Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goals have been key to Arsenal in recent times – but head coach Unai Emery has also praised his influence off the pitch.
The Gabon striker has scored 49 goals in 74 Arsenal appearances since joining from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.
He will be hoping to reach half a century in Sunday’s Premier League visit of Bournemouth to secure the victory that will keep the Gunners in the top four, having featured in all but one of Arsenal’s fixtures so far this season.
Aubameyang was named as Arsenal’s vice-captain after a blind vote by the squad and sported the armband for the first time in the recent win over Aston Villa – where he scored the winning goal with a late free-kick.
Beating the likes of David Luiz, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Hector Bellerin to the role may have surprised people outside of the club, but Emery revealed Aubameyang is a prominent member of his squad.
“He is an experienced player now,” he said of the 30-year-old.
“He played in France, Germany and now in England at a high level and with a high performance.
“His experience is good, his team-mates decided with the vote that they wanted him as vice-captain.
“I am usually speaking with him and now he is more confident and more mature in the Premier League compared to when I arrived last year, he came only six months before me.
“He scored a lot of goals last year but has now also taken a big responsibility within the team and he is one of the captains who can manage in the dressing room.
“I will speak with him in my office, the hotel or the dressing room. First we built a human connection and then as a player and then I know I can ask him what I want and what the team needs – he always listens and will always give his best to provide that.
“He will play all minutes, some minutes, all games if we ask that of him and he is always ready to play again – this is also showing his leadership qualities.”
Like any forward, goals are the main part of Aubameyang’s individual game but Emery pointed to the Villa win – where he allowed team-mate Nicolas Pepe to take a penalty for his first goal for the club – as a fine example of his approach.
“I told him when he decided against Aston Villa when we were losing to give the penalty to Pepe for his confidence, it was an amazing decision,” added Emery.
“It showed him as a big player with big responsibility in this team, a captain of this team. He gave that responsibility to Pepe and in that moment it was a great moment between two big players – a very good connection.
“In the the dressing room and in the matches, that connection with Pepe, also with (Alexandre) Lacazette, it means Aubameyang is important to make these positive connections.”
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Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City may have got lucky at the back last week – but is not “crying” over his lack of defensive options.
City are currently utilising midfielder Fernandinho as a makeshift centre-half as John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are both out injured.
Since former captain Vincent Kompany left the club at the end of the last season, the champions have been light in the position, and Nicolas Otamendi is now the only fit senior specialist.
Teenagers Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis provide further options and are in Guardiola’s thinking, but he has been reluctant to expose them in the Premier League.
“I’d prefer to have John Stones and Laporte back,” said Guardiola ahead of Sunday’s home clash with Wolves. “Against Everton we were lucky – Ederson saved us in two or three clear chances.
“But it is what it is. I said when it happened that we couldn’t be crying or complaining and that we were going with the two guys that we had, and the two young players had an opportunity.
“Right now we don’t concede (goals) but tomorrow we could concede five, so the important thing is to concede few chances.
“Against Dinamo Zagreb we didn’t concede a shot on target, and that is our strong point in all competitions. We are a team who, in Europe, concede few, really few chances.
“That is good, but we have to improve so when they get those chances – one, two or three in a game – we have to avoid them being clear, clear chances.
“We have to be more solid but, for a team with this number of incredibly-talented players who are not defensively talented players, it is good.”
As well as being restrained in his use of his young defenders, Guardiola also continues to use Phil Foden sparingly.
The City boss regularly praises the young midfielder but the 19-year-old remains down the pecking order in a star-studded squad and he has featured just four times this season, starting only once.
Guardiola says that is only natural when a team that won the treble last season is again competing on multiple fronts.
He said: “This team needs to win titles and prizes and the process for the young players needs time.
“The best way is step by step for the players (because) the demand for the club is not (just) win the Champions League, but be there all the time in four competitions.
“The talent is there and when they have talent they will play, but at the same time we have to compete every single day to fight with the best teams in England and Europe.
“For that, we need the David Silvas, Kevin De Bruynes, Sergio Agueros, Fernandinhos and all these type of players.
“The young players can help the other ones but it is not possible (to rely on them too much).”
Chelsea and Frank Lampard are preparing for the unknown at Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday, but they could have a trick up their sleeve too.
The Blues started with a 3-4-2-1 system against Lille in the Champions League on Wednesday and recorded an impressive 2-1 win.
It was a shift from the 4-3-3 formation they had largely used in the opening two months of the campaign and Lampard is pleased to have that option.
“What I want us to be is adaptable and there are reasons I felt in Lille it was the right system to start with,” he said.
“There were reasons within the game why I thought we should go back to a four, so I think that’s hopefully going to be a strength of ours.
“I don’t want to change for change sake. I want us to have our way, but our way doesn’t mean 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 3-4-3. It can be adapting as a strength of ours hopefully, so that was just a choice I made in terms of that game itself, and obviously it may happen again.”
When it comes to Southampton, Lampard admitted it is difficult to predict how Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl will line up.
Lampard added: “It will be a tough match against a team with a very good manager. They are a very well organised team who play in different formations so it is hard to predict how they might come at you.
“But they come at you with a lot of pace with how they come at you off the ball. They have quality players. It is always a difficult place to go, especially when you are not at it, you have to be in tip-top shape to go there.
“There’s a lot of energy in their team and the crowd can get behind them if they play with that kind of intensity which they have. We need to match it, at least, because we want to keep our momentum going.”
Chelsea have earned plenty of plaudits lately, winning their last three games with Lampard up for Premier League Manager of the Month for September.
Provided by Press Association Sport