Arsenal icon Thierry Henry has suggested that Mikel Arteta was wrong to withdraw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the action during Thursday’s defeat at the hands of Manchester United. The Gunners blew an early lead to come away from Old Trafford with nothing to show for their efforts, with the hosts firing back to earn a hard-fought victory over their old rivals.
Emile Smith Rowe drew first blood for Arsenal in bizarre fashion when he lashed home from outside the area past an injured David de Gea.
The United goalkeeper was caught by the studs of Fred and went to ground in pain, allowing Smith Rowe to stroke the ball home with ease.
Arsenal were pegged back shortly before half-time when Bruno Fernandes drew level before Cristiano Ronaldo turned the match on its head with United’s second goal after the interval.
Martin Odegaard fired the visitors back on level terms just moments later, but Ronaldo went on to seal all three points for United from the penalty spot with 20 minutes remaining.
The Gunners huffed and puffed in search of a late leveller but were unable to avoid falling to their second Premier League defeat in three matches.
The result saw United climb to seventh place in the table, with the Red Devils now just two points and two places behind Arsenal in fifth.
Arteta made the decision to introduce Alexandre Lacazette in place of Aubameyang as the clock ticked down, leaving the Gunners without their top scorer in all competitions during the closing stages of the match.
The Arsenal manager’s late roll of the dice was questioned by Henry after the final whistle, with the 44-year-old suggesting that it was the wrong call to withdraw the player who stood the greatest chance of producing a last-gasp equaliser.
“Aubameyang is your captain, he is your goal scorer,” Henry told Amazon Prime.
“You put him as your captain. 15 minutes to go, you’re losing 3-2 and you take him off. 3-2 away from home, you need a goal and you take your captain, your symbol, off the field.
“You know he can score you goals so something is not right there.”
Aubameyang has not found the back of the net in the Premier League since October, when he converted a rebound from his own saved penalty against Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium.
He has experienced an unwelcome dip in form as of late, missing a spot-kick against Watford last month before fluffing a simple opportunity to score against Newcastle United.
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However, Arteta declared earlier this week that Aubameyang remains more than capable of leading the line for Arsenal, insisting that his goals will return if he continues to do the right things on a regular basis.
“To put the ball in the net or not can be a difference of millimetres or by a second,” Arteta told reporters ahead of Thursday’s defeat at Old Trafford.
“Auba has that capacity and hasn’t lost that capacity. What he cannot lose is the rest of his game.
“He cannot think: ‘I’m going to do a little bit less of that now to score more goals.’ It doesn’t work like that, it works the opposite way round because he had four opportunities to put the ball in the net.”