Arsenal legend Martin Keown has urged Mikel Arteta to drop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, saying the Spaniard ‘risks losing the dressing room’ if he keeps playing the Gabon international. The veteran was the club’s best player last season. Yet he’s struggled this term and, against Liverpool on Saturday, was dire in defeat.
Arsenal lost 3-0 to Liverpool on Saturday night.
Diogo Jota scored twice for the Reds at the Emirates Stadium, with Mohamed Salah also on target.
It was a sorry night for the Gunners and for Aubameyang in particular, with the Gabon international producing a dire display.
And Keown, writing in his column for the Daily Mail, has now called for the striker to be dropped – saying Arteta ‘risks losing the dressing room’ over the forward.
He wrote: “This was Mikel Arteta’s 50th game in charge of Arsenal and it’s hard to remember a worse performance.
“This only makes Thursday’s Europa League meeting with Slavia Prague even bigger.
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“Arteta has a big decision to make on his captain. He set an example by dropping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the north London derby recently. Aubameyang was supposed to start against Spurs but turned up late and was pulled.
“Should Arteta not be dropping him for performing as poorly as he did against Liverpool? If he sticks with him, he risks losing the respect of the group.
“It’s time to bring in 19-year-old Gabriel Martinelli. He is too good to be sitting on the bench. His team-mates see him in training and know what he can do.
“They will be baffled by his continued absence. I know I am.”
Keown also thinks Gabriel Martinelli should play over Aubameyang on the left wing, with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe also singled out.
“Use him on the left,” he continued.
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“Use Martinelli’s fellow 19-year-old Bukayo Saka on the right. Start Emile Smith Rowe. Then you’ll have a team who can pose problems for the opposition. There were too many passengers against Liverpool.
“The visitors’ weakness was their centre back pairing of Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips but Arsenal couldn’t test them.
“They had Aubameyang on the left, Alexandre Lacazette central and Nicolas Pepe on the right — three club-record signings — but they missed the energy and drive of Smith Rowe and Saka.
“There is no time for Arsenal’s players to feel sorry for themselves. They need to bounce back against a Prague side who have knocked Leicester and Rangers out of the Europa League.
“Arteta has big decisions to make — ones he needs to get right.”
Arteta, meanwhile, apologised to fans in the aftermath of the Liverpool defeat.
“We completely deserved to lose the game,” he told Sky Sports.
“They were better in every department and deserved to win the game with the margin they had, or even more. I accept responsibility for the way we played today.
“They made the right decisions, we didn’t. It is my fault. I have to set the team up to perform in a different way and that is it.
“Congratulations to Liverpool because they were exceptional today. That showed the difference between the two teams – that when they play at that level, the margin is incredibly high.
“I don’t have to use any excuses – that we don’t have five or six players – the standards are much higher at this football club and I have to get them to perform at that level. It was technical as well.
“We gave every ball away and could not put three passes together.
“The basics weren’t there today. If you do that against this kind of opponent, you get punished like we have.
“At the moment I am in shock. I didn’t expect that because of the way the team trained.
“It is a challenge. A challenge brings an opportunity. If you have courage and you represent a club like this, you have to stand up and take it.”