Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is “excited” by the challenge of facing Arsenal on Sunday as the Chelsea striker aims to avenge his acrimonious departure from the Premier League leaders.
Aubameyang was exiled by Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta last season following a series of disciplinary issues before joining Barcelona in January.
The 33-year-old’s misdemeanours mainly surrounded his poor time-keeping. He was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and the remainder of his contract was ripped up.
But the Gabon forward returned to the Premier League in September when Chelsea swooped on deadline day, giving him the chance to go head-to-head with Arteta for the first time since his bitter exit.
Chelsea boss Graham Potter admitted Aubameyang is fired up by the prospect of taking on his former club.
“I think he’s looking forward to the game, excited for it,” Potter said.
“Arsenal is doing really well and the history makes it an interesting one for Auba.”
Aubameyang was one of Arsenal’s most popular players with fans during four years in north London, making his departure all the more shocking.
Signed by Potter’s predecessor Thomas Tuchel, Aubameyang has made a solid start to life with Chelsea, scoring three times in 11 appearances.
However, Potter is keen to ensure the 33-year-old’s revenge mission does not serve as a distraction when Arsenal visit Stamford Bridge this weekend.
“The past is the past as far as we’re concerned. I don’t think we should make it about him,” Potter said.
“He is an important part of the team for us but it takes everybody, not just one person.”
– No big egos allowed –
While Aubameyang felt aggrieved by the manner of his exit, Mohamed Elneny’s claim this week that players with big egos are not welcome in the Arsenal dressing room felt like a swipe at his old team-mate.
“We don’t allow big egos. This is the dressing room we have now. Everyone loves each other and everyone works for each other,” Gunners midfielder Elneny said.
“This is what actually makes our squad really strong because we don’t have egos in the team.”
Elneny claimed in Arsenal’s All or Nothing Amazon documentary about last season that Arteta’s decision to take the captaincy from Aubameyang showed “balls”.
And the Egyptian believes Arsenal have benefitted from Arteta ruling with an iron fist as they look to consolidate their unexpected title challenge at the expense of Aubameyang’s Chelsea.
“Now everyone looked at themselves because Mikel did that to the captain of the team. What is he going to do with another player?” Elneny said.
“This showed that now we can’t play around, now we have to be calm with the team and the way the team is going we have to stick with the team, not do something different.
“Everyone is scared of their position because this happened to Aubameyang. Of course, if anyone is not the captain of the team, and does a small mistake, they are going to have the same problem, and no one needs that problem.”