Mikel Arteta has explained why Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left Arsenal for AFCON early, whilst others remained in London.
Whilst most of Arsenal’s AFCON contingent were preparing for the weekend game against Manchester City, former club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had already made the trip to link up with Gabon.
Speaking in his press conference before the City game, Arteta confirmed that they’d been in contact with Gabon, and decided it would be best for Aubameyang to head off early.
“We had a letter from the national team asking permission to get the player and the player wasn’t going to get involved today (Friday) so, for his fitness and to keep competing, it was the right thing to do,” Arteta said.
“At the moment he has gone (to AFCON). He needs to focus on the national team, and we had the conversation that was the best possible way to do it.
“I said before, we will address (his situation) game-by-game.”
Unlike Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, or Nicolas Pepe, there was no chance of Aubameyang being involved in the City game. That decision had already been made, so there was no real reason to stick around.
During this period where he’s not playing matches, Aubameyang is primarily just a distraction anyway.
It’s probably best for all parties that he can get back to competing on a football pitch, even if that’s away from Arsenal with Gabon.
Gabon kick off their AFCON schedule with a match against Comoros on Monday, 10th January at 19:00 GMT, but they have a friendly match before that against Mauritania on Tuesday, 4th January at 13:00 GMT.
Aubameyang is presumably now available to feature in that match, which will help him get up to speed for the tournament.