Mikel Arteta has brushed off Jamie Redknapp’s suggestion that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ‘past his best’ and says the best possible way for Arsenal’s captain to silence his doubters is by doing his talking on the pitch.
Aubameyang struggled to make an impact as the Gunners were beaten by runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City at the weekend, with Raheem Sterling heading home the only goal of the game in the second minute at the Emirates.
The 31-year-old Gabon striker should have been bursting with confidence following a hat-trick in Arsenal’s previous league game at home to Leeds United but failed to register a single shot on target versus Pep Guardiola’s men and faced heavy criticism from Redknapp among others.
‘Aubameyang is past his best. He’s going to have moments; he’s going to get hat-tricks,’ the former Liverpool and Tottenham midfielder said in the Sky Sports studio.
‘But when I watch him sometimes, it’s like he’s lost his superpower.
‘I saw him run past people when he first came to the Premier League. I saw him run past people at Dortmund. Now I’m seeing a player who looks like he’s going to get bullied.
‘He’s your leading light, but the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, they’re the ones leading the way.’
Aubameyang will hope to respond in the second leg of Arsenal’s Europa League last-32 tie with Benfica on Thursday night, following last week’s 1-1 draw in Rome.
Asked about Redknapp’s criticism of Aubameyang at his pre-match press conference, Arteta told reporters: ‘I didn’t see those comments. I’ve heard about them.
‘I’m here to support every single player and that is what I try to do all the time.
‘I try to give them the best possible advice and when they have a difficult moment, stay right behind them and that’s what we try to do always.’
Asked whether Aubameyang can respond on the pitch, Arteta replied: ‘I think the best way to talk is always on the pitch.
‘Seven days before when he scored the hat-trick and he could have scored four or five against Leeds, he was again the main man.
‘He could have scored a hat-trick against Benfica easily with his qualities and it would have been different.
‘At the end [of the day] it’s about putting the ball in the back of the net for him and that’s how he gets joy.’
Arteta urged his players to view the their second leg against ‘Champions League team’ Benfica more like a ‘final’.
‘It’s a big season and a really important one mentally and confidence-wise. This is really what we need,’ the Spaniard added.
‘They are a really tough opponent. They’re a Champions League team that have been playing these types of games for many years.
‘Tomorrow it’s a final.’
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