has a “major problem” on his hands with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and has called for the Arsenal forward to be stripped of his captaincy. The Gabonese striker found himself frozen out at the weekend following a “disciplinarily breach”.
Aubameyang, who didn’t train with the Gunners on Friday, was left out of the Arsenal squad for their 3-0 triumph over Southampton on Saturday, with manager Arteta citing the breach as the reason for his omission.
Arteta explained: “I think we have been very consistent that we have certain non-negotiables in the team that we have set ourselves as a club, and he’s not involved today.”
The fallout is latest episode involving the 32-year-old with him having previously been dropped for the north London derby back in March after arriving late for a team meeting.
Former Arsenal midfielder Merson has expressed his concerns over the growing tension between player and club, and insists Aubameyang, who has struggled to recapture his form of old since signing a whopping new contract last September, is becoming a “major problem”.
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“This is not going to be a problem for Aubameyang because he’s got an unbelievable contract at the club,” Merson told Sky Sports.
“However, it’s a major problem for Arsenal. Who’s going to take him on those wages? Absolutely nobody in the whole wide world. And there’s his age too. If he was 27, they’d be queuing up around the corner for him, but not now at the age of 32.
“It’s a big problem for Arsenal and Arteta.”
Following his latest show of ill-discipline, Merson believes enough is enough and has urged his old side to learn from their mistakes by stripping Aubameyang of his responsibilities.
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“This is not the first time this has happened with Aubameyang,” Merson pointed out.
“He turned up late for a meeting before and got left out of the side to face Tottenham. He’s the example. There are a lot of young players in that team who will look up to him.
“He wouldn’t be the captain if I was manager. Absolutely no chance. Once, yes. Twice, no. It’s an honour to be captain of Arsenal and for me, something’s got to change now.
“Somebody else has got to be the captain of Arsenal.”
He added: “I didn’t really get it in the first place if I’m being honest. But it does show you that he sets an example, and the youngsters look up to him. That’s why he was made captain.
“If you are the manager, of course you’d be disappointed. He’s been made captain of Arsenal Football Club. It’s a big thing and not just a run-of-the-mill thing. And with all the promising young kids at the club, he needs to set the example.”
After an Aubameyang-less Arsenal got back to winning ways against the Saints at the weekend following three defeats in their previous four Premier League outings, it remains to be seen if Arteta will give the out-of-favour captain a recall on Wednesday night.
The Gunners welcome high-flying West Ham to the Emirates knowing that a win would see them leapfrog their London rivals and climb into the top four.
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