Martin Keown believes that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta must drop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, or risk backlash from his other players.
Aubameyang’s form throughout this season, which represents a decline, has brought up debate. The 31-year-old netted 22 Premier League goals last term, but has only managed nine so far this campaign. Indeed, speculation swirled that he had slacked off after signing a bumper new deal with the Gunners.
But while he has found most of his goals since the middle of December, he has dropped off again.
The Gabon international struggled in Saturday’s clash with Liverpool and got the axe from Arteta against Tottenham after lateness.
Gary Neville insisted that Arteta gave Aubameyang a “big ask” in tracking Trent Alexander-Arnold – as well as acting as a winger – in the weekend’s 3-0 defeat.
According to Keown, though, the striker’s poor performance warrants questions over his future in the team.
“This was Mikel Arteta’s 50th game in charge of Arsenal and it’s hard to remember a worse performance,” he wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.
“This only makes Thursday’s Europa League meeting with Slavia Prague even bigger.
“Arteta has a big decision to make on his captain. He set an example by dropping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the north London derby recently. Aubameyang was supposed to start against Spurs but turned up late and was pulled.
“Should Arteta not be dropping him for performing as poorly as he did against Liverpool? If he sticks with him, he risks losing the respect of the group.”
In fact, Keown insisted that youngster Gabriel Martinelli can form part of a new-look attack which can revitalise Arsenal.
Martinelli has been conspicuous for his absence in recent weeks.
Keown wants Martinelli role at Arsenal
“It’s time to bring in 19-year-old Gabriel Martinelli. He is too good to be sitting on the bench. His team-mates see him in training and know what he can do,” the pundit added.
“They will be baffled by his continued absence. I know I am. Use him on the left. Use Martinelli’s fellow 19-year-old Bukayo Saka on the right. Start Emile Smith Rowe.
“Then you’ll have a team who can pose problems for the opposition. There were too many passengers against Liverpool.
“The visitors’ weakness was their centre back pairing of Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips but Arsenal couldn’t test them.
“They had Aubameyang on the left, Alexandre Lacazette central and Nicolas Pepe on the right — three club-record signings — but they missed the energy and drive of Smith Rowe and Saka.”
Arsenal face a Prague side who have knocked Leicester and Rangers out of the Europa League.