Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has praised captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for his impactful return during Sunday’s win at Newcastle.
Aubameyang has been away from the action throughout April having contracted malaria while away on international duty with Gabon, but has recovered and returned to the starting XI against Newcastle on Sunday with a goal.
Speaking post-match about the forward (quoted by the Independent), Arteta admitted the captain’s recovery came as a surprise: “We thought he wasn’t going to manage that.”
Discussing a small substitute appearance against Villarreal in the Europa League semi final first leg, he added: “On Thursday, the day before, he was really struggling, to be fair, he could only manage to play 10 or 15 minutes.
“But the day after and the day after, he started to feel better and it’s good to see that he was fine today.”
Arteta described Aubameyang’s return to action as a ‘real boost’ in the knowledge that the 31-year-old can now play a greater role in Arsenal‘s semi final second leg on Thursday, having proved his fitness against Newcastle.
Aubameyang is the club’s second-top scorer so far this season with 15 goals in all competitions, behind only Alexandre Lacazette’s 17. But while his return is a boost for their second leg against Villarreal, the performance was marred as David Luiz limped off with a hamstring issue.
Arteta admitted ‘it’s not good news’ as injury to the Brazilian would add to a growing treatment table that already includes Lacazette and Kieran Tierney. Luiz only returned to action himself not long ago following minor knee surgery and brought back a level of calm in the backline, but is now at risk of potentially missing what remains of the season.
The Gunners must overturn a 2-1 loss from the first leg should they wish to advance to the Europa League final when Villarreal visit the Emirates on Thursday.