Premier League • England

Arteta forced into early decision as controversy surrounds Arsenal striker’s shock return

Nicolas Pepe Arsenal

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has moved to dispel rumours that he will leave the Africa Cup of Nations early for disciplinary and not health-related issues.

The 32-year-old has yet to feature for Gabon at the event. The Arsenal striker missed his side’s opening match of the tournament against Comoros after testing positive for Covid. He was then diagnosed with “cardiac lesions” ahead of last Friday’s clash with Ghana and forced to sit out the match.

Gunners doctors were reportedly not too concerned with the former Borussia Dortmund hitman’s health. And Ghana coach Patrice Neveu has now refuted his federation’s claims that both Aubameyang and Mario Lemina have heart issues.

“In the readings, it’s clear that Aubameyang has no cardiac problems,” he told ESPN. “He [and Lemina] passed PCR tests and they were negative.

“They then did the second lot of exams, cardiac tests, and it seemed as though the pair of them had problems.

“It appears as though the virus has left residue, it’s possible that the illness has left an impact. And two hours before the match, the team doctor and the doctor of CAF were on a phone call with me, and they told me not to play them.”

Aubameyang sets the record straight

Aubameyang has been frozen out by Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta due to a breach of club discipline. And rumours began circulating that the veteran had blotted his copybook once again – this time while on international duty.

Reports claimed his early exit has nothing to do with health and was down to behavioural issues. However, the African took to Twitter to put those rumours to bed once and for all.

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Injuries and absences are part of the game. Leeds are the best example of how its played.

Translated from French, via The Independent, he wrote: “We have problems that are already complicated to solve, then on top of that there are rumours.

“In short, we have health to take care of first and foremost. I won’t go back on these false rumours and I sincerely hope that our team will go as far as possible.”

It remains to be seen if the controversial forward is welcomed back into the first-team picture by Arteta. His last action was a brief substitute appearance in the 2-1 loss to Everton at Goodison Park on December 6.

The north London derby was postponed on Sunday at the Gunners’ request. And they are next in action against Burnley on Sunday – but that contest is also in doubt.

Mikel Arteta Arsenal

The Clarets have already requested that Tuesday’s clash with Watford is moved to a later date due to Covid issues.

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