Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has called on his players to “step up” and fill the goalscoring void left by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s absence after a call for the Football Association to review his three-match ban failed.
The Gunners were hopeful to have Aubameyang available sooner than the Premier League trip to Burnley at the start of February after he was dismissed in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.
Aubameyang had opened the scoring at Selhurst Park but saw a yellow card for a dangerous challenge on Max Meyer upgraded to a red by the video assistant referee.
Arsenal pleaded for mitigation on the resulting three-match ban but the initial suspension stands – meaning the Gabon international will miss Saturday’s visit of Sheffield United, a London derby at Chelsea and then the FA Cup fourth-round clash at Bournemouth.
The sheer reliance on Aubameyang’s goals are borne out in the statistics, with the former Borussia Dortmund man hitting 14 of Arsenal’s 29 Premier League goals this season and all-but three of their goals away from the Emirates Stadium.
“Players have to step up,” Arteta replied when asked if the team will be worse without their suspended captain.
“You know, when one of your big players is not there, they have to take responsibility. I’m sure when they’re not playing, they want a chance and they talk.
“It’s time to talk on the pitch, not outside. You come on there, you make the impact that he made and you sure me that you are as good as him or even better. You have the chance.
“It’s a big shame and a big loss for us, because as well we know Auba’s intention when he plays. But unfortunately he mistimed the tackle, he made a decision and we have to accept it.
“Auba has been around, he was very sad after the game. He was disappointed that he left the team with 10 men. It’s an action that is completely accidental in my opinion.
“He’s been superb under me, he’s trained really well, he’s working so hard. He’s scoring goals and has probably been the most important player on the team. So to lose him, obviously, is really bad news for us.”
While Aubameyang’s influence will no doubt be a miss for Arsenal at the top-end of the field, Arteta has also been hit by an injury to defender Sead Kolasinac.
The left-back will miss the Sheffield United game due to a thigh injury, with Kieran Tierney already a long-term absentee with a dislocated shoulder.
It means Bukayo Saka, nominally a winger, is likely to be deployed there at the weekend, with Arteta’s options in the centre of his defence also limited.
The club have been linked with a move for Manchester City’s John Stones but, despite being a fan of a player he worked alongside at the Etihad Stadium for some time, Arteta insisted there is no bid for Stones.
Asked about a potential move for the England international, Arteta said: “No, no truth at all.
“John is a player that I really like and I followed. We signed him when I was at Manchester City and I worked with him for many years and know him well.
“When I look at centre backs he has many attributes that I like from one, but we’re not interested.”