By Tony Attwood
There is an article about Aubameyang today in the Guardian in which he blames all his problems on Mr Arteta. Which is pretty much what you might expect both because of what we know about Aubameyang’s own problems, and the media’s desire to knock Arsenal.
And what is interesting is that the Guardian, supposedly a paper of balance and repute, makes no mention of the nightly shenanigans in Cameroun during the Africa Cup, that were widely reported in the European media. In fact in much of Europe these were headline news, but because Arsenal were not directly implicated, it seems Fleet Street didn’t fancy the tales.
The point made in other countries is generally that Aubameyang is a person who has a serious discipline problems. And yes there are occasional references to this in media in English – as for example when a short while before his transfer to Arsenal, Aubameyang was suspended and fined by Dortmund for missing a team meeting after training. As Sporting News suggested, “Some speculated that he did it to help force a transfer, which later materialized.”
“It was an important meeting,” the coach of Dortmund Peter Stoger, said at the time, adding, “If he does not want to be part of that, another player will be get his chance. He briefly said that he forgot it, but we all know that’s not the case.”
Indeed if we dig a little deeper we can see that this was not the first time Aubameyang fell foul of Dortmund’s regulations. He was also suspended in November 2016 for leaving the club and going off to Milan without approval from Thomas Tuchel who was coach at the time.
And then again in November 2018 Bild wrote up a report saying that he was late for training on multiple occasions – one of the transgressions reported in his time at Arsenal.
So why are these stories of Aubameyang’s past transgressions before he came to Arsenal, never mentioned in articles that have appeared since, and which set out the tale as if it is only an issue that Arsenal get worked up about?
The answer is nothing to do with a formal conspiracy of journalists to knock Arsenal, but the fact that sports media like to be part of the general public mood. The feeling is that most football fans want to read about Arsenal’s management being a disaster, and so stories are cooked to make it that way.
There is of course an issue here: should Arsenal have ever signed him in the first place, or was he too much of a risk? The fact is, he became a brilliant centre forward, and such players are rather in demand, not matter what their background.
Initially Milan had him as a youngster and loaned him out to Dijon, Lille and Monaco, where between them he knocked up 67 first team starts and scored 12 goals (an 18% ratio).
Then it was off to Saint Etienne where the numbers suddenly shot up to 37 goals in 87 games (a 43% ratio, over double that which was achieved before).
Then the big one: Borussia Dortmund. 98 goals in 144 games – a staggering 68% ratio – again another major rise in output. With Arsenal it slipped back from that amazing level: 128 games and 68 goals, giving a 53% ratio. But still very good.
But the problem for Aubameyang was that as the ratio started to slip, the behavioural problems began to increase – although we can’t set aside the fact that he was still very good, winning the golden boot in 2019.
With all geniuses, no matter what their area of excellence, there is a pay-off. They are amazing people, extraordinary people, people unlike others, which is how they can do what they do. But, with that often comes eccentricities. Not always, but much of the time and to some degree one has to put up with that.
True, some footballers are calm and quiet and never get into any type of trouble at all, but others do fall out with fans, other players, the manager, the opposition, referees etc etc etc. And you will also know (at least if you read the Arsenal History Society website) that sometimes allegations are made against players and managers at Arsenal which turn out to be totally untrue. Most certainly the wild allegations made against Henry Norris, who owned the majority of Arsenal between 1910 and 1927 and rescued the club from being wound up, have been shown to be without foundation.
So does football get more than the average share of dodgy characters? Probably yes, because some of these players are brought up in very difficult circumstances and then find themselves paid unbelievable sums of money without any idea how to use it. That’s not to excuse their subsequent behaviour, but it does explain it. But are all the people in football who are laid low by media exposure pieces actually guilty of the crimes suggested? Certainly not. And are the majority of them at Arsenal – no of course not.
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