Mikel Arteta affirmed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s importance to Arsenal, insisting having the striker at his best is vital to the future of the club.
Aubameyang marked his first Premier League start since January 18 with his first hat-trick in the competition, surpassing 200 goals in Europe’s top five leagues in the process as Arsenal beat Leeds United 4-2 on Sunday.
Having opened the scoring 13 minutes in, Aubameyang doubled his tally from the spot – the goal which saw him become the ninth player to score 200 times across Europe’s elite divisions since his Ligue 1 debut in 2009.
Hector Bellerin added a well-crafted third before Aubameyang completed his hat-trick two minutes into the second half, though Pascal Struijk and Helder Costa hit back to give Arsenal a fright.
It was the first time Arteta’s team have scored four times in a league game at Emirates Stadium since July last season, and after what has been a stop-start season for Aubameyang – due to injury issues and personal reasons – the Gunners’ boss reiterated the 31-year-old’s importance.
“I thought he was superb today, he has been training really good the last week or so, he looked back to normal,” Arteta told a news conference.
“He looked really committed in training, really hungry and today he had a great performance, not only for the goals but the way he worked without the ball and the way he worked every Leeds defender, he set the tone.
— AUBA (@Aubameyang7) February 14, 2021
“We know that a big part of our future success is related to Auba being at his best and scoring as many goals as possible.
“If he is in that type of form we are going to be closer to winning football matches, that is for sure – we cannot just rely on him but he is a big piece of our puzzle and you saw today that when he is firing he is a difficult player to play against.”
With Alexandre Lacazette on the bench, Aubameyang started in his preferred central role on Sunday and duly delivered the goods.
The former Borussia Dortmund star had a game-high five attempts, with three of them on target, and another one hitting the crossbar late on.
He also created two chances, behind only Leeds’ Raphinha (three), and Arteta was delighted that his decision to play Aubameyang through the middle proved fruitful.
“We have the options depending on the game and the options and the area we want to explore,” he added. “I thought it could be a good option today and it worked well.”