Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has quashed accusations of a ‘rift’ with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, following comments made by both Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer.
The legendary Premier League duo suggested that all may not be well between the Gabon international and his manager, after the striker was replaced with 15 minutes to play during the recent 3-2 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
While the former Borussia Dortmund man was far from at his best, there was seemingly collective surprise that he was withdrawn as his side were chasing an equaliser, particularly with his replacement being that of Eddie Nketiah who appears destined for the exit door after failing to agree a new contract.
The 32-year-old has enjoyed a largely positive season thus far, netting four goals in 13 league appearances, although there are lingering concerns over his form stretching back to last term, in which he scored just ten league goals – a noticeable drop-off from the previous campaign.
Club legend Henry – who is the Gunners all-time top goalscorer – admitted that he felt ‘something is not right there’ after seeing the centre-forward withdrawn against United.
“Aubameyang is your captain. He is your goalscorer,” Henry told Amazon Sport.
“You put him as your captain. 15 minutes to go, you’re losing 3-2 and you take him off. 3-2 away from home, you need a goal and you take your captain, your symbol, off the field.
“You know he can score you goals so something is not right there.”
Meanwhile, Alan Shearer agreed with the Arsenal legend, saying: “He hasn’t scored in a while and didn’t look like scoring tonight but having said that I totally agree with what Thierry is saying.
“He’s your go to guy, skipper, in desperate need of a goal. Think that tells you all’s not well if the manager’s dragging him off with 15 minutes to go.”
Speaking ahead of Monday’s clash with struggling Everton, Arteta denied any suggestion of a ‘rift’ with his skipper and insisted he was merely making the best decision to benefit the team by bringing off his talisman.
“I can guarantee you that there is not a rift. You have to respect their opinion but what I can tell you is I have the relationship I want with him.
“When I make decisions with 15, 20, 30 minutes left, or in the line-up at the start, it is done with one intention and that is to get the best out of the team.”
Pressed if he thought it was humiliating for Aubameyang to be withdrawn at such a crucial moment, he added: “That is the last word I would use with my players because if that’s humiliation, imagine what it’s like for the ones left out of the team.’