Martin Keown reacts to Mikel Arteta’s decision to bench Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs Aston Vila

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started on the bench for Arsenal against Aston Villa
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started on the bench for Arsenal against Aston Villa (Picture: Getty)

Martin Keown insists Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can have no complaints after he was again left on the bench for the second successive Premier League game.

The 31-year-old, who signed a new long-term contract in the summer, ending months of speculation over his future, has endured a largely frustrating season and struggled to find his best form on a consistent basis.

After appearing to get back on track with two goals against Newcastle last month, Aubameyang was subsequently forced to miss three successive matches to look after his mother who had been taken ill.

In his absence, Nicolas Pepe has seized the opportunity to impress and has scored three times in successive Premier League away matches, finally beginning to go part of the way to justifying his club-record £72million transfer fee.

And former Arsenal defender Keown, however, was encouraged by Arteta’s decision to stick with the man in form.

Nicolas Pepe has scored in three successive Premier League away matches
Nicolas Pepe has scored in three successive Premier League away matches (Picture: Getty)

‘Not at all (it’s not Aubameyang’s season) he’s not firing,’ said Keown. ‘He was the quickest Arsenal player to 50 goals, you think of Wrighty and Henry in among that.

‘I think the new culture is from the manager if you’re playing well you stay in the side, Pepe’s starting to play now, starting to turn it on, starting to play as you’d expect a £70m player to play.

‘So I think it’s the right attitude but Aubameyang is there of course to bring on at any point if he needs to.’

Explaining his decision to hand Pepe his fourth successive start, meanwhile, Arteta said: ‘It was a really difficult decision as you can imagine but I just felt that the players that played against Wolves the way they played deserved another chance today and we stick with them.’

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