Kenny McLean says Arsenal "didn't have to be good" to thrash beleaguered Norwich City 5-0 on Boxing Day.

Bukayo Saka scored in each half, with Kieran Tierney, Alexandre Lacazette and substitute Emile Smith Rowe also finding the net at Carrow Road as Arsenal recorded their joint-biggest margin of victory away from home in a Premier League match.

McLean, however, feels that Norwich did not make Arsenal work for their win and warned the bottom-of-the-table Canaries must make life much more difficult for opponents.

"That's the worst result we have had recently for sure against a good Arsenal team who didn't have to be good," McLean said to the BBC.

"We gave them everything. We need to show some character. We're not here to complain about injuries and Covid-19.

"Everyone has got those issues. We need to be doing more."

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta heaped praise on his side after they eased to a fifth consecutive win.

"It's a very satisfying result because in this festive period we have to keep performances to a high level," Arteta said to the BBC.

"We looked really sharp and committed. It's a big win for us. I am really pleased. The amount of chances we create is pleasing.

"We go to every ground to try and impose our game. Today was a really good example. The unity we have around the club and with our fans is very pleasing."

The 39-year-old was evasive when asked about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's continued absence - with the forward not featuring since a substitute appearance against Everton on December 6 - and insisted that his side can beat Wolves on Tuesday despite the short gap between matches.

"[Aubameyang] wasn't selected for today's match," Arteta said. "We'll take it game by game. That was the decision.

"We will try and recover as well as we can and try and win the game [against Wolves]."

The Gunners have scored more goals in their last two Premier League away games (nine) than they managed in their first eight on the road this season (six), also netting four or more goals in consecutive away games in the competition for the first time since April 2009.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta insists he wants Tuesday's EFL Cup hat-trick hero Eddie Nketiah to stay with the club amid his contract stand-off.

Nketiah is believed to be frustrated by a lack of opportunities at Arsenal, with Tuesday's cup quarter-final appearance in Arsenal's 5-1 win over Sunderland marking only his sixth this season in all competitions.

The 22-year-old's current deal expires at the end of this season and he may leave on a free transfer after turning down a new contract offer earlier this month.

"I tell you every day that we want to keep Eddie," Arteta said at the post-game news conference. "We see how he trains, that’s what he does every day, he works so hard and puts the ball in the net every session.

"I am really delighted with him. Every time we have needed him he has always responded."

He added: "We are trying [to re-sign him]. It’s not about anything else but minutes. He wants gametime, he wants to be on that field and that is the only reason to say, 'Can I do it here?' That’s the question. We all want him to stay."

Arteta has only used Nketiah three times in the Premier League this season, off the bench on all three occasions.

"The way we planned the squad and the way his situation looked in the window, he had a lot of options to go and we thought that was probably the best way to go," Arteta added.

"But the way we assembled the squad the situation changed and he decided to stay and it was hard to found minutes for him. But he’s finding the space right now and is using his minutes really well."

The Gunners boss admitted Nketiah's treble on Tuesday would boost his case for more minutes in the league.

"Recently he’s played more minutes than in the past and we’re going to need him and he’s going to play more minutes," the Spaniard said.

Arteta also labelled Charlie Patino's debut goal as a "beautiful moment" and heaped praise on Nicolas Pepe after a bright display against the Black Cats, having only been used 11 times this season.

Pepe scored Arsenal's second goal and set up their last two, including producing some wizardry down the right flank to tee up Nketiah's classy backheel finish.

"It is hard for everyone who doesn’t play," Arteta said about Pepe. "What they have to do is when they have the minutes, show on the pitch that they can do it and they are ready when the team needs him."

After celebrating his second anniversary as Arsenal manager on Monday, Mikel Arteta can settle in for Christmas with his team in the top four of the Premier League.

A convincing 4-1 win at Leeds United on Saturday was the Gunners' third victory in a row the league, with young stars Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe all finding the net.

However, it wouldn't be Arsenal without a shadow looming over any potential optimism, and Arteta's ongoing problem of what to do with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rumbles on.

Having recently stripped the Gabon international of the club captaincy following "his latest disciplinary breach", the Arsenal boss must now decide whether he can bring Aubameyang back into the fold or must cut his losses and try to move the striker on in January.

But where did it all go wrong for the 32-year-old, broadly considered to be one of the best forwards around in recent years?

Stats Perform takes a look at the player, the numbers, and whether the north London club might actually be better off without their main marksman.

Heir apparent to Henry

It felt like a statement of intent.

After spending big money to bring Alexandre Lacazette to the club from Lyon ahead of the 2017-18 season, Arsenal decided to splash out even more to add Aubameyang at the end of the following January transfer window.

Having scored 138 goals in 209 games at Borussia Dortmund, plenty was expected of him upon arrival in the Premier League, particularly as his style of play, pace and goalscoring abilities gave more than a hint of a similarity to Gunners legend Thierry Henry.

Aubameyang even took Henry's iconic number 14 shirt, but unlike the Frenchman, he needed no settling in period as he bagged 10 goals in his first 13 league appearances for the club.

Only Mohamed Salah (13) scored more Premier League goals in that time, while of players who took at least 10 shots, only Romelu Lukaku (80.0 per cent) had a better shooting accuracy percentage than his 79.17.

Arsenal finished sixth in the league that season, 12 points off the top four and 37 points behind champions Manchester City. It would prove to be Arsene Wenger's last campaign, and if there was going to be real progress, new boss Unai Emery would need Aubameyang to have an exceptional first full season in England.

That's exactly what he got, with the former Saint-Etienne striker scoring 22 goals in 36 appearances, winning the Premier League Golden Boot jointly with Liverpool pair Salah and Sadio Mane.

What had made this all the more impressive was that Aubameyang had a better minutes per goal ratio than both, registering one on average every 124 minutes, with only City's Sergio Aguero (118 minutes per goal) performing better of those who scored at least 10 goals.

Arsenal did improve in 2018-19, finishing seven points better off and one place higher, but they were still a point shy of rivals Tottenham in that elusive top four spot.

Aubameyang was also potent in cup competitions, bagging nine more, including eight on the way to the Europa League final, but the Gunners were soundly beaten by Chelsea in Baku.

Despite the agony of missing out twice on Champions League qualification, there was little doubt by this point that Aubameyang was the talisman of the team and the player Emery would have to build around to have any hope of success.

Captain Auba

After Granit Xhaka was stripped of the captaincy following an angry confrontation with fans when coming off in the 2-2 home draw with Crystal Palace in October 2019, Aubameyang was appointed as his successor, following Henry's path once again as the star man expected to lead by example.

The player seemed to appreciate the significance, posting on Twitter: "Arsenal has a great history of wonderful captains like Patrick Vieira and Tony Adams. It is a privilege to follow in their footsteps and I will honour the armband by doing my very best on and off the pitch."

Less than a week later, the man who gave him the armband was sacked, with Emery eventually replaced by Arteta in the Spaniard's first shot at senior management.

The extra responsibility and change of boss did not seem to slow Aubameyang down, scoring 22 league goals again, with only Jamie Vardy (23) grabbing more. However, the team's form was very much going in the wrong direction.

Arsenal did lift the FA Cup, with their captain scoring both goals against Chelsea to exact revenge for the previous season's Europa League defeat, but faltered in the league, finishing eighth on just 56 points, 10 off the top four, behind Wolves in seventh and nearly twice as close to relegated Bournemouth as they were to champions Liverpool.

Could Arteta get the best out of both player and team?

The notion that Arsenal could only succeed if Aubameyang was firing on all cylinders was beginning to be tested. He appeared to be doing all he reasonably could, but the overall form of the team did not seem to improve.

With a former player now in charge in Arteta, who had learned his trade under the guidance of Pep Guardiola while at City, would he also want to build around their goalscorer or try to change the mentality of a team that seemed to lack ideas if giving the ball to Aubameyang didn't work?

Although he had scored plenty, Aubameyang's minutes per goal average had lengthened again, going from 106 minutes in his first half-season to 124 in his first full season and 143 in the next.

The 2020-21 campaign was strange for everyone, with most games played behind closed doors. Arsenal finished eighth again but with five more points than the previous year and only six behind the top four.

While it was not immediately clear to see if the Gunners had improved much, if at all, under Arteta, what was noticeable was that even if they had been treading water, they had done so without the same output from Aubameyang.

He managed only 10 goals in 29 games and his minutes per goal reached a sluggish 234, significantly slower than Lacazette, whose 13 goals came at an average of one every 148 minutes, and even Nicolas Pepe, who scored 10 at an average of one every 161 minutes.

As this season has progressed, Arteta has appeared to be trying to move away from reliance on his now former captain, who has managed just four goals in 14 league games and has not scored since the 3-1 home win against Aston Villa in October.

After another insipid performance in the 3-2 defeat at Manchester United at the start of December, Aubameyang was left on the bench for the 2-1 loss at Everton, only coming on late in the game, notably after fringe player Eddie Nketiah had already been introduced.

He was then missing from the squad entirely for the win against Southampton before Arteta confirmed that he had stripped the player of the captaincy as well following a disciplinary dispute.

"We have made this decision that unfortunately is a really tough one," Arteta confirmed.

"If I had to choose, I wouldn't like to be sitting here talking about it, but we had to do it.

"When we have to make that decision, it's because it's the right one to defend the interests of the football club."

So, what next?

It would be harsh to make too much of a link, but Aubameyang has been missing from the Gunners' past three squads and they have won all three games, scoring nine and conceding just once.

They are also the joint-fifth-highest scorers in the league (27), despite the lack of goals from their one-time main man.

Against an admittedly depleted Leeds side at the weekend, what was particularly notable was how Arsenal went at their hosts from all angles, hitting the target 11 times in the first half, with six different players taking these shots.

Lacazette played a hard-working and selfless role up front, while promising wide forwards Martinelli and Saka showed energy and ruthlessness.

Should Aubameyang leave in January, the assumption would be that it relates to his disciplinary issues, but tactically, could a move actually be beneficial to both parties as well?

The player looks like he needs a fresh start, possibly to a team who are not as reliant on him as Arsenal have been for most of his time there, while the manager seems to have deliberately reduced his team's dependence on just one man.

Speaking on Monday, Arteta said of his anniversary: "It's been an incredible journey, and I am really happy and proud with the company that I have had on the journey.

"Now it is a new phase where we start to rebuild the team, we take a very clear direction with how we want to move forward with the club, a real connection between the team and supporters, the ownership and board and I think now it is excitement.

"[There is] excitement to keep driving this project forward, to keep working with this really young squad, but ready to compete, to get better and take the club back to where it belongs."

It has been an interesting first two years at the helm for Arteta, and it feels like whatever decision is made on the future of Aubameyang could well define the direction things take from here.

Aubameyang has occasionally donned a Spider-Man mask when celebrating in the past, but as far as his future at Emirates Stadium goes, there might be no way home.

Mikel Arteta says he is "excited" to "take the club back to where it belongs" with a young Arsenal squad after two years in charge.

Arteta was appointed Arsenal head coach on December 20, 2019, and won the FA Cup and the Community Shield in his first year in the job.

However, the Gunners have not played in the Champions League since slipping out of the competition towards the end of Arsene Wenger's tenure. 

Arteta believes the rebuilding work has been done, with six players under the age of 24 arriving in the most recent transfer window and the club sitting fourth in the Premier League.

"Now it is a new phase where we start to rebuild the team, we take a very clear direction with how we want to move forward with the club, a real connection between the team and supporters, the ownership and board and I think now it is excitement," Arteta told Arsenal's official website.

"Excitement to keep driving this project forward, to keep working with this really young squad, but ready to compete, to get better and take the club back to where it belongs."

The excitement Arteta feels does not just extend to the young players that he brought in at the start of this season, but also those he inherited, including 20-year-old Gabriel Martinelli.

The Brazilian was used sparingly at the start of the season, but has featured regularly since coming off the bench to score in the 2-0 win over Newcastle United on November 27.

The forward has started each of the last five Premier League games, scoring four times and registering two assists, and Arteta feels he has developed well away from the limelight, learning to harness his natural energy and enthusiasm.

"You cannot play every action at 100mph, it is impossible," Arteta continued. "It is not very efficient for you because you burn yourself out after a few minutes, and then you are just chasing a situation and not reading exactly what is needed. 

"Gabi is doing much better at that. We have to try to [develop] that without losing the passion, the energy and this capacity he has to just affect the game with the way he acts on the pitch.

"He trains incredibly hard, he is always willing to do more and he is not scared or afraid to take risks, and that is what I like about him.

"I can imagine [playing against him] - you're not going to have any time on the ball, every time the ball is 50/50 he is going to chase it and he's going to use his body, his speed, his technical ability to get away from you. 

"You have to be careful, because he can attack you one-v-one, he can attack your back, he can make movements off the ball. He is a real threat in front of goal."

Mikel Arteta hailed Gabriel Martinelli's "huge" influence in Arsenal's thrashing of Leeds United, but knows there is more to come from the forward.

Martinelli put Arsenal in control with a first-half double at Elland Road, with goals from Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe - either side of Raphinha's penalty - securing a 4-1 win for the Gunners.

It ended a three-match losing streak on the road for Arsenal, who will head into Christmas four points clear of West Ham in fourth place in the Premier League.

Martinelli's opener took Arsenal onto 7,000 top-flight goals, with the Gunners becoming only the third team, after Everton and Liverpool, to hit the milestone.

The Brazilian's second brought up his first Premier League brace in his 39th such appearance, while with Saka and Smith Rowe also getting on the scoresheet, 14 of Arsenal's 27 top-flight goals this season have been scored by players aged 21 or under.

Indeed, Arsenal had three different players aged 21 or younger score for them in a single Premier League game for the very first time.

At 20 years and 183 days, Martinelli became the youngest player to score a league double for Arsenal since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Crystal Palace in 2014 (20y 171d), and Arteta was full of praise for the attacker's display, even if he believes there is much more to follow.

Asked by Sky Sports for his opinion on Martinelli's impact, Arteta said: "Huge. That's why you have to prepare a player.

"You can't throw in a player when he's not ready. He has so much still to improve. He's very humble. His big passion in life is football."

In an interview with BBC Sport, Arteta added: "That's what he can do. He's getting a level of maturity. He's so willing to learn. You can see that on the pitch."

Martinelli thrived in the continued absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has fallen out of favour with Arteta after a disciplinary matter.

"He wasn't involved in today's game. Let's see. There's a privacy matter at the moment that I have to respect," Arteta told Sky Sports, perhaps suggesting Aubameyang's absence was not just down to his previous indiscretion.

Arteta confirmed before the match that Arsenal had multiple coronavirus cases among their staff and some players, including midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga.

"Everyone is healthy. We always follow the guidelines," he added.

"Now it's play as you can and we'll play as we can. The Premier League will make the best decision for everybody [about continuing or not].

"We want to play all under the same rules. That's where I think they have to come forward. Whatever they decide is best for the competition, but it has to be explained."

While Arsenal were able to celebrate, Leeds sit 16th with 16 points from their 18 games.

It is the joint-fewest points they have ever earned from their first 18 matches of any league campaign, along with 2006-07 in the Championship, assuming three points for a win.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has confirmed there are several COVID-19 cases within the Gunners' camp, as he called on the Premier League to make a decision on whether games continue.

The clubs are set to convene in the coming days to determine whether matches should go ahead amid rising coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom.

Arsenal's trip to Leeds United was the only fixture to go ahead on Saturday, with the other postponed. There are three matches set to be played on Sunday.

Albert Sambi Lokonga missed out at Elland Road after returning a positive test result and Arteta, who contracted the virus in March 2020, revealed there have been a number of cases detected within the club and the training ground will be closed.

"There are a lot of games being suspended but we want to improve our form and place in the league," he told Sky Sports before kick-off.

"We cannot train after the match because we have to close [training ground] Colney. We have a few cases like any other team, the Premier League has to make a decision what is the best way to continue or not and we will carry on with whatever they say.

"They know much better than us. The government knows better. We are here to just to make simple decisions to prepare the team in the best possible way.

"We have quite a lot of staff members and a few players [positive] as well."

Mikel Arteta has confirmed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is "not available for selection" against Leeds United, having been left out of the squad for the club's last two Premier League games.

Aubameyang reportedly returned late from a trip to France and was not involved as the Gunners beat Southampton 3-0 at home on December 11. 

The Gabon striker was subsequently stripped of the captaincy and was omitted again on Wednesday as Arsenal clinched an important 2-0 London derby victory over West Ham to leapfrog the Hammers into fourth.

The Gunners' success in the absence of Aubameyang suggests the team is moving on from their reliance on the 32-year-old, who has managed just four league goals in 14 appearances so far this season.

Arteta's men travel to Elland Road on Saturday but will do so without their former skipper as the Gunners boss refused to expand on the star forward's future.

"No, [Aubameyang] is not available for selection," Arteta said at a news conference ahead of the match against Leeds.

No permanent replacement captain has yet been selected by Arteta, with the Arsenal manager seemingly content to allow leadership duties to be shared in the short-term.

He did single out 23-year-old Martin Odegaard - who wears the armband for Norway - for praise, hailing the attacking midfielder's professionalism.

"He's very young but he already has a lot of experience in different clubs and at international level," Arteta continued. 

"He's getting very close to his best level and the ceiling for him, I don't know where it is because of the talent he has and desire he has. We've got a tremendous player there.

"He's a natural leader. If you look for the perfect professional he would not be very far from there."

Mikel Arteta hailed the influence of captain Alexandre Lacazette as he expressed his delight with his senior players after Arsenal's 2-0 win over West Ham.

Lacazette, who saw a second-half penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski, wore the captain's armband on Wednesday after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stripped of his captaincy the previous day following a "disciplinary breach".

Arteta's side dominated throughout and Gabriel Martinelli broke the deadlock after the interval with his seventh Premier League strike, Gabriel Jesus (16) the only Brazilian to score more times in the competition before his 21st birthday.

Substitute Emile Smith Rowe sealed the victory late on with Arsenal's 10th English top-flight goal scored by a player aged 21 or under in the 2021-22 campaign, which is more than any other side this season.

While the Gunners' young guns downed West Ham to move into the Champions League spots, Arteta praised his senior leadership group following Arsenal's 11th win in 12 league games against the Hammers.

"I think they were good all of them and the senior players led by example," Arteta told reporters. "We shared the goals. It's important for Gabi [Martinelli] to score a goal like today. Everybody, I'm really pleased.

"The players play for the club and the pride that we expect from them. I was really happy from the beginning, because we knew that we had to play really good today to beat West Ham."

Asked on the performance of Lacazette, Arteta added: "Well he's the next in line and he's taken [the captaincy], the way everybody played today with such pride and commitment. I'm really proud of it.

"Laca has always been like that in the dressing room. You see the way he acts with the young players, how willing he is to help. It's in his nature. He's not a selfish player. He's happy when he makes the rest better, and he's like that in the dressing room as well."

David Moyes has never won at Arsenal in 18 Premier League attempts, extending the record for the longest such managerial run in the competition without an away win against a single side.

Alongside Moyes' personal poor record, West Ham were also displaced in the top four by Arsenal, but Arteta insisted his side boasting a Champions League spot is irrelevant at this point of the campaign.

"No, because the league finishes in May," Arteta added when asked whether he was satisfied with Arsenal's top-four spot. "But it's much better than where we were, and we want to be higher.

"We need to find that consistency - we know the level of this league. This league is absolutely ruthless and tomorrow is always different to today, so let's prepare for the next game.

"When we went to Old Trafford, I think we played much better than last year but we lost the game - and that's where we have to come away from those grounds when we get the performance with the points. That's the next challenge."

Lacazette can be expected to lead the line, and perhaps team, once again at Leeds United on Saturday after Arteta said he had no news on the Aubameyang situation.

Mikel Arteta provided few assurances Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has a future at Arsenal after he was stripped of the club's captaincy.

Arteta left Aubameyang out of the squad for the 3-0 weekend defeat of Southampton, confirming afterwards that the Gabon international was dropped for disciplinary reasons.

Aubameyang was reported to have returned to the club late after being granted a trip abroad, though Arteta did not elaborate on what the striker was being punished for.

The club confirmed on Tuesday that Aubameyang has had the armband taken from him and he will not be in the squad to face West Ham on Wednesday, despite Arteta appearing to indicate at the weekend that he could be involved against the Hammers.

A few hours after Arsenal's announcement, Arteta addressed the media ahead of Wednesday's match and he gave no indication that the club and Aubameyang retain a healthy working relationship.

Arteta was asked several times if Aubameyang had a future at the club or if he had played his last Arsenal game, but his responses were devoid of optimism.

"We need a bit of time," he said. "It needs a bit of time to heal. For now he's not involved in the squad."

Pressed on whether Aubameyang, who is contracted until 2023, could be sold in January, he added: "All I can say right now is we have made this decision, which is a tough one.

"I wouldn't like to be sitting here talking about [this]. For now, he's not involved. What I can say as for now, it's been a lot to digest. It's a difficult decision to make, it will take a bit of time.

"What I can tell you now, we made this because we are hurting. It needs a time to heal and he's not involved.

"Since I've been here, the relationship has been really good. That's why it's painful."

Arteta has not appointed a new captain yet and does not look likely to do so for a while, suggesting the existing leadership group will take it in turns to have the armband.

"We have the leadership group and we think that we have different players that are nominated to be captain. In the last game it was Laca [Alexandre Lacazette] and we have Granit [Xhaka] as well, who has been captain so we will follow that.

"Obviously, it is a really unpleasant situation and it is not the moment to make any rash decision.

"That leadership group is really strong, it is the one that communicates with myself and the coaching staff and then with the club in a really clear and strong way.

"We are going to continue like that and that is one of the decisions that we made, to make that group a little bit better and try to educate them and try and get the right feedback all the time and build that trust and the strong culture around the club. It is working really well so we will continue to do that.

"It is really important, but for me having the leadership group is something that has been tremendously helpful because then you get different voices. It is a really multicultural dressing room that needs a lot of attention and different feelings and different languages.

"They all have to be involved and I am really comfortable with that."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and will not be considered for selection to face West Ham following last week's disciplinary breach, the club has confirmed.

Mikel Arteta left Aubameyang out of the squad for the 3-0 weekend defeat of Southampton, confirming afterwards that the Gabon international was dropped for disciplinary reasons.

Aubameyang was reported to have returned to the club late after being granted a trip abroad, though Arteta did not elaborate on what the striker was being punished for.

Arteta did appear to suggest Aubameyang would be back in contention to face the Hammers on Wednesday, but Arsenal have since communicated he is to be left at home.

A club statement read: "Following his latest disciplinary breach last week, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will no longer be our club captain, and will not be considered for selection for Wednesday's match against West Ham United.

"We expect all our players, particularly our captain, to work to the rules and standards we have all set and agreed.

"We are fully focused on tomorrow's match."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and will not be considered for selection to face West Ham following last week's disciplinary breach, the club has confirmed.

Mikel Arteta preferred to focus on Arsenal's comfortable 3-0 victory over Southampton despite repeated questions over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's absence.

Arteta left out Aubameyang on Saturday due to a "disciplinary breach", but Alexandre Lacazette stepped up and delivered the opening goal in the first half.

Martin Odegaard soon added a second at Emirates Stadium – where Southampton have never won in 23 Premier League games, the longest barren run for one team away to another in the competition's history – with Gabriel netting after the interval.

Arsenal are unbeaten in 27 home league games against Southampton dating back to November 1987, their joint-longest such run against any opponent, and Arteta was keen to discuss the performance rather than Aubameyang.

"The first 15 minutes we started nervy; after that I think we picked up the rhythm of the game, scored a really good goal and started to dominate the game," Arteta told reporters after the game.

Pressed for an update on Aubameyang's situation, Arteta responded: "Let's talk about the game, guys. I'm not going to say anything else, I want to focus on the performance.

"I am really happy that we won. I'm telling you you're not going to get anything else from me.

"I cannot say anything else. You're not going to get anything else from me out of the dressing room."

Arteta then hinted at a return for Aubameyang in the next game against West Ham as he nodded in response to whether the forward's absence was just for one match.

Meanwhile, the manager was impressed with Odegaard, who has scored three goals in as many games, having only scored twice in his previous 25 Premier League appearances.

"He should have scored a hat-trick against Everton," Arteta added. "He's getting in the box more and is understanding what he has to do for the team."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has confirmed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was left out of his squad for the game with Southampton because of a disciplinary breach.

The 32-year-old was named on the bench for the Gunners' 2-1 defeat at Everton last week but was left out of the squad altogether when the team was announced on Saturday for the home clash with Saints.

Speaking before the game, Arteta confirmed the decision was taken was for disciplinary reasons. 

"Unfortunately, due to a disciplinary breach," he said when asked about the player's absence. "There are non-negotiables we have set as a club and I think we have been very consistent."

The Arsenal boss was asked how long Aubameyang could be out for, replying: "It starts today.

"Certainly it's not an easy situation and not a situation we want."

The Gabon international, who signed a new three-year contract at Emirates Stadium in September last year, has scored just four times and assisted once in 14 appearances in the Premier League this season, averaging a goal every 259.8 minutes.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has not discussed the idea of selling captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the January transfer window, but has acknowledged that the striker is going through "difficulty".

Aubameyang was named on the bench for the Gunners' 2-1 defeat at Everton on Monday, and only came on late in the game, missing a good chance to equalise in the closing seconds at Goodison Park.

The 32-year-old, who signed a new three-year contract at the Emirates Stadium in September last year, has scored just four times and assisted once in 14 appearances in the Premier League this season, averaging a goal every 259.75 minutes.

Aubameyang's goal return rate has been decreasing at Arsenal for the last few years, averaging a goal every 105.8 minutes in his first half season in 2017-18, followed by a goal every 124.14 minutes in his first full season, then one every 142.64 minutes in 2019-20, and every 233.6 minutes last season.

However, his manager has vowed to support the former Borussia Dortmund man, saying at a media conference on Friday ahead of the weekend's clash with Southampton: "Obviously, when a player is not scoring it's affecting his confidence, it's affecting the mood and probably the belief, but you have to rebel against this situation, don't accept it and feel sorry for yourself."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta conceded the Gunners were not good enough as they suffered stoppage-time heartbreak against Everton in the Premier League.

Arteta's Arsenal suffered their third defeat in four Premier League matches after Demarai Gray's stunning individual effort saw the hosts snatch a dramatic 92nd-minute victory.

Martin Odegaard had given the visitors a half-time lead with his neat volley from Kieran Tierney's cross at Goodison Park.

Arsenal were made to rue their failure to convert their winning position, as Richarlison equalised before Gray completed the turnaround in the second minute of stoppage time.

Arteta felt his players were punished for their lack of game management after succumbing to three consecutive league defeats to Everton for the first time since 1986.

"In the first half, we were very inconsistent with the ball," Arteta told Sky Sports. "I didn't like it. [We had] no penetration; one of the few times we did it, we scored. 

"Second half, we tried to do more of those things, created four big chances, but conceded a very sloppy goal when you need to manage the game.

"I think the team tried to keep going, we kept pressing high. We lost a few important duels that put us some pressure."

"What I want is more from my team. Today, you have the game under control even though you're not playing your best, and you have to find a way to win it.

"It could have been very different, but we haven't managed to do it. When the opponent is there for the taking, you have to do it, and we haven't. It wasn't good enough."

Odegaard concurred with Arteta that seventh-placed Arsenal must significantly improve their performance levels.

Former Real Madrid midfielder Odegaard was one of Arsenal's better performers on Merseyside; registering game-high tallies of four key passes and three shots on goal.

Odegaard's goal was the ninth consecutively scored by Arsenal in the Premier League by a player aged 23 or younger, their longest such run in Premier League history.

He also became the youngest Norwegian (22 years, 354 days) to score in back-to-back Premier League appearances since John Arne Riise in August 2002 for Liverpool (21 years, 328 days).

"It's a hard one to take. I think in general, we were not at the level we needed to be at today," he said. "We had some good moments, but we have to do much better. We should have been better.

"It's hard to say exactly what happened. We have to do better when we have that lead. We stopped playing and gave them the game they wanted to play.

"I think it is [a mindset problem]. When you're leading 1-0, you get afraid to lose the win and, in my opinion, that's what we did wrong today. 

"You go for the second goal and that was the intention, but we didn't manage to do that on the pitch."

Arsenal have lost consecutive Premier League matches when scoring the first goal in each match, the first time they have done that since December 2016, with one of those defeats also a 2-1 loss against Everton at Goodison Park – the other was a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City.

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