Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has come under a fair degree of scrutiny ever since he took over for former Gunners boss Unai Emery during the 2019-20 Premier League campaign, first taking up his post against Bournemouth in a 1-1 draw.
During an early tenure that was rife with criticism and questions regarding whether or not Arsenal made the right choice in appointing, and then standing by, the former Gunners midfielder, one of the biggest question marks around the Spanish tactician came through his ability to man-manage personalities in the dressing room; a notion that came to a head when it came to the breakdown in the relationship with then club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Things started well enough for Arteta and Aubameyang after the Gabonese star helped Arteta win his first piece of silverware on the touchline in his first season at the club when he bagged a brace in the FA Cup final against bitter rivals Chelsea.
That relationship would soon eventually sour over the next season and a half, leading Aubameyang to depart from north London during the January transfer window last season after being stripped of the captaincy with no path to reconciliation between the feuding duo to be found.
But The Times’ Gary Jacob has now reported that Arteta has been vindicated in his stance with Aubameyang after the Arsenal headmaster kept a detailed diary of events pertaining to the many infractions perpetrated by the Gabonese forward which ultimately led to a complete breakdown between the club and player
As reported by Jacob, “The Arsenal manager made detailed notes about the incidents, including times and dates, building up evidence before dropping Aubameyang and stripping him of the captaincy for multiple disciplinary breaches in December last year.”
“Arteta did not relent, despite the likes of Edu, Arsenal’s technical director, urging him to give Aubameyang another chance, and the club terminated his contract, worth £350,000 a week, by paying him about £7 million before he joined Barcelona as a free agent in February.”
Given the club’s relative open-door access during Amazon’s All Or Nothing season featuring the club during last season’s 2021-22 Premier League campaign, quotes from Arteta himself in the documentary make mention of what the state of affairs actually was behind closed doors.
“That is why I have everything documented,” said Arteta. “With the dates, the times, the conversion, how it happened, why it happened… because if one day it is needed. He has been late, apart from all the issues, many times. The club has got a tradition. When you get paid that much money…”
Most strikingly, was that Edu, Richard Garlick, and Vinai Ventakesham were all staunchly against Arteta’s treatment of Aubameyang, with Garlick remarking to club lawyers about the fragile nature of the situation given Aubameyang’s contract that “Mikel has a file, a catalog of misdemeanors which has culminated in this.”
Ventakesham was adamant that Aubameyang should be reintegrated into the senior setup in order to help Arsenal push for a top-four finish - which they missed out on by just three points - while Edu was seen remarking that it was “not easy” in finding a way to support Arteta with his decision making.
But the Arsenal boss held firm, wanting the excusing of poor behavior by players to finally be put to bed and everyone come to heel regarding the expectations he has stood by since his appointment.
“What do you have to do? Just let it go? What do you have to do? What do you do? [Say] ‘it’s ok’, let it go? What happened in the last 10 years? Let it go, and then the next one the same, the next one the same. In Spain, it is called ‘Casa Pepe’ — everybody doing whatever he f------ wants.”
With Arsenal securing Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City this summer, starting the season off strong with a three-point haul against Crystal Palace, and the club still moving forward in its project to move the needle regarding the quality in the senior setup, it would appear that Arteta will be vindicated after all, especially with Aubameyang potentially being on the chopping block at Barcelona this summer.
That is...as long as Arsenal continues to move forward.