NO-ONE could say that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did not know what was coming because Mikel Arteta had laid down the law on his first day as Arsenal manager.
Captain Aubameyang, 31, was shocked and angry when he was told that he was not playing in Sunday’s North London derby after arriving late at the Emirates.
But it was not the first time the striker’s poor timekeeping had been an issue.
And Arteta was not going to let it pass despite the massive consequences it could have had if Arsenal had lost to Tottenham.
On the very day he was appointed as Unai Emery’s successor, manager Arteta, 38, spelled out exactly what he expected from his players.
He warned: “I want to get everyone at the club to accept a different way of thinking because if you don’t have the right culture in difficult moments the tree is going to shake.
“My job is to convince everyone that this is how we are going to live from now on. And if you are going to be a part of this, it has to be on these terms and in this way.”
And to be fair to Arteta, he has been as good as his word ever since.
Mesut Ozil was bombed out not because of his support for the Uighur Muslims or for refusing to take a pay-cut with the rest of the squad.
He went because his attitude and commitment around the training ground was not good enough.
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And when Matteo Guendouzi refused to back down after being called out for grabbing Brighton’s Neal Maupay by the throat last season, he was also shown the door.
Arteta remembered from his time as an Arsenal player how Arsene Wenger had allowed certain stars to pretty much do what they wanted.
And he had noted how much resentment that caused among the younger players who believed that there was one rule for them and another for the big-name signings.
He was determined that would not be the case under his watch and has refused to make any exceptions when it comes to players breaking his strict code of conduct.
Arteta could easily have kept Aubameyang’s lack of discipline under wraps.
The fuming Gabon striker did not even take part in the post-match warm-down with the other unused subs and left the Emirates soon after Arsenal’s 2-1 victory.
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He will not be stripped of the captaincy as Arteta considers the incident dealt with although he wanted it out there Auba had crossed the line just weeks after he had been “reminded of his responsibilities” for getting a new tattoo during lockdown.
It is rumoured the striker had already been fined when he was unable to travel for one of Arsenal’s Europa League games because he turned up late for a Covid test.
Brazilian Willian, 32, was also subjected to disciplinary action from the club after taking an unauthorised trip to Dubai during last November’s international break.
But when Willian was selected for the team’s next game at Leeds, one disgruntled player declared during a team meeting that not everyone was being treated the same way.
That is a charge which Arteta utterly refutes and he repeatedly talks about the “non-negotiables” which apply to every player.
The fact Arteta is the youngest manager in the Premier League has made him even more aware of the need to distance himself from the players.
His no-nonsense stance has been largely approved in the Gunners dressing-room and boardroom and by the majority of supporters.
And if his refusal to compromise proves to be even half as successful as it was at Manchester City then no-one will be complaining.
As he explained at his Emirates unveiling: “What I most learned from Pep Guardiola is you have to be completely ruthless and work every day to create a winning mentality.”
Aubameyang will do well to remember that the next time he is running late.
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