Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang says he wants to "give something back" after a turbulent and regret-strewn season by firing Arsenal to the Europa League final when they face Villarreal on Thursday night at the Emirates Stadium.
While Arsenal have struggled on the pitch during 2020-21, it has been a fraught campaign for Aubameyang in multiple areas. He was dropped by Mikel Arteta after arriving late to the derby against Tottenham in March and recently spent three weeks on the sidelines after being admitted to hospital with malaria. In January he missed three games following an illness to his mother, and his goal return when available has dipped below his high standards even though the strike at Newcastle on Sunday was his 14th in 34 appearances.
“I was out for a few weeks and had time to think about all of this season,” he said of the malaria-enforced absence which led to him losing four kilograms. “Of course I want to give more because I know I am capable of doing that. I have to give something back to the club and to the fans. They are waiting for something from me and it’s the right moment to show I am capable of doing it.
“This season has been really, really difficult. Everyone was expecting me to score more goals. I know it. Maybe I feel a bit responsible that we are in this situation right now. But we have this opportunity to change it and hopefully go to the final and win it.”
Asked whether he regretted the timekeeping issue around the Spurs match, Aubameyang said: “Of course I regret that. It was a bad moment but my feeling after the game was just that we had won the derby and this is it. This is part of this season and now it’s gone, but of course I regret some things this season. But I can’t do anything about the past: I am just looking forward to ending the season well.”
Should Arsenal fail to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg, their season will effectively be ended. But Aubameyang has delivered on this stage before, scoring a second-leg hat-trick in the last four against Valencia two years ago, and believes he can replicate arguably his best performance in the club's colours so far.
“I think I was really motivated in these types of game, because a few times I received some criticism about not being involved in big games so I wanted to show people it is not true,” he said. “This is why I am really, really excited to play this game. It’s a big game and a big moment for all of us, so hopefully I will deliver again.”
Aubameyang looks certain to start a match he described as "maybe the biggest of my Arsenal career" despite admitting he feels "90 per cent" physically. Arteta must wait, though, on the availability of Kieran Tierney, Alexandre Lacazette and David Luiz. – Guardian