Arsenal captain opens up to Sky Sports on staying at the Emirates, his first impressions of Mikel Arteta, and the Gunners’ ambitions for the new season.
Titles, Champions League football and ‘legend’ status. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is setting his targets high at Arsenal after signing a new three-year deal with the club.
Fresh from his contract renewal and ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Liverpool on Monday Night Football, Aubameyang has told Sky Sports:
- Arsenal should be aiming to be among the title challengers this season.
- That they can travel to Anfield, the home of champions Liverpool, “without fear” on Monday evening.
- He still believes he can attain legendary status at Arsenal – even if that requires a title win during his time at the club.
- How Mikel Arteta’s transformation at Arsenal began with the new Gunners chief ordering his team and staff to tidy up a messy room.
Aubameyang has, of course, been at the heart of Arsenal’s revival under the stewardship of Arteta.
Of the five goals Arsenal scored in their recent Wembley defeats of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool to win the FA Cup and Community Shield, Aubameyang scored all of them.
But the 31-year-old has credited Arteta as the inspiration of the turnaround – and the instant, if unconventional, impact he made on the Gunners’ faltering squad.
“When he came, the first day, we were in a room where I remember there were some chairs on the floor, everywhere in the room. So he brings the players, the staff and all the people working here and he said ‘this is the club right now, so you’re going to work altogether and first of all, clean this room, and then we’re going to talk.’
“After this you think ‘OK, I think he’s right, and we’re going to follow this way’ and this is how he made it and we have a lot of respect for him because he was a player as well. When you have a coach who knows what they’re doing, you just have to follow.”
The striker has also stressed that, but for Arteta’s arrival and impact, it was likely he would have left the club this summer.
“Two things persuaded me to stay,” he said. “The first thing was Mikel Arteta, because since he came in he brings a lot of positivity and a new philosophy for us.
“I think that was important because it matched my game and I feel that I can improve with him. I think this was the key factor and as well, the love that I receive from the fans and the whole club.”
Arsenal’s ambitions for new season revealed
Arsenal’s unexpected FA Cup triumph has whetted Aubameyang’s appetite for further success this season. But what exactly would constitute a successful season for an Arsenal team which endured their lowest top-flight finish in 25 years in 2019/20?
“When you win trophies, you want to win more trophies and this is what it’s about. We want to compete, first of all for the league, I think this is the biggest point. We want to be back in the Champions League, we have to stay humble for sure. We cannot pretend to choose to play for the first place but we want to be part of the teams to compete for the first place and as I say, to stay humble and work hard and in the end try our best to win more trophies.”
Arsenal have failed to qualify for the Champions League since 2017 and a top-four finish is naturally uppermost in the club’s immediate ambitions.
“I think everyone has one goal – to go forward and bring back the club to where it belongs. It’s now a few years since we’ve played in the Champions League, for example, and for me and all the club, it hurts – not just a little bit but a lot.”
Can Aubameyang become a legend at Arsenal?
Aubameyang’s decision to stay at Arsenal despite an offer from Barcelona is in stark contrast to recent summer narratives at the Emirates and the departures of the likes of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas.
So what does Aubameyang feel it would take to attain legendary status to stand alongside recent greats such as Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp?
The scale of his ambition is clear.
“Hopefully win a league. I think this is very easy to answer but for sure, yeah, I need to win the league but I still have work to do and I feel far from those legends, but at the same time I know that I can reach it.”
Arsenal travel to Liverpool ‘without fear’
Arsenal have started the new campaign in encouraging fashion. Following their Community Shield victory over Liverpool, albeit one that was secured on penalties, an opening-day win at Fulham, complete with an Aubameyang special into the top corner, was followed by a somewhat fortuitous defeat of West Ham. Now for the hardest assignment in the Premier League: a trip to the home of the champions.
But as far as Aubameyang is concerned, the challenge that awaits will reveal exactly how far Arsenal have come under Arteta.
“It’s still early in the season but it’s a big game and we’re going to see how we compete against this big team.
“It’s a big test but we’re going to see if we’re ready to compete for the Premier League.
“I think, of course, we start the game with confidence but also we know, we’re going there and it’s not going to be easy but I think now we can go without fear and go to win the game.”