Arteta: Arteta defends Aubameyang amid Ozil fears
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Alexandre Lacazette has declared that his Arsenal team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains one of the club’s most important players despite being criticised on a number of occasions for his recent performances. The Gabon international has scored just nine Premier League goals all season despite making no less than 25 appearances in the competition.
Aubameyang was not considered for selection in Arsenal’s match against strugglers Fulham on Sunday afternoon as he continues to recover after contracting malaria.
Mikel Arteta has often deployed the 31-year-old in a wide berth since the beginning of the campaign, in a departure from his usual role at the tip of his side’s attacking trident.
The former Borussia Dortmund forward’s influence this season has largely been overshadowed by that of Lacazette, who has found the net on five occasions from his last seven Premier League outings.
The Frenchman was also on target with a brace as the Gunners eased past Slavia Prague to reach the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday evening.
Lacazette hit out at Aubameyang’s critics ahead of kick-off against Fulham, urging them to remember the experienced attacker’s 29-goal haul which played a huge role in helping Arsenal to secure European qualification last season.
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“To listen to all the critics on him is not easy because he did so much for the club, he saved us last season,” Lacazette told Sky Sports.
“He’s a great goalscorer, so I think we can’t criticise a great player like Auba on his recent form.
“I don’t think his recent form was that bad because he’s really helped the team and scored many goals the last few games.
“I think sometimes people are a bit hard with him, but I guess it’s happening with a great player.”
Aubameyang was at the centre of a controversial storm last month ahead of the north London derby win over Tottenham, as he was left out of the starting side after turning up late to a pre-match meeting.
The Gunners went on to see off the challenge of their bitter rivals, with goals from Lacazette and Martin Odegaard completing an impressive comeback after Eric Lamela’s stunning opener for the visitors.
Arteta quickly insisted that the matter had been dealt with after the final whistle, and suggested in midweek that he is eagerly anticipating Aubameyang’s return to action upon the striker’s full recovery from malaria.
“We just spoke with him,” the Spaniard told the club website.
“He’s at home, he’s fine, he’s completely fine at the moment. He had two days in hospital to get the right treatment but he’s feeling good now.
“We’ll see how he recovers, I think he’ll need a few days to recover from that. He wants to be back as soon as possible, that’s what he said to me.
“Hopefully not [too much longer] because he feels really good, that’s what he said to me today.
“He really wants to get back, but I don’t know, it shouldn’t take too long.”
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