MICAH RICHARDS: Arteta may have ENDED Aubameyang's Arsenal career

MICAH RICHARDS: To be axed as captain is huge and Mikel Arteta may have ENDED striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal career… but he isn’t the sole reason the Gunners are off the pace in the Premier League

  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stripped of the captain’s armband at Arsenal
  • It came after the striker returned late from visiting his sick mother in France
  • Aubameyang is the latest Arsenal captain to find himself in the headlines
  • Captains like Jordan Henderson set the standards every single day
  • Aubameyang isn’t the sole reason Arsenal are off the pace in the league 

When you are presented with the captain’s armband, you receive not only your club’s highest honour but also a set of unwritten rules.

The responsibilities of being skipper are huge. Your standards have to be the highest in the squad and you must set the right tone on a daily basis.

What you do on the pitch is important but the message you send out with your approach in the dressing room is critical. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stripped off the captain’s armband by Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta may have ended Aubameyang’s Arsenal career by axing him as club captai

So to be stripped of that role is huge. If a manager decides that is the only course of action, it’s difficult to see a way back for the individual. Time will tell, but it is a real possibility that Mikel Arteta may have ended Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal career this week.

Talking about the specifics of this situation is difficult as we are not privy to the rules set out by Arteta when he gave permission for his star striker to go to see his sick mother in France. 

That element of the story naturally leads some observers to think Aubameyang has been harshly treated but if he stepped out of line and breached club protocols, he had to be punished. Arteta clearly felt he needed to do it even if he may have brought focus on himself, as his decision has increased the spotlight on Arsenal.

In all my years as a player, I never saw anyone lose the captaincy for a breach of rules. I was a captain myself and have to admit there was a point at Aston Villa when I failed to set the best example. 

There was a point where I didn’t set the best example when captain of Aston Villa

Liverpool pair Jordan Henderson and James Milner set an example every single day

When Villa were fighting to stay in the top flight, I was pictured in Dubai during an international break. I had permission and didn’t do anything wrong while I was there, but even so, the perception the picture created was poor.

Hindsight tells me I should never have put myself in that position — what message did it send to the rest of the squad?

That’s what I mean about unwritten rules. You can’t put a toe, never mind a foot, out of line when you lead the group.

Look at Jordan Henderson and James Milner at Liverpool. People say they aren’t world class and are boring but nothing could be further from the truth. They are diamonds as lads, but what makes them world class is the levels they set around the camp every single day.

Aubameyang is the latest Arsenal captain to find himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons, following Granit Xhaka, who threw the armband on the floor after being booed by his own supporters, and, before him, Laurent Koscielny, who refused to go on a pre-season tour in order to push through a move.

Granit Xhaka was stripped of the captain’s armband after a row with the club’s supporters

Laurent Koscielny refused to go on a pre-season tour when he was Arsenal captain

Former manager Unai Emery picked Aubameyang to be his skipper after the furore with Xhaka and, at the time, it was the right decision. He was in outstanding form, had just won the Premier League’s Golden Boot and was Arsenal’s talisman.

Now, unfortunately, critics will see him as the scapegoat for all of Arsenal’s shortcomings. It’s a convenient excuse but it’s wrong. I won’t defend Aubameyang’s late return but I will defend him against those who believe he is the reason Arsenal remain off the pace in the Premier League.

Has his form been great since he signed a new deal in August 2020? No. Aubameyang hasn’t scored since the middle of October and that isn’t good enough for a player of his quality. But he couldn’t do everything on his own just because he had been handed a big contract.

It was the same with Mesut Ozil, when they gave him that contract worth a reported £350,000 a week. It is almost as if Arsenal hand one big contract out to their biggest name and expect them to produce fireworks single-handedly. 

Arsenal could challenge in three of four years with likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe

Arsenal failed to make the right signings to give Ozil or Aubameyang the opportunity to go to higher levels of performance. They may have improved the contracts of their best players but the club regressed because they failed to improve their squad.

I said 12 months ago that Arteta was the man who could stop people laughing at Arsenal and they have been doing reasonably well. In three or four years’ time, this could turn out to be a proper Arsenal team, capable of challenging for the top honours, especially if Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka keep progressing.

The one thing that will threaten progress more than anything is players who are not prepared to meet the standards that Arteta expects on a daily basis.

The Spaniard is a coach I admire and someone who has impressed me when I have seen him work. He has looked at the bigger picture and made a stand with Aubameyang. By not meeting Arteta’s disciplinary expectations he disrespected everyone in the dressing room.

If you are a captain, that is something you can never do.

Arteta had to look at the bigger picture and take a stand with former captain Aubameyang


I spent time with Sergio Aguero in Abu Dhabi last week. He’s always been positive but something was eating away at him. 

He didn’t say what it was but it became apparent when he announced his retirement on Wednesday.

Regular readers will know how much I love Sergio and the debt of gratitude I feel to him for scoring the goals that made me a Premier League champion. 

I’m gutted for him that his career has ended abruptly because he had dreamed of playing for Barcelona from the age of five. 

As soon as the news broke that he was retiring, I sent him a message just to say ‘thank you’. Sergio was a striker who made me see football in a different way and his humility set him apart. In times like these, you say someone is a legend.

With Sergio, the most fitting description is ‘hero’.

Sergio Aguero was forced into retirement at the age of 33 after a heart condition diagnosis


It may seem odd to say about a team that has just been beaten 7-0 and is close to the relegation zone, but I have no worries for Leeds.

Some of the things they do baffle me, such as continuing to play man-for-man against Manchester City when they were already losing 3-0, but I don’t expect them to be relegated and I don’t think that result at the Etihad reflects where they are.

There are some areas they have got to get to grips with though. On the pitch, players have to take responsibility when things are not going well. They can’t keep making basic mistakes over and over again.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side should be safe but they need to avoid repeating basic mistakes


Back in August, I made a confident prediction about Dele Alli. He’s a player I’ve always had faith in and was my tip to take people by surprise.

I was adamant he would remind everyone of why he had been such a pivotal figure for England and Tottenham.

Four months on, he is looking for a new club in January and things haven’t worked out as I’d hoped. 

I don’t know what is happening behind the scenes but I do know he needs a fresh challenge. I’m desperate to see him playing well again, to show why he scored 67 times for Spurs. 

It’s disturbing to not see him doing anything and if I could ask him one question, it would be: how much do you love football? Forget about the rewards, forget the adulation — Dele should remember that basic desire to go out and play well. If he does that, the rest takes care of itself.

Dele Alli is looking for a new club in January following his struggles at Tottenham

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