Mikel Arteta has warned that no Arsenal player is guaranteed a starting spot but says he is determined to support Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during an increasingly worrying goal drought.
Arsenal have long been dependent on Aubameyang’s finishing but his last Premier League goal from open play came at Fulham on the season’s opening day. Arteta’s attempt to play him back into form by shifting him to centre-forward is yet to pay off; the manager said he is not automatically guaranteed a place but urged for perspective given his club captain’s longer-term record.
“No one is undroppable,” he said. “At the end of the day we have to find the right players to win football matches. But we cannot forget what Auba has done for this club and what he has done in recent months, not years ago. As well, I see how he’s training and how he’s behaving, how much he wants to turn this situation around. When I see that type of hunger, it’s about supporting the player as well as the status he has in the team, because of the performances he has provided.”
Arteta said he had not been tempted to give Aubameyang a potentially morale-boosting runout in Thursday’s Europa League tie at Dundalk, which is essentially a practice game given Arsenal have won Group B while the League of Ireland side will finish bottom. The lineup will be similar to the blend of youth and fringe players that beat Rapid Vienna last week, with Thomas Partey among those left behind after aggravating a thigh injury in Sunday’s defeat to Spurs. Partey pulled up in the buildup to Tottenham’s second goal; Arteta said he will miss the next few matches and defended the decision to bring him back for the derby after missing three games.
“We tested [his thigh] three times and he had zero symptoms,” he said. “Afterwards people will say it was a bit early but I don’t think it was because he was completely fine to play.”
The pressure of reversing Arsenal’s fortunes causes Arteta to “sleep less”, he said. He also revealed Arsenal have contacted the authorities after Hector Bellerín was penalised for a fifth foul throw of the season at Spurs. “We sent the images to the Premier League because there have been many, many incidents, much worse than that but they were never [given],” he said.