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Thoughts on Aubameyang
A rant on Aubameyang and Arteta
Just getting some thoughts down on the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang situation. I don't think what I have to say is especially unique to say but sometimes it is still good to get thoughts out and then you can really clear up your thinking.
First, I am not against punishing players when they break the rules. The club feels that he broke the agreement they had and punished him for it. This has happened in the past as well, with him being excluded from the North London Derby after turning up late multiple times for team activities.
The story that was published in the Athletic paints a more complicated picture in my mind.
Aubameyang was granted permission to travel to France on Wednesday on the condition that he returned that night, in order to report for training on Thursday.
Aubameyang did not return on Wednesday. Instead, he caught an early flight on Thursday morning before reporting to London Colney. Sources suggest he was on time for training, but as far as Arsenal were concerned, the infraction had already occurred.
The problem was compounded by confusion regarding the COVID-19 protocols. Aubameyang underwent a test in France prior to returning to the UK and believed that would be sufficient for him to resume training immediately on Thursday. Under current guidance, however, a PCR test is required with isolation until receiving a negative result, precluding you from going anywhere (including place of work) in the meantime.
This feels like we are getting only one side of the story, aka the one from the club. I could very much see this as a case of misunderstanding, Auba asks to travel, the club says be back in time to train the next day (is there a massive difference between a very late flight and a really early one, both make sure you're ready to train the next day?), he thinks the test that he takes is sufficient for the COVID rules (which seem to be in constant flux and dependent on the purpose of travel) but finds out it isn't.
I could see this as a pretty simple misunderstanding, sure maybe that still warrants some sort of punishment but what is happening now seems to be very out of line with the actual situation.
Second, there is the overall management style of Mikel Arteta. One of the realities of modern sports is that players make more money and are on longer contracts than the coaches that have to manage them. The big thing from this is that one, it is a lot easier and cheaper to fire and replace one coach than it is a big portion of players, and two if you are not getting along with a coach if you wait you'll probably outlast them.
I think Auba can see this with his contract having the same length as Arteta's but on a vastly different wage scale. It is not crazy to think that Arteta doesn't see the start of next year, while if Auba doesn't accept a deal to go to another club he will and he will get his full contract value. Could the club subsidize a move for Auba to go somewhere else? Sure they could but teams are still reeling with COVID losses and Auba hasn't exactly been in great form where teams will want him, especially now that Arsenal are being very forward about how bad of an apple he is.
If this is a ploy to try to force him out of the club I really don't see how that plays out besides Arsenal paying him to either not play or paying him to play elsewhere while also limiting interest in other teams wanting to take the risk on him.
Third, Arteta's general man management and dealing with players as assets. One of the other things that has come from this, is how this is not the first time that Arteta has had questions about playing time/freezing out players. With different levels of things with Mesut Ozil, Matteo Guendouzi, William Saliba, Ainsley Maitland Niles, Nicolas Pepe, and now Aubameyang.
I think that Arteta learned some of the wrong things from his time at Manchester City. Pep can freeze out players because he has a squad that is stocked at just about every position, he also doesn't have to worry about needing to see players as assets that may need to be sold for a profit because City have sports washing cash to fall back on. Arsenal have money, but in their current situation, they most certainly are not in a situation to go out of their way to damage the values of players under contract.
Fourth, I have seen people say that Arsenal are better with out Aubameyang and I will come out and say I disagree. I don't want this to come across that I think Aubameyang is playing well, because he is not, but he remains probably the best of probably a bunch of mediocre choices. This will be expensive to fix. Let's just look through Arsenal's choices beyond Aubameyang.
First is Alexandre Lacazette. He is a player that looks like he can only give the team 50-60 minutes right now, I think his hold up play is overrated (his and Auba's xG Build up involvement numbers are the same at 11%), he is just an okay presser, he can't seem to take up positions inside the penalty spot and he is incredibly shot shy. Oh and he will be a free agent at the end of the year.
Next is Eddie Nketiah. Eddie seems like a good enough kid and someone who works hard and generally does fine in the minutes that he gets. I remain unconvinced that he is anything more than spot minutes person for a team that would like to finish in the top six. He also is at the end of his contract.
Next, you start getting into converting non-strikers into strikers with Gabriel Martinelli or Pepe. I think Martinelli is an interesting thought but he still looks very raw as a striker right now, but if we went all-in on that I could get on board as long as we are also okay with the growing pains and probably looking more at 7th-8th as the team's likely finishing spot. I don't see Pepe getting that because he is also on the naughty list. The other player is Flo Balogun, he is a promising prospect but he is still a ways away from the Premier League at the moment and needs a loan.
The last thing on all of this is how the airing of dirty laundry looks. Going back a few paragraphs I would be fine if Auba was punished, it was said he broke a club rule and that it was over and he was ready to come back into the team. Instead, Arteta and the club have seemed to make this a much bigger deal, escalating things by stripping him of the captaincy (I don't know how important that actually is but it seems like a big slap in the face at a minimum) and brought the CRISIS to the club by choice. This is something that could have been mostly over but now will drag on.
I thought Tim's thoughts on the situation were good and echoed what I thought but in a much more economical use of words.
I guess to wrap up this sort of rant, I think Arteta tries to send messages with how he uses players even if it hurts the team, I think that is bad. I think that can turn players against him and hurts the team's chances for winning points. I think that Arteta is sort of hypocritical on some of these non-negotiables because he or the club are leaking their side of the story rather than trying to handle things in a more private matter. I think Arteta can be incredibly stubborn in trying to prove he is right even if it might come at the expense of the team winning points. Basically, the club took something that was probably a one week story and turned it into something that is going to fester for a prolonged period.