Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang left frustrated with Europa League exclusion at Arsenal

Chris Bailey 12/03/2018
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang admits he has been left frustrated by UEFA regulations which prevent him from turning out for Arsenal in the Europa League.

The Gabon striker arrived at the Emirates Stadium on transfer deadline day in a club-record deal from Borussia Dortmund and has scored three times in five Premier League appearances, including the second in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Watford.

But he has not been able to participate in Arsenal’s tilt at winning the Europa League due to a rule which manager Arsene Wenger recently insisted “doesn’t make sense”, with his absence a big miss as winning the competition now represents the club’s best chance of securing a return to the Champions League.

Aubameyang is effectively cup-tied despite not playing in the competition this season but, because Dortmund dropped from the Champions League into the Europa League, he is ineligible to represent his new club.

He has therefore been forced to sit out of both legs against Swedish side Ostersund as well as the trip to face boyhood club AC Milan last week, a game the Gunners won 2-0.

“I am really frustrated because the rules are a bit…I don’t know how to say in English but I am disappointed because I can’t help my team,” he said.

“That’s life. I have to deal with it. I can’t play every three days. When I was in Dortmund, I was playing every three days but now I play once a week or have a long time between games. It is not easy.”

Despite being unable to develop a relationship with his new team-mates in every game, Aubameyang is clearly benefiting from playing alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan – with the former Dortmund pair reunited in north London.

Mkhitaryan laid on Aubameyang’s strike against the Hornets before the roles were reversed for the third goal.

Shkodran Mustafi’s header had put Arsenal ahead while Troy Deeney, who had accused Wenger’s side of lacking “cajones” as Watford came from behind to win the reverse fixture in October, saw a second-half penalty saved by Petr Cech – who went on to keep his 200th Premier League clean sheet.

Arsenal v Watford - Premier League

Aubameyang believes he is now getting towards his best and is keen to keep it up to help relieve the pressure on Wenger, who has seen his position come under scrutiny following a recent run of damaging defeats.

“It is a big win,” he said. “The team did very well and it is a great three points. We needed it. I think the fans are happy, which is really important.

“It was a bit difficult at the beginning but I am feeling better. I didn’t play a lot in January so it was difficult to find the rhythm.

“Now I am feeling better. I work hard, I have worked a lot in the last weeks and I am happy because I feel better.

“Of course I am really happy (for Wenger) because I am here because of him. He had the interest in me so I am happy to play for him.”

While Arsenal went into the game without a Premier League win since February 3, Javi Gracia’s Watford had been enjoying a decent run.

They had won three of their last four, including a 4-1 victory over Chelsea, but Abdoulaye Doucoure conceded the visitors had been taught a lesson.

“You need to work a lot to try and beat this kind of team,” the midfielder told Watford’s official website.

“I think it is a lesson for us for the next time. I think the penalty is a key point in the game because if Troy scores we come back to 2-1 and the game changes completely but he missed it and we are very disappointed.”

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Leicester's Riyad Mahrez and Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny feature in our Arab Premier League footballers watch

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In this column, we track the best Arab football talents plying their trade in the Premier League and round-up their accomplishments every week.

Leicester star Riyad Mahrez is never far from the headlines after his run of superb form for the Foxes, scoring a goal and providing an assist in Claude Puel’s side’s 4-1 win over West Brom.

Meanwhile, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah struggled in Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat to Man United at Old Trafford, and Mohamed Elneny shone in Arsenal’s win over Watford.

Here’s a look at how these Arab footballers fared this weekend.

RIYAD MAHREZ – WEST BROM 1-4 LEICESTER

It was another stunning performance from Mahrez as he guided Leicester to a much-needed win over West Brom at the Hawthorns.

The Algerian scored one and provided an assist for Jamie Vardy  – showing just why he is an £80 million target for Arsenal and Manchester City this summer.

His pass for Vardy’s strike was a gem. Collecting possession 40-yards out, the 26-year-old dropped a perfectly weighed pass into the path of the Englishman to equalise with an exquisite volley after 21 minutes.

Mahrez is starting to show signs of his class again after a failed attempt to leave the club during the January transfer window.

Rating – 8/10

KEY STATS

Minutes – 87

Goal – 1

Assists – 1

Shots – 3

Shots on target – 1

Key Passes – 2

Passing Accuracy – 88.2%

Touches – 69

Passes – 51

MOHAMED ELNENY – ARSENAL 3-0 WATFORD

A stellar game from the Egyptian.

The 26-year-old was a constant presence in the midfield and appeared everywhere he needed to be in a bid to unlock the Watford attack for team-mates.

Although a pacy Watford midfield dictated proceedings at times, Elneny still pulled the strings in a rare start for Arsene Wenger’s men.

Rating – 7/10

KEY STATS

Minutes – 90

Key Passes – 1

Passing Accuracy – 91.8%

Touches – 80

Passes – 73

Aerials won – 2

Tackles – 2

 Arsenal v Watford - Premier League

MOHAMED SALAH – MANCHESTER UNITED 2-1 LIVERPOOL

Frustrating performance from a player who had the chance to light it up on the big stage at Old Trafford.

The Egyptian ace was kept quiet by Ashley Young and was dispossessed seven times over the course of the match.

His sole chance of the game was a wild shot over the bar towards the end of the match.

The 25-year-old attacker has been a class act for Klopp’s side, proving he is human after all, in a season where he has netted 33 goals in all competitions.

Rating – 5/10

KEY STATS

Minutes – 90

Shots – 1

Shots on target – 0

Key Passes – 1

Passing Accuracy – 75%

Touches – 42

Passes – 20

Dispossessed – 7

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Man City boss Pep Guardiola will manage Benjamin Mendy's return from injury

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Pep Guardiola will not rush Benjamin Mendy back for Manchester City, however keen the Frenchman is to play.

Left-back Mendy is now back in training with the Premier League leaders after six months on the sidelines following cruciate ligament knee surgery.

Mendy, who made a huge impression in the early weeks of the season after joining City in a £49.1million move from Monaco, has said he hopes to return to action next month.

But City boss Guardiola wants to be on the side of caution and feels he may have to hold the 23-year-old back for his own good.

Guardiola said: “The most important thing after six months is to be careful.

“He believes, ‘I am strong, I will come back soon, I will play like I did before the injury.’ That is not happening.

“Even if he believes he is strong he is not strong enough. After six months, he has to be careful.

“But, of course, it’s so important he comes back. He trains in all the training sessions with us. The knee is going well because he was operated on by the best doctor in the world (Ramon Cugat) for doing that. It’s going really well.

“We are so happy because maybe he can help us for 20 minutes, 25 minutes.”

Mendy’s comeback would then follow a similar path to that of Ilkay Gundogan, who also suffered a serious knee injury in December 2016.

The German was eased back into action at the start of this season but it was not until a year after the injury that he began to start games regularly again.

Guardiola said: “We cannot forget Gundogan played in the past month a lot of games – I think all the games, 90 minutes, except the last one.

“But before that, he played one game, rested for two, one game, rested for two, because after six months, the next step is muscular injuries.

You have to try to avoid that.

“Maybe he (Mendy) can go to the World Cup and come back next season stronger.”

City head to Stoke on Monday night looking to claim the first of the four remaining wins they need to secure the title. Victory would re-establish a 16-point lead at the top of the table with eight games remaining, although City are not in league action again until facing Everton on March 31.

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