Chelsea’s Aubameyang has a lot to show in opposition to Arsenal


It checked out one stage as if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would turn out to be the talisman of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, but now he’s the image of a dysfunctional interval the Gunners look like abandoning.

Aubameyang signed a brand new three-year contract with Arsenal in September 2020 — value an preliminary £250,000-a-week plus beneficiant add-ons — with the purpose of changing into “an Arsenal legend and to perhaps depart a legacy.” He actually left a legacy, though it’s extra sophisticated than anybody might have imagined again then.

Following a gradual deterioration in his relationship with Arteta, Aubameyang went from captain to castaway. He was punished, ostracised, and was then allowed to affix Barcelona on a free switch in February, the place he spent six months earlier than returning to London on the idea he might play beneath one among his former bosses who nonetheless admired him, Thomas Tuchel, just for the German to be sacked by Chelsea six days later.

On Sunday, the Blues host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge with a 10-point hole between the 2 sides, that means the 33-year-old will come nose to nose with Arteta and the group it was felt would develop higher with out him for the primary time. The marks from that interval are nonetheless seen. The tattoos actually are. Such was the depth of feeling and the velocity of transformation that this weekend will doubtless see Aubameyang line up sporting Chelsea’s No. 9 shirt, with a tattoo on his proper arm of himself (along with two his kids) sporting Arsenal’s No. 14.

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Even physique artwork was a bone of competition by the tip of his time at Arsenal. In February 2021, there have been recommendations Aubameyang had damaged COVID-19 guidelines by getting a tattoo on his hand, one among a number of disciplinary points which step by step eroded his standing within the squad. Sources informed ESPN on the time that there wasn’t one huge incident which prompted Arsenal to half with Aubameyang, extra a sequence of minor breaches which undermined the professionalism Arteta was demanding from his squad.

Among the varied misdemeanours, Aubameyang was reported to have missed a drug take a look at, turned up late for a number of conferences and, as one supply put it, recurrently requested time away the group. Some of that was compassionate depart to go to his unwell mom, Margarita, however there was a view contained in the membership that he was not exhibiting enough dedication whereas additionally risking COVID-19 problems associated to his further journey. He is mostly seen as a gregarious and widespread character, though his flash automobiles and garish way of life may be divisive, particularly for individuals who worth humility and self-discipline.

When it got here to parting methods, Arteta was ruthless. Last December, Aubameyang was stripped of the captaincy, compelled to coach alone and finally allowed to depart on a free switch. Aubameyang was bitter. Footage leaked recently from his early days at Barcelona exhibits the 33-year-old delivering a withering evaluation of Arteta.

“Big characters and large gamers … he cannot cope with it,” Aubameyang stated. “He wants some younger gamers who do not say something.”

Aubameyang has since distanced himself from these feedback by claiming: “I nonetheless had a whole lot of dangerous emotions in me — Arsenal are doing nice issues this season and I want all my outdated guys properly, simply not on Nov. 6.”

Allowing Aubamayeng to depart got here at a excessive value. Arsenal didn’t signal a alternative and with simply Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah to name on, the Gunners had been quick on firepower and simply missed out on Champions League qualification.

Yet the membership believed the longer-term cultural shift Arteta had applied was well worth the short-term threat and this season, following a summer time of shrewd funding, that view is reaping dividends. Arsenal are prime of the Premier League with Gabriel Jesus setting the tone for the Gunners in nearly the alternative technique to Aubameyang; typically, the ex-Gabon worldwide’s contribution was a aim and little else, whereas Jesus presses relentlessly, producing area and possibilities for others by his relentless operating and clever motion.

Jesus’ seven-game aim drought is a priority however offset by his contribution to the remainder of the group. Aubameyang’s contribution was measured nearly completely in targets. He grew to become the quickest participant in Arsenal’s historical past to succeed in 50 Premier League targets (in 79 video games) and his medical contact was essential in successful the 2020 FA Cup, a key motive why he was handed such a profitable contract later within the yr. Yet after signing that deal, he scored 13 targets in 43 league video games as his affect waned. This made it slightly simpler for some Arsenal followers to abdomen Aubameyang’s departure, however this weekend’s conflict offers the striker an opportunity to show recommendations of his everlasting decline had been untimely.

There was a debate at one time over whether or not Aubameyang can be revived taking part in by the center versus off the left wing, the place he had been at his simplest for Arsenal, however Arteta was by no means totally bought on the concept. On Sunday, he’ll doubtless begin as a centre-forward for Chelsea.

Aubameyang had hoped working with Tuchel once more might set off a interval of calm after a turbulent yr. Tuchel had spoken glowingly of Aubameyang when within the midst of the row with Arteta, remembering fondly their relationship at Borussia Dortmund, the place the striker scored 79 targets in 95 appearances till becoming a member of the Gunners in 2018.

New Chelsea boss Potter has additionally spoken glowingly of Aubameyang’s perspective — notably in reference to his restoration from a horrifying theft at his household house in Barcelona which left him with a damaged jaw — and has been conscious of his bodily workload, dropping him to the bench for league video games in opposition to Brentford and Brighton within the final fortnight. Aubameyang has only one league aim to his title for Chelsea — in opposition to Crystal Palace on Oct. 1 — and Potter will probably be looking for a response from his gamers after a chastening 4-1 defeat at his former membership Brighton final weekend.

Aubameyang is the most recent in an extended and costly line of forwards aiming to interrupt the so-called “No. 9 curse” at Chelsea, which has seen Romelu Lukaku, Fernando Torres and Alvaro Morata, amongst others, underperform lately. Sources have informed ESPN that Chelsea had been eager on signing Aubameyang two years in the past however Arsenal pulled out all of the stops to retain him on that new deal. This weekend, Aubameyang has an opportunity to remind everybody why he was as soon as so in demand.