Arsenal legend Martin Keown insists Mikel Arteta was wrong to banish Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and it cost the club Champions League football.
Arteta stripped Aubameyang of the Gunners captaincy in December 2021 and authorised the striker’s transfer to Barcelona in January 2022.
A recently-released viral clip from Arsenal’s All or Northing documentary shows the moment Arteta informed the rest of the squad that Aubameyang’s disciplinary issues could no longer be tolerated.
The Gabon international, 33, went on to score 13 goals for Barca and guide the Catalans to second place in LaLiga, while the Gunners missed out on fourth spot by two points to arch-rivals Tottenham.
Many have praised Arteta’s display of authority and suggested his decision will benefit Arsenal’s young squad in the long term.
But Keown believes Arteta should have found a short-term solution to keep Aubameyang until the end of the season and prioritise Champions League qualification.
The iconic Gunners defender told talkSPORT: “The manager said, ‘No more. I want role models at this football club for these young players, they need guidance’.
“I think he’s done it for those reasons. But in the short term, I think it affected the team, because Arsenal didn’t get enough goals.
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“Of course, you have to respect the value of the football club, but I still want to make it into the Champions League ahead of Spurs.
“He was our Harry Kane!”
Keown added: “I think it was a bold decision for the manager and we’re still in that journey to see whether it’s going to work out.
“Maybe, if you could’ve kept him there until the end of the season, [Gabriel] Jesus has come in now and Aubameyang is history.
“But those goals were a huge miss for Arsenal. They’re still on my mind.
“I think the player could’ve been forgiven.”
Keown continued: “He made the choice and gave him a second contract. He knew his character. I don’t believe he was a bad apple at all, I just think he’s not a good time-keeper!
“It was too much for the manager and, with that, we lost a lot of goals. We will never know, but those goals were good enough to get Barcelona into the Champions League. It could’ve done the same for Arsenal.
“We hope this is all part of the development of what is proving to be a good manager. But he’s still learning. If he was in the latter stages, would he have got as personal?
“Arsene Wenger would’ve kept him at the club and found a solution to get him on the pitch.
“I don’t understand why he had to leave to football club but Arsenal continued to pay his wages to help Barcelona get into the Champions League.
“Of course, get rid of him at the end of the season, it’s healthy, get Jesus in. But for now, work with him and keep his goals.”
Keown’s comments sparked a fierce debate on talkSPORT as fans flooded to phone lines to agree or disagree.
For ex-Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan, Arteta made the right call with Aubameyang and will be vindicated for it.
Jordan told talkSPORT: “There is no argument that the culture of a football club and the standards of a football club have to be of the highest order.
“If your captain, through a series of circumstances, repeatedly disobeys the manager and diminishes his authority, then surely the players would respect the manager for saying, ‘Right – this is where we are now, the club is bigger than the individual’.
“He was willing to take some pain in the short term because the long term is going to be far more fruitful.
“We all knew Aubameyang would go to Barcelona and do what he does – score goals – in the short term.
“But in the long term, what you’would’ve had is the same problems coming back round and undermining the structure of the football club.”
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