Arsenal: The remaining Premier League fixtures
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Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may once again be the club’s top scorer this season – but that may no longer guarantee him a place in the starting XI. Aubameyang is off it compared to his usual high standard, having netted just 14 goals in all competitions this term. His great mate and direct rival Alexandre Lacazette is one behind on 13 but offers the side so much more.
Aubameyang was controversially dropped for the north London derby earlier this month.
Uproar from Arsenal fans quickly turned to joy as the Gunners beat their local rivals 2-1 without the Gabon international stepping onto the pitch.
Arsenal have relied on Aubameyang in recent seasons and he almost single-handedly led them to last season’s FA Cup triumph.
But it may well have come to the time where the unthinkable happens and Arteta does not view the 31-year-old as part of his best XI.
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The match against Spurs was a perfect example of that. Arsenal put in one of their best performances of the campaign and should have won by more than a one-goal margin.
Emile Smith Rowe was sensational drifting in off the left-hand side, allowing Kieran Tierney to bomb on as he does so well.
Martin Odegaard has started to show why Real Madrid signed him as a 16-year-old, and despite an off-colour couple of matches, Bukayo Saka remains one of the first names on the team sheet.
The future of Lacazette remains doubtful, with the Frenchman turning 30 in May and with his contract expiring next year.
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Mikel Arteta may choose to cash in on Lacazette in the summer and replace him with a like-for-like forward.
That should not get Aubameyang’s hopes up though, because that simply is not going to be him.
Arteta got it right from the start of his reign. He faced criticism from supporters for playing him out wide but Aubameyang is not suited to the centre-forward role in the Spaniard’s style of play.
Aubameyang is better from the left, there is no doubt. However, his performances of late suggest he should not be the first choice in that area either.
If Odegaard stays longer than this season then Smith Rowe could make that spot his own.
There is also Nicolas Pepe, who has played in that position at times to allow Saka to play from the right.
Gabriel Martinelli is also chomping at the bit for his chance.
There is no doubting Aubameyang’s goal record at both Arsenal and previous club Borussia Dortmund.
But if Arteta wants to lead his side in the right direction, he may have to make a decision that would have been considered incomprehensible 12 months ago.
Aubameyang is the highest earner at the club and, unlike with Mesut Ozil, there would still be clubs interested in signing him.
He would still score goals almost anywhere he went and if Arteta does not want a £350,000-a-week player on the bench, maybe an amicable split this summer would not be the worst outcome for all parties.
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