English Premiership

Mikel Arteta backs Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to silence critics

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Getty Images)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Getty Images)

Mikel Arteta has backed Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to prove his recent goal drought was just a blip.

Gabon star Aubameyang had gone four matches without scoring until hitting the winner in Thursday's 2-1 Europa League victory at Rapid Vienna.

The 31-year-old has been Arsenal's most dangerous forward since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018, but he was still singled out for criticism following his barren spell this term.

His anonymous displays during defeats at Liverpool and Manchester City were especially frustrating for Arsenal fans.

But Aubameyang has scored 19 goals in 29 appearances for Arsenal since Arteta's appointment in December and the Gunners boss has no doubts his player can cope with the great expectations.

"Expectations for him are that he has to score a goal every game," Arteta said ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash against Leicester.

"So this comes with the nature of the big player that he is, what he has done in the past. People expect that from him in the future.

"We are here to help him with that, and we will support him when difficult times come around him.

"He needs to get in more goalscoring opportunities, he needs to get the ball more round the box, in order to do what he is able to do."

Arteta also claimed the calibre of recent opposition inevitably led to Aubameyang having a tougher time.

"If you look at our fixtures we have already played five games out of seven against top, top opposition," he said.

"It is the same for him or (Manchester City striker) Sergio Aguero, who didn't have a shot on target as well on the weekend. It is not an isolation of just our player."

Aubameyang has been largely deployed on the left flank in recent months by Arteta, a move which saw him flourish in FA Cup wins over Manchester City and Chelsea last season.

Arteta did move him into a central position against Sheffield United this season and he knows there will always be questions about his use of the talisman.

"That is always going to happen. The moment he does not score, he needs to play as a number nine," Arteta said.

"If you play him as a nine, why don't you keep him on the left because he has been so successful on the left. Its going to happen, I know."

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