Mikel Arteta’s relationship with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is generally understood to be pretty fractious, particularly in light of recently-published comments from the former Arsenal striker.
Speaking in an interview following his move from Arsenal to Barcelona, Aubameyang had said: “To manage big characters and big players, he can’t deal with it. He needs some young players who don’t say anything, they just listen.”
Aubameyang attempted to diffuse the situation later, clarifying that it wasn’t a recent interview and he now wishes his old team well. But it certainly suggests the two were at odds by the time the 33-year-old left north London.
Yet Rafa Benitez claims Arteta actually tried hard to defend Aubameyang internally, up until the eventual decision to part ways.
“Aubameyang was a big decision,” Shay Given said to Benitez in a Premier League Productions programme (via HITC).
“He was the captain. He was the leading goalscorer. But, as a young manager, [Arteta] made a big decision to get him out of the club, and now he is kind of rewarded for it.”
“I will tell you something, because I know something a little bit from inside,” Benitez responded. “I think he was trying to support the player, as much as he could.
“Then after he couldn’t, so he had to make a decision and that’s it.”
We don’t know everything that goes on behind the scenes, but we know Arsenal gave Aubameyang quite a lot of chances before eventually dropping him from the squad.
The All Or Nothing documentary revealed that Arteta had a full dossier of Aubameyang’s misdemeanours by the time he took him out. It wasn’t any one incident, it was a long list of them.
If Benitez is right, perhaps Arteta was the one ensuring Aubameyang kept getting second chances. But the situation reached its breaking point, and they had to go their separate ways in the end.