Arteta rejects claims of Aubameyang rift

Mikel Arteta has rejected claims of a rift with club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and said Arsenal have not discussed the possibility of selling the striker in January.

Aubameyang was dropped for Monday’s 2-1 defeat at Everton, appearing for just the final five minutes at Goodison Park and missing a chance to equalise with the last kick of the game.

Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United defender Gary Neville suggested afterwards that there were signs Arteta and Aubameyang’s relationship “feels a little bit awkward” and the Gunners could be open to letting the 32-year-old leave if they receive an offer next month.

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“I have a very good relationship with my players,” Arteta said when asked by ESPN about Aubameyang at Friday’s prematch news conference ahead of Southampton’s visit to Emirates Stadium.

“Everyone has to understand that I always do the best for this club and for this team. And often if that can benefit any individuals, I will always do it. The decisions are not personal, the decisions are just to get performance, and the best out of the team. That’s it.

“Obviously, when a player is not scoring it’s affecting his confidence, it’s affecting the mood and probably the belief, but you have to rebel against this situation, don’t accept it and feel sorry for yourself.”

Pushed on whether Arsenal were considering allowing Aubameyang to leave, Arteta said: “Really, we have never discussed something like this, and when players are under difficulty — or the team is under difficulty- – what we have to be is supportive.”

Arteta also called for the Premier League to introduce a clear threshold for calling off matches as a result of COVID-19. European football’s governing body state that a game will be postponed if a club cannot name 13 senior players in a matchday squad but currently the Premier League invites application from affected teams and judges on a case-by-case basis.

Tottenham’s games against Rennes in the UEFA Conference League and Brighton in the Premier League were called off after a severe outbreak which forced the closure of Spurs Lodge training ground.

However, Arsenal were hit by their own COVID-19 issues in August, losing four players to positive tests and disrupting their opening match of the Premier League season — a 2-0 defeat to newly promoted Brentford.

While Arsenal did not formally apply to the Premier League for the match to be postponed, Arteta later expressed surprise that the club were asked to fulfil the fixture despite returning multiple positive tests.

When asked to clarify whether the Premier League should specify an exact number of cases to call matches off, Arteta said: “I’m saying that would be really, really helpful.

“I think it is [too vague] because you don’t know when you have to play and when you don’t and we have some examples about that.

“The decision has to be made first of all to protect the players and the environment and after obviously we need to maintain certain criteria so all the clubs are competing can compete in the same conditions. That’s it. But for me the most important thing is health.”

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