Arsenal’s Aubameyang stripped of captaincy for lack of ‘commitment’

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been stripped of Arsenal’s captaincy and dropped from the squad after failing to demonstrate the “commitment and passion” to play for the club, according to Mikel Arteta.

The striker, named captain by Unai Emery in November 2019, will no longer occupy the role after multiple disciplinary breaches and Arteta offered no suggestion of when or whether he will be allowed back in the fold. Aubameyang was omitted from the squad that faced Southampton on Saturday after returning late from a trip abroad and will also be absent when West Ham visit the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.

“The decision we have taken as a club is very clear,” Arteta said. “It is because we believe he has failed to be committed as the level we all expect and agree. It is as simple as that.

“What I expect from any person in this football club, that is representing this badge, is passion and that he gives absolutely 100%, that he puts the club in front of any personal interests and is able to do anything to fulfil the badge we have on the chest. Apart from that, you can listen to individuals and you can understand different cultures, but that commitment and passion has to be there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.”

The clear implication was that Aubameyang, the highest-paid member of Arteta’s squad, has fallen short of the standards expected of an Arsenal player, let alone their club captain. It casts the 32‑year‑old’s future into doubt and Arteta inflicted a further blow by confirming Aubameyang will no longer be part of the wider “leadership group” that includes a number of senior players.

Alexandre Lacazette, who wore the armband against Southampton and is likely to retain it in the short term, joins the former captain Granit Xhaka in that group and Kieran Tierney is another understood to be involved.

Arteta would not elaborate on the steps needed to facilitate Aubameyang’s return. “The decision that we made is really hurting, and it is still like this and it needs a bit of time to heal. So for now, he is not involved in the squad.”

It is possible, however, that Aubameyang may not be involved again until February even in a best‑case scenario. After the West Ham fixture, Arsenal play only twice in the league before Aubameyang is scheduled to join Gabon for the Africa Cup of Nations. Should Gabon reach the knockout stage his earliest conceivable game back for Arsenal would be the trip to Wolves on 8 February.

Arteta has recently been at pains to praise Aubameyang’s on-pitch work rate, which has compensated partly for a dwindling goal return, and emphasised he took no pleasure in taking such firm action. “I feel really sad,” he said. “I wouldn’t like to be in this position, not with him but with any player to make this kind of decision. Because at the end the [remit] of a coach is when you are trying to help a player to become a better person, to be happy, to be fulfilled as a player and to enjoy that on the pitch.

“At the moment, with that decision, Auba is not going to be able to do that. For me it is just sadness.”

The punishment was communicated to Aubameyang in person after talks between Arteta, the player and others in the club hierarchy. Punctuality issues of varying gravity are understood to have dogged Aubameyang, the most high-profile involving him being dropped to the bench against Spurs in March after he reported late. Additionally he was reminded of his responsibilities in February after apparently breaching Covid-19 regulations to get a tattoo.

Arsenal have been sympathetic to other off-pitch issues this year, such as a serious illness to his mother and a bout of malaria that left him in hospital, but the club have been compelled to act after what they see as an intolerable cumulation of infractions. They will take time to decide on the identity of their next captain but younger players such as Tierney and Martin Ødegaard could be in the running.