Mikel Arteta has challenged Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to do his talking on the pitch following criticism of the Arsenal forward’s performance against Manchester City.
Aubameyang had just 19 touches and attempted 11 passes in the 1-0 defeat to Pep Guardiola’s Premier League leaders at Emirates Stadium, a result that leaves the Gunners languishing in 10th place in the table.
Jamie Redknapp said in his post-match analysis on Sky Sports that the former Borussia Dortmund player was “past his best” and had “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,” Redknapp said of the 31-year-old.
Aubameyang had scored a hat-trick in his previous league outing, a 4-2 victory over Leeds United, taking his tally in the competition to eight for the season – he managed 22 in his previous two campaigns with Arsenal.
Arteta did not see Redknapp’s comments but is aware of them, leading to him offering support for his under-fire captain ahead of the second leg of the Europa League tie against Benfica.
“I’m here to support every single player and that is what I try to do all the time,” the Arsenal boss said.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) February 23, 2021
Arsenal go into the return fixture with the last-32 tie delicately poised at 1-1, Bukayo Saka’s second-half goal securing a draw against their Portuguese opponents in Rome last week.
The teenager has been one of few positives for the Gunners in an otherwise difficult campaign, though Arteta is confident the England international can still get even better.
“His form in recent months shows that he’s a very important player for us,” the Arsenal boss said.
“I think he’s getting better and better, his performance levels have been really consistent, so that makes him for sure one of the most important players in recent months.
“He’s dealing with things at his age in a very unusual way, but that’s why he’s showing what he’s showing, because his maturity is above his age and so is his intelligence as well.”