Arsenal have stripped Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of the club captaincy over a breach of discipline.
Aubameyang was dropped from the squad on the weekend as Arsenal beat Southampton 3-0 at the Emirates, and he will not be considered for their match at home against West Ham on Wednesday evening.
The dispute between the club and the 32-year-old Gabon international revolves around a trip he made to France last week to visit his mother, and his failure to return to the UK at the time the club requested.
The Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta, would not be drawn on the matter after the win over Southampton, simply pointing to his pre-match comments which put the captain’s absence down to a “disciplinary breach”.
In a short, blunt statement on Tuesday morning, the club said: “Following his latest disciplinary breach last week, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will no longer be our club captain, and will not be considered for selection for Wednesday’s match against West Ham United.
“We expect all our players, particularly our captain, to work to the rules and standards we have all set and agreed. We are fully focused on tomorrow’s match.”
It is not the first time Aubameyang has been disciplined by the club. In March he was late arriving at the Emirates Stadium for the north London derby due to traffic, and he was dropped to the bench by Arteta. The manager said at the time: “We draw a line under it and move on.”
“It is a really unpleasant situation,” the Arsenal boss added following the announcement. “The players accepted the decision, they know because they have committed to it. We want to take our culture and how we want to represent the football club to a different level.”
On who might take the armband on a permanent basis, Arteta added: “It is not a moment to make a rash decision. The leadership group is really strong and we are going to continue like that, to make that group a little bit better, to educate them and get the right feedback.”
Aubameyang’s suitability for the club captaincy has been a divisive topic among fans and pundits. The striker was given the armband by previous manager Unai Emery after Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka was himself stripped of the role, but his laid back character has often looked at odds with Arteta’s intense approach.
The episode only adds to the evidence to suggest handing the striker a new three-year contract worth around £300,000 per week in September may have been an expensive mistake by the club’s hierarchy. At the time Arteta described Aubameyang as “an important leader” but his leadership role has now gone and his future at the Emirates is left in major doubt.
Xhaka is now a potential candidate to take back the role, while 24-year-old left-back Kieran Tierney is another player highly thought of by Arteta. “He has the respect and the admiration of every member of the staff and every player,” Arteta said of the Scotland international earlier this season. “It’s just the way he is, he does it in a natural way. He’s a shy boy but I think he represents all of the values we want to install and that are in the DNA of this club.”
French forward Alexandre Lacazette captained Arsenal against Southampton in Aubameyang’s absence, and he handed the armband to defender Rob Holding when he was substituted late in the game.