Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta insists no player is bigger than the club after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stood down as skipper following a “disciplinary breach”.
The forward was dropped ahead of Saturday’s win over Southampton and also left out of contention for the visit of West Ham on Wednesday night.
Arsenal’s statement confirming the decision said the club expected “all our players, particularly our captain, to work to the rules and standards we have all set and agreed”.
It is not Aubameyang’s first transgression, having previously been dropped to the bench for March’s north London derby against Tottenham after what was described as a breach of the club’s pre-match protocol.
Arteta admitted it was a difficult experience having to take action against Aubameyang, whose double strike helped win the 2020 FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley.
The Spaniard knows all too well the values expected of an Arsenal captain, having worn the armband himself as a player from 2014 to 2016 under Arsene Wenger.
“What I expect from any person in this football club, that is representing this badge, is passion and that he gives absolutely 100 per cent, that he puts the club in front of any personal interests and is able to do anything to fulfil the badge we have on the chest.
“Apart from that, you can listen to individuals and you can understand different cultures, but that commitment and passion has to be there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
“I am here to make the right decision every day and to defend the club, to be consistent in something that we want to do, on and off the field. We have to be consistent in our decision-making.”
“I wouldn’t like to be in this position – not with him, but with any player to make this kind of decision,” Arteta said.
“Because at the end the fulfilment of a coach is when you are trying to help a player to become a better person, to be happy to be fulfilled as a player and to enjoy on the pitch and at the moment with that decision Auba is not going to be able to do that. For me it is just sadness.”
Arteta is yet to decide on who will be his next permanent captain, with Alexandre Lacazette likely to take the armband again as he did against Southampton.
Midfielder Granit Xhaka, himself replaced as skipper by Aubameyang in November 2019 under then-head coach Unai Emery, is among the senior leadership group, with defenders Kieran Tierney and Gabriel others who could step up.
Arteta feels Arsenal have “come very, very far” and do show a sense of togetherness on the pitch but remain a work in progress.
“It is still not there and we had another incident that reflects we are still not there,” he said.
“But that is why it’s about the light rain – to get really wet you need (it) every single day.”