Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will not play for Arsenal until at least February. Reports emerged today that the striker and former captain will train on his own at London Colney to maintain his fitness before the African Cup of Nations and will not be a part of the first team squad until at least after that competition. The Athletic reports that it was a “club decision” to sideline the striker.
Aubameyang was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy after returning late from a trip to France to bring his mother back with him to London midweek, ahead of the 3-0 win over Southampton. He was suspended for that match and has not played since.
In his pre-match press conference, Mikel Arteta refused to elaborate on anything beyond Aubameyang’s status for the Leeds game, telling reporters the striker was not available. He deflected questions about Aubameyang’s involvement going forward, repeating that the striker would not be part of Saturday’s match and saying nothing more.
So has Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played in his last match for Arsenal?
If you had asked me before today, I would have said absolutely not. I figured he’d at least be back on the bench at some point during the congested holiday fixture list (which may end up less congested because of the COVID situation in the Premier League but I digress).
But with the news that he’ll be training on his own until at least AFCON, I’m not so sure Aubameyang will play again for Arsenal. We’ve seen this progression before with Mikel Arteta. “He’s not available” —> training on his own —> never playing for the club again. It happened with Mesut Özil. It happened with Matteo Guendouzi. Each situation has it’s own quirks and differences, but the overall progression is the same.
It feels like there is more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about. Even if it was just repeated minor violations of team rules, it seems like that isn’t (or shouldn’t be) enough to justify exiling a player from the squad.
This pattern isn’t something you see very often (or at all) at other clubs. At what point does the focus shift to the way Mikel Arteta, Edu, and the club are running things in North London? What message does a pattern of freezing out and moving on players send to the locker room? Or to potential transfer targets?
At this point, Arsenal would be lucky to be able to move Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for any kind of value. His age, massive contract, current scoring drought, and apparent discipline issues don’t exactly make him a hot commodity. There have been consistent links to Barcelona, but it seems unlikely a club with basically no money could take on his wages. They certainly can’t afford any sort of meaningful transfer fee. It would probably have to be another “contract terminated by mutual consent” situation for Aubameyang to move.
I’m holding out hope that the predictions of doom and gloom are premature. That we’re all being a little too Chicken Little the sky is falling with this Aubameyang situation. It’s possible that after AFCON, he reintegrates into the Arsenal side. But it’s certainly not trending in that direction, at least not from the information in the public sphere.