Mikel Arteta makes U-turn with fresh hint on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

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Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has missed the last four Gunners game after being stripped of the captaincy following a breach of the club’s disciplinary rules

For the first time since his exile began, Mikel Arteta has opened the door for Pierre-Emerick Aubaemyang to return to the Arsenal squad.

The former Gunners captain has missed the last four matches after he was stripped of the captaincy for a disciplinary breach.

Arteta subsequently deemed him unavailable for selection, admitting that the striker was “hurt” over the decision.

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In his absence Arsenal have won four games in 10, scoring 14 times in the process.

Without Aubameyang in the lineup, youngsters Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah have come to the fore, each scoring three times.

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Alexandre Lacaztte, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka have also stepped up, with Arteta’s young squad showing they have definite strength in depth.

Arsenal’s success without the club’s highest earner has led to speculation that Aubameyang could be sold in the January window.

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The 32-year-old is set to miss much of next month as he flies out to Cameroon to represent Gabon at the African Cup of Nations.

But before that, he could yet make a dramatic return in the Boxing Day fixture vs Norwich City at Carrow Road.

Arteta has so far been clear regarding Aubameyang’s status for matches, but ahead of the clash with the Canaries, he has refused to rule out his involvement.

“We will go game by game and we will decide the squad as we get closer to the game,” the Spaniard said on Wednesday.

Pressed on why there appeared to be less clarity with his update, he added: “That’s because we usually talk the day before a match, that’s when we decide the squad.

“We have shown in this club, everybody can make mistakes and have different ways of thinking and acting…I’m completely open to that, it’s not about that [making an apology].”

Should Aubemyang’s stint away from the matchday squad continue, Nketiah could be in line for another opportunity having scored a hat-trick against Sunderland in midweek.

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“With the way he’s training and performing he deserves more minutes,” Arteta said of the youngster. “That’s the way I would like to respond to that situation regardless of what happens with any other player.”

Like Aubameyang, Nketiah’s future remains muddled with the academy graduate set to become a free agent in the summer having rejected the club’s latest offer of a new contract.

Asked about their attempts to extend his stay, Arteta added: “We are trying really hard to do the best that we can.

“The contract has an expiry date and you can’t control that and we’ve had discussions with Eddie for a long time.

“I repeat again that his genuine intention is that he wants to play football and that’s what’s driving whatever decision he’s going to take for his future and you have to respect that.”

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