On the surface, this is not a good thing. In fact, in almost every conceivable way this is most certainly, 100% not a good thing.
However, it has happened, and now Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will miss the next three Arsenal matches through suspension. An appeal was desperately lodged by the club to overturn his red card against Crystal Palace, but in all honesty few expected it to be successful because it was a fairly dreadful tackle. Clumsy? Yes. Malicious? No.
“It has been confirmed that he is going to be suspended for three games. It’s a big shame and a big loss for us, because as well we know Auba’s intention when he plays. But unfortunately he mistimed the tackle, he made a decision and we have to accept it.”
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 15, 2020
First up, a home visit of Sheffield United is to come as Mikel Arteta bids to secure just his second win in charge at the fifth time of asking. The Blades have surpassed all expectations this season are up to the dizzying heights of sixth in the league table, so this will be no walk in the park.
Following that, and most crucially of the lot, the Gunners travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea, with a fair few fans on the west side of London still gleefully reeling from their win at the Emirates last month.
The final match of his suspension is an FA Cup fourth round tie against Bournemouth, which there is every chance he wouldn’t have played in anyway, so that’s not a major loss.
So, is there anything positive to take from Aubameyang’s upcoming absences? Yes, just perhaps, there are.
Gabriel Martinelli’s Game Time
All in all, it’s been a pretty appalling season for Arsenal. Their league form is woeful, and a plethora of off-field issues have tainted what was a campaign initially bursting with promise.
In such times it is key to look at positives and, unquestionably, Gabriel Martinelli is one of them. The Brazilian sensation has been in sparkling form for the Gunners this season, this despite having only joined from Ituano in Brazil’s fourth tier.
However, he’s hit the ground running with eight goals in 19 appearances for the Gunners, looking unflustered whenever thrust into the starting lineup, be it out wide or as the lone striker, and, don’t forget, he’s only 18-years-old.
What he offers though is energy in abundance, a keen eye for goal and excitement. He’s a player to get the fans off their seats with his direct style of play, with calls from some sections of the fanbase for him to be a regular starter, regardless of suspensions or injuries.
Alexandre Lacazette’s work rate has seen him return to the starting lineup under Arteta, with the Frenchman’s link up and hold up play only going to work in Martinelli’s favour for the next three fixtures. Martinelli has been a breath of fresh air already, but now he could really make his mark.
Share the Goals
For all Aubameyang’s world-class ability, how heavily Arsenal rely on their top-scorer is more than slightly concerning. The 30-year-old has bagged 14 goals in the Premier League this season, almost half of the Gunners’ total tally of 29. Next down the line is Lacazette, but the Frenchman has only netted five goals and has not found himself on the scoresheet for over a month.
Granted, his presence in the team boasts other benefits, but perhaps now Aubameyang is out of the picture it could see the club’s number nine take on a more ruthless approach. He has to, simply due to Aubameyang’s goals having single-handedly dragged the club through the mire on more than one occasion this season.
It’s not just Lacazette who will have the chance to step up, though, but Mesut Ozil as well. With just one assist to show in his 12 league outings this season, the most forward thinking midfielder of the pack will also need to show his mettle for the next three fixtures. Well, he needs to do it for the whole season but, well, baby steps.
Nicolas Pepe falls under that bracket too, but there are steady signs of improvement in the Ivorian which suggests goals aren’t far away. This is a chance for the forward players in the squad to step up to the plate and should be seen as an opportunity, not a burden. However, that’s all well and good, but whether they do so is another matter entirely.
A Chance For Rest
Aubameyang and Bernd Leno share the crown for being the only players in Arteta’s squad to have started every league match this season, and the Gabonese striker has missed only 35 minutes of Premier League football in total.
A chunk of that came as a result of his red card, but what this does show is how crucial the forward is to everything good that Arsenal can do. He rarely ever gets a rest, and now 30 years of age, appropriate recovery time is crucial to ensure he remains at peak physical ability.
A three-match layoff may be a blessing in disguise in terms of his fitness. Sure, he, and all Arsenal fans, would like to see him play every game but perhaps this time away is chance to recharge his batteries ahead of the final stretch of matches.
OK, he had an entire summer to take it easy since Gabon didn’t qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations but still, y’know, positives and all that.
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