Arsenal (opens in new tab) manager Mikel Arteta has spoken about the decision to strip Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of the club captaincy back in December, amid speculation linking the striker with a move to Chelsea (opens in new tab).
After reportedly returning late from a trip abroad just before last Christmas, Aubameyang was dropped and never featured for the Gunners again; the Gabon star left by mutual consent and joined Barcelona (opens in new tab) in February.
And as the first episodes of the 'All or Nothing: Arsenal' (opens in new tab) documentary series land on Amazon Prime, Arteta has been reflecting on the circumstances which precipitated Aubameyang's Emirates exit.
Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of Arsenal's first home game of the new season, Arteta said (opens in new tab):
"What has been done has always been done to defend our club and put the club in the best possible position...
"[Aubameyang] is an exceptional player. He did so much for us; he was our captain and I think we have to be grateful – very grateful – as well for what he did for this club."
When asked if he thought the 33-year-old would enjoy a positive reception should he come back to the Emirates as an opposition player, Arteta replied:
"I hope he does because I think he deserves that. There are moments in life; there are moments in your career [when] sometimes the trajectory or the objective of each individual is different to the club's, and you have to respect that."
ESPN (opens in new tab) reported last week that Chelsea were in discussions with Barcelona over a potential deal for Aubameyang, and head coach Thomas Tuchel confirmed on Friday that that the Blues – who have already spent a combined £135.5m to sign Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella this summer – are keen to strengthen further before the 1 September transfer deadline.
Tuchel coached Aubameyang for two seasons at Borussia Dortmund (opens in new tab), who Aubameyang left to join Arsenal in January 2018.
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Tom Hancock started freelancing for FourFourTwo in April 2019 and has also written for The Analyst and When Saturday Comes, among others. He supports Wycombe Wanderers and has a soft spot for Wealdstone. A self-confessed statto, he has been known to watch football with a spreadsheet (or several) open...