Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stripped of his role as Arsenal captain and dropped over West Ham shock in disciplinary decision

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been dismissed as Arsenal captain and will not be available for Wednesday’s game against West Ham, the club have announced.

Aubameyang had been pulled from the squad for Arsenal’s Premier League victory over Southampton on Saturday after belatedly reporting a club-sanctioned trip to France. It was the third time in 2021 that the striker’s timing had been called into question at Emirates Stadium; last season he missed the North London derby after getting caught in traffic while on another occasion he returned late from a period of compassionate leave.

It has also been suggested that Aubameyang may not have followed COVID-19 protocols upon his return to the UK. Arriving in training last Thursday, he was sent off from London Colney on Friday and has not shown up at the club’s training ground since.

A brief statement from the club said: “We expect all of our players, especially our captain, to work according to the rules and standards that we have all set and agreed upon. We are fully focused on tomorrow’s game. “

Sources close to Arsenal said there had been no other incidents since Aubameyang was dropped on Saturday. The decision to remove him from his post as captain is seen internally as the culmination of these numerous disciplinary offenses. Mikel Arteta is due to hold a press conference to give an overview of tomorrow’s game against West Ham, but the agenda will certainly be dominated by the captain.

Arsenal have not named a replacement skipper, but vice-captain Alexandre Lacazette, a close ally of the Aubameyang locker room, is expected to step up armband wearing and lead the line at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday. Kieran Tierney has also expressed interest in the armband and the Scotland international is a well-admired figure in the dressing room who is a key cog in Arteta’s future plans. Lacazette, meanwhile, no longer has a contract at the end of the season with Arsenal and has yet to engage him in extension talks.

This is the second time in just over two years that Arsenal have been forced to change captains mid-season. Just before Arteta’s appointment, Granit Xhaka was stripped of the captain’s post, which was then handed over to Aubameyang, after the Swiss midfielder cursed fans as he was substituted in a draw against Crystal Palace in October 2019. Xhaka has since served as club captain, however, and could become Lacazette’s vice-captain.

Arsenal have had a curious relationship with the captain’s armband in recent years. During the second half of Arsene Wenger’s long tenure, he was used as a sort of aid in convincing runaway players such as Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas to stay at the club. And on one occasion in April 2017, the Gunners manager forgot to name a captain for the second half of a draw with Manchester City after Laurent Koscielny was substituted through injury.

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