Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has insisted his captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will remain the club’s first-choice penalty taker despite missing his last two.
In the 3-0 win over Aston Villa on October 22, the Gunners won a penalty and the Gabon international stepped up, only to be denied by Emiliano Martinez, but the rebound kindly fell to him and he made amends.
On Sunday against Watford, with the scores still 0-0, Alexandre Lacazette was fouled in the danger zone and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. The 32-year-old stepped up but Ben Foster stopped his effort.
However, his manager has hinted there are no plans to relieve his captain from the duty, but admitted he needs help.
“[Aubameyang] will stay on penalties if he is happy to do so,” Arteta said as quoted by the club’s website.
“You will miss when you take penalties – that is part of your career and the job – [but] we’ll try to help him.”
In the absence of the injured Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka, Ainsley Maitland-Niles stepped up, partnering Albert Sambi Lokonga in midfield, and looked solid throughout the game.
What was Arteta’s take?
“First of all, I see a different player in terms of his urgency, his commitment, the clarity in his play, his purpose,” the 39-year-old continued.
“Since we made the decision, it was clear what I was seeing that I wanted him to stay because he was going to be useful. He has a huge talent because he’s versatile enough to adapt to almost any position on the pitch. Today we made use of him to do what he had to do in the game, which was really important.
“When I see him in training sessions, when I see how he prepares, when I see the questions he’s asking, his level of attention. Everything you talk through, his response is immediate. He’s a really clever boy, really clever, really intelligent. I think he needs to be able to transmit that, and how much he cares, with his body language and his determination. He’s come a long way.”
After losing their opening three matches of the season, the North Londoners have recovered well and are currently placed fifth on the table with 20 points, six behind leaders Chelsea.