Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta has admitted that he is not surprised by the recent criticism that his captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has received, after the Gabonese striker failed to find the net in his last four league matches.
The 31-year-old has been the star performer for the Gunners during a difficult 12 months, and it was his key contributions in last year's FA Cup which propelled Arteta to his first major trophy as a coach. The prolific forward then put doubts over his future to bed by signing a new deal with the north Londoners, showing his belief in the new era unfolding at the Emirates Stadium.
Aubameyang's form has gone off the boil since putting pen to paper however, and he had failed to score in his last four outings (prior to his Europa League strike against Rapid Vienna), which has led to the Gabon international receiving surprising levels of criticism for his quartet of blanks.
One man who is not shocked by the abuse the superstar has suffered is Arteta. When asked if he is surprised, the coach claimed that people expect Aubameyang 'to score a goal every game,' and Arsenal 'will support him when difficult times come around him'.
“No, because expectations for him are that he has to score a goal every game. So this comes with the nature of the big player that he is, what he has done in the past.
“People expect that from him in the future. We are here to help him with that, and we will support him when difficult times come around him.
“He needs to get in more goalscoring opportunities, he needs to get the ball more around the box, in order to do what he is able to do. Thursday [against Vienna] was a different game to some of the other games we have played against some of the big teams we have played this season.
“If you look at our fixtures, we have already played five games out of seven against top, top opposition. It is the same for him or [Sergio] Aguero, who didn’t have a shot on target as well on the weekend [for Manchester City against Arsenal]. It is not an isolation of just our player.
“But Thursday it was promising, I said to him before the game, go out and win us the game, and he did it.”
Arteta also addressed the inevitable frustrations of some supporters that their top goalscorer is being deployed in a wide left area, rather than as a central striker. The Spaniard believes 'that's always going to happen', and that there would be a similar reaction, were Aubameyang to return as a centre-forward, given his previous success as a left-winger.
“That’s always going to happen. The moment he does not score, he needs to play as a 9.
“If you play him as a 9, [people say] 'why don’t you keep him on the left because he has been so successful on the left?' It’s going to happen I know.”