Arsenal, eh? There's never a dull moment with Mikel Arteta in charge, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still looms large over the squad, following his departure from the club.
Auba's recently commented on why he left London Colney, citing his former manager as the problem, only for Arteta to directly respond. He's certainly not shy of confrontation – most managers would prefer not to speak.
In fact, that's a few players who have been rumoured to fall out with the Basque boss. Is there anything in these spats?
1. Mesut Ozil
Mikel Arteta played his former teammate, Mesut Ozil, for his first few Premier League games, as a focal point in a 4-2-3-1. It looked like the mercurial German was back – after a few exiles at London Colney.
Unai Emery was partial to dropping Ozil, despite his lack of creativity otherwise, while caretaker boss Freddie Ljungberg dropped the playmaker for disciplinary reasons between the Spaniards' stints. Still, Arteta seemed to trust him…
…up until he didn't. Arteta didn't explain fully why he'd dropped the player, who chose to live-tweet games at one stage when he left out of Arsenal's league squad and pushed into a corner to leave. Ozil refused to take a paycut during the pandemic and never exactly adhered to Arteta's press-heavy style but his sudden disappearance still felt odd.
Did they fall out, then? Arsenal wanted Ozil gone long before Arteta got there but Ozil's "trust the process" tweet during Arsenal's bad start to the season – seemingly mocking Arteta's words – seems to imply that he's no longer a fan of his ex-colleague.
2. Matteo Guendouzi
Matteo Guendouzi was first reprimanded for fighting with a teammate during Arsenal's 2020 warm-weather camp in the middle east. After a scuffle with Neal Maupay in a defeat to Brighton during lockdown, the tempestuous midfielder was asked to apologise.
He refused. From then onwards, it was clear that he was never going to play for the Gunners again, who struggled to shift Guendouzi from such a weak negotiating position. Finally, he's managed to leave to Marseille in a loan and option to buy.
Did they fall out, then? Yes. Big time.
3. Emi Martinez
Emi Martinez was another post-lockdown conundrum for Arsenal. After Bernd Leno got injured, the Argentinian stepped up for the chance he'd waited for, for over a decade. He won the FA Cup with the Gunners, impressed and naturally demanded a starting spot the following season.
But it's easy to forget that before Martinez's moment, Leno had been one of Arsenal's strongest players of the season. Arsenal chose to cash in on Martinez, rather than buckling to his request – and that seemed to upset him, with the now Copa America winner having extensively discussed his career at the Gunners, since.
Did they fall out, then? Martinez perhaps resents Arsenal's decision to sell him – but this doesn't seem like a personal issue between him and Arteta.
4. William Saliba
One of the oddest player sagas at the Gunners in the past few seasons. William Saliba signed for £30m under Emery, was sent out on loan and returned for the start of Arteta's first season with the no.4 shirt, ready to compete for a place. Things seemed hugely positive.
But then everything changed. Saliba suffered a family bereavement, was omitted from the squad and a reported loan move was botched on deadline day. He stuck around in the under-23s, remained unregistered for the first team and went out on loan again in January. It seemed from the outside like he'd done something to upset the manager.
By the start of the following season, the manager had given his number to £50m signing Ben White, another centre-back. Not exactly signs that you're well-loved…
Did they fall out, then? Possibly – but Arteta has always stressed how the defender is part of his plans. Saliba has made similar noises and actually, the loans have been good for his development. Maybe there's nothing in this at all.
Without a doubt, the biggest transfer flop of Mikel Arteta's reign. Willian started consistently in his early Arsenal career, looked way off the pace and was subsequently dropped. Despite being on a massive wage and a big contract, the deal was terminated just a year later.
“I said to myself, with my family and my wife, 'I cannot stay here, I am not happy here, I have to leave and find a way out to leave the club,” The Brazilian later claimed. “For me, it is unfair to stay in a place you don't want to stay just because of the money.”
What was so bad about Arsenal that Willian turned down all that money and fighting for a first-team place for a return to Brazil?
Did they fall out, then? Perhaps we'll never know. Neither Willian nor Arteta have spoken about one another since the break-up.
7. Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Oh boy. Having gone on loan to play for Sam Allardyce and Jose Mourinho in the past year, it certainly seems like Ainsley Maitland-Niles' chances of establishing himself as a key starter for Arsenal have never been lower.
It all started so well too, functioning as an inverted right-back for the new manager and looking good – before Cedric Soares was signed as back-up and Maitland-Niles was moved elsewhere in the side. Arsenal turned down an approach from Wolves for the player, who has sent mixed signals about his favoured position, though this season started promisingly, with the England international featuring in his preferred midfield.
His last start for Arsenal came against Watford and yielded a Man of the Match performance. He was dropped after that – and Arteta turfed him out on loan without a replacement in January. Why?
Did they fall out, then? There's something that's gone on here, surely. Maitland-Niles certainly wouldn't have been dropped for his on-field performances – so maybe he's fallen foul of Arteta's off-field "non-negotiables". Reports of lateness and ill-discipline have appeared over the last couple of years but neither have ever commented on them.
8. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
The big one. Arsenal were clear to label Auba's December indiscretion as the "latest" disciplinary problem, which saw him stripped of the skipper's armband and training alone until he was paid off to go to Barcelona.
Aubameyang has since said that Arteta was the reason he left, while Arteta has said he was the "solution" in the issue. Fans have been torn on the dispute too, with some asking whether Arteta was being too harsh on the forward, while others backed the boss.
A good run of form following the decision to suspend Aubameyang certainly vindicated Arteta at the time. Should Arsenal fail to qualify for Europe – and the 32-year-old hit the ground running at Barcelona – the optics will dramatically shift.
Did they fall out, then? Oh yes. Aubameyang seems particularly miffed with his former boss – don't expect a Christmas card, Mikel.
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