Mikel Arteta has denied any rift between himself and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – or any of his other Arsenal players – but had contrasting messages over the futures of two other strikers.
One of the main talking points to emerge from Arsenal’s loss to Everton on Monday was Arteta’s use of Aubameyang. When Gabriel Martinelli was taken off, Arteta originally sent on Eddie Nketiah instead of captain Aubameyang.
The Gabon international did make a cameo later on. But questions have been asked of why someone who may be leaving the club got the nod before such a senior figure.
There have been rumours of a fall-out between the pair, but Arteta denied that idea when making things clear at his latest press conference.
“I have a very good relationship with my players,” he said when asked about Aubameyang. “The first thing you have to understand is I have to make decisions to benefit the team.”
Some claims have even arisen that Arsenal could go on to sell Aubameyang, but again Arteta was defiant.
“Obviously we have never discussed something like this,” he insisted. “When players are under difficulty, what we have to give is support.”
As stated, the decision to send Nketiah on first was questionable. His contract expires at the end of the season. The two parties are yet to find an agreement over a renewal.
Arsenal targetting Wijnaldum, Richarlison
Their improvements need to be made further up the field, and these two targets show they clearly understand that.
Nketiah wants to progress with more playing time, which he feels he won’t get at Arsenal. But Arteta remains hopeful of convincing him to stay.
“Well Eddie has six months left in his contract,” he explained. “There have been discussions with him and the agent to find the best possible way because Eddie knows how much I rate him and I’d like to keep him at the club.”
Mikel Arteta vague about Lacazette, Wijnaldum rumours
In contrast, though, Arteta was much more vague about the future of Alexandre Lacazette – also on an expiring contract.
“The same every time that you guys are asking the question. Nothing in here,” he responded to a question over the Frenchman’s future.
Amid the focus on potential exits, there was also a question about a possible signing that Arteta fended off.
The Gunners have been linked with former Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. A move could come just six months after he joined Paris Saint-Germain. But Arteta did not want to discuss the topic.
“We’re not gonna discuss any player that is not an Arsenal player sorry.”
Arteta was speaking ahead of Arsenal’s game at home to Southampton on Saturday at 3pm. Elsewhere in his press conference, he said that Emile Smith Rowe would “hopefully” be available for selection after returning to training on Friday.
Arsenal are aiming to bounce back from consecutive defeats, even though their manager felt they deserved better in both. They are still in a respectable seventh place in the Premier League table.