Soccer

Arsenal have growing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang problem after lucrative new contract

Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s new deal increasingly looks like causing Mikel Arteta a problem after Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa. The Gunners were humbled by Dean Smith’s side in Sunday’s Premier League clash at the Emirates.

Villa didn’t look back after taking the lead through Bukayo Saka’s own first-half goal, with Ollie Watkins adding a quickfire double after the break.

Aubameyang again looked anonymous playing on the left of Arsenal’s attack – although he wasn’t helped by a lack of service from his team-mates.

When the Gabon international signed a lucrative new three-year deal in September it was hailed as one of Mikel Arteta’s best moves of the summer transfer window, ending months of uncertainty over the forward’s future.

But questions have been asked about Aubameyang’s form ever since, with the 31-year-old having scored just two Premier League goals in eight games this season.

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His penalty winner against United at Old Trafford last weekend was his first since the 3-0 victory over Fulham on the opening day of the campaign.

And the five games in between represented his longest barren run in the league since he joined the Gunners in January 2018.

Aubameyang has played most of his football on the left since Arteta took over as manager last December – and the manager needs more from one of the club’s top earners, whose wages are believed to be around £250,000 per week.

Aubameyang has scored 74 goals in 119 games for Arsenal, and Arteta will want him to recapture that form.

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That could mean moving Aubameyang into a central role, but again that could give Arteta a headache with the manager also needing to keep Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah happy.

Ahead of last Sunday’s win over United, Arteta said there was a strong possibility he would change the 31-year-old’s position at some point.

“It will depend on the games, it will depend on who he’s surrounded with,” Arteta said.

“Of course, there’s a very strong possibility to play him as a No 9.

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“If you’re asking me about any other player I’d say we have to do some work with his confidence, with Auba I don’t think it’s a case of that.”

Meanwhile, Arteta has been left sweating on the fitness of Thomas Partey, who ghad to be replaced by Dani Ceballos for the second half of Sunday’s defeat.

The midfielder was seen with ice on his thigh as he watched the second half, and Arteta confirmed he is set for a scan in the coming days.

The manager said: “We don’t know [what the injury is. We have to scan him tomorrow or the day after.”

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