Mikel Arteta says he was “the solution, not the problem” in the breakdown of relations that led to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s departure for Barcelona last week.
Aubameyang signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with the La Liga club after leaving Arsenal by mutual consent. It concluded a dramatic unravelling in what had been a successful spell in north London, with Arteta dropping him from the squad and stripping him of the captaincy in mid-December after a series of disciplinary breaches.
When he was unveiled at the Camp Nou, Aubameyang said his problems at Arsenal had been “only with” Arteta. But Arteta struck back on Wednesday, putting the onus on his former centre-forward’s behaviour.
“I am extremely grateful for what Auba has done at the club, for his contribution since I’ve been here,” he said when asked whether parting ways had been for the best. “The way I see myself in that relationship is the solution, not the problem.
“ What I’m saying is that I’ve been the solution, 100%. I can look in the eye of anybody.”
On the subject of Aubameyang’s comments, he continued: “That’s his opinion and you have to respect that.”
Arteta softened on the question of how Aubameyang, who scored 92 goals in 163 appearances after joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2018, would be remembered and said all parties would learn from the way things deteriorated. “I think it is gratitude, wish him the best, and move on without any regrets, because I prefer to look at all the beautiful things and good times that we had,” he said. “As well it is very important to learn from those ones, at the end, that have been so good, and those that we could have done better, especially from my side when I look at that.”
There have been suggestions in some quarters that Arteta was too hard on Aubameyang, whose timekeeping deeply frustrated the Arsenal manager, but he explained that letting the player off the hook could have caused issues within his dressing room.
“I don’t think I am too hard on that, to be fair,” he said. “I don’t know what the perception is externally, but there are some minimums, there is a line that you cannot cross. And if somebody is going to cross it because he has scored 25 or 30 goals, that dressing room has to accept it. They will decide. If they are happy with that, with me there is no problem. If they are happy with that and they can live with that, you have to do it that way.”
Asked whether it was his impression that his squad would not accept such behaviour, he said: “I don’t work with impressions. I work with facts. And I like to see, and I want to smell and sense where this is going, and if possible anticipate issues.”
Arsenal visit Wolves, two places below them in eighth, on Thursday for their first match in 18 days. They spent part of that time on a training camp in Dubai and Arteta said his players were “ready to go”.