Mikel Arteta has responded to critics of Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and denies he will become another Mesut Ozil.
Aubameyang signed a hefty new three-year contract last summer but has failed to deliver this season. He has found himself in and out of Arteta’s team in recent weeks. He was also dropped for the north London derby after arriving to the stadium late.
His situation at the Emirates has similarities to that of Ozil, who vastly under-performed while being on huge wages before eventually being exiled by Arteta.
But the boss had no time for the comparisons.
He said: “I’m always positive about the future. But once you think about things that happen in the past or compare different situations and personalities I won’t do that.”
Asked whether Aubameyang was committed to the Gunners’ cause, the Spaniard added: “Totally.”
Aubameyang came on as a 78th-minute substitute against Slavia Prague in the Europa League. He assisted Nicolas Pepe’s opener before his side let in a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates.
Arteta was content with the Gabonese international’s impact off the bench.
He said: “Yes because we talked before – in the Europa League everyone has contributed in different ways. The whole squad has been involved and yesterday’s role for him (was) he was sat on the bench and to make an impact and he made an impact.
“He assisted Nico and should have scored a tap-in with his left foot and that’s what the players have to do when they come in.”
Arteta previews Sheffield United clash
The Gunners return to Premier League action on Sunday as they visit relegation-bound Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
One win in the last four league games has made European qualification difficult through the league. They sit seven points behind sixth-placed Spurs and nine behind fifth-placed Chelsea.
But Arteta is not giving up, although he accepts his side have to go on a winning run.
He added: “To win the next game against Sheffield, that’s the only focus that we have. It’s nine points (to Chelsea), there’s still eight games, there’s a lot of points to play for.
“Mathematically everything is possible but we have to put a run together.”
Arteta will assess his squad on Friday to see how they are shaping up after their Thursday night exploits.
Martin Odegaard is likely to miss out with the ankle injury that kept him out of the Prague game. Calum Chambers is also a doubt.
David Luiz and Kieran Tierney are definitely unavailable with knee problems.