Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ‘didn’t turn up’ in ‘strange performance’ in Europa League as Arsenal legend Martin Keown questions wasteful striker

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Arsenal legend Martin Keown was left baffled by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s ‘mysterious’ and ‘strange’ performance in the Gunners’ Europa League draw with Benfica.

The captain was the focus of attention on Thursday night after a number of shocking misses, as Mikel Arteta’s side could only draw 1-1 in the first leg of their last-32 tie in Rome.

Bukayo Saka bailed out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Arsenal’s equaliser after the captain’s stunning misses

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Bukayo Saka bailed out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Arsenal’s equaliser after the captain’s stunning misses

Aubameyang was hailed by fans and pundits last weekend, with many claiming he was back to his best after watching him score a hat-trick in Arsenal’s Premier League victory over Leeds United.

But he looked a completely different player against Benfica as his ruthlessness against Leeds was replaced with a wastefulness in front of goal, with Keown saying he was guilty of messing up a few ‘bread and butter’ finishes.

The striker missed a sitter in the opening 20 minutes, when Hector Bellerin put it on a place for the skipper to score only for the striker to slot wide from mere yards out.

Had he put away his chances, Arsenal would have taken a huge advantage to their ‘home’ second leg in Athens.

“It was a really strange performance from Aubameyang,” a disappointed Keown told Jim White on talkSPORT.

Aubameyang usually gobbles up these kinds of chances, but fluffed his lines against Benfica… more than once

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Aubameyang usually gobbles up these kinds of chances, but fluffed his lines against Benfica… more than once

“He scored a hat-trick at the weekend and it looked as if he’d reignited his career, he was hungry again, he was at boiling point. You’d have thought that would be him now, he’s flying and he’s turned a corner.

“But last night, mysteriously, he didn’t reach the heights.

“He had a glaring opportunity that he missed, two or three opportunities where perhaps he made the wrong decisions, but it didn’t look like he was really fired up.

“Arsenal played the same team, the first time they’ve picked the same XI for successive games since 2018, and there were some good signs, but Aubameyang was the one player… he’s got to turn up in games.”

Ray Parlour believes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would’ve got into Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and says striker has been a ‘revelation’ since joining in 2018

It’s a been a strange season so far for Aubameyang, who has struggled for form since signing his new bumper contract at Arsenal.

The striker had managed just eight goals in 22 appearances before his hat-trick against Leeds, and after his latest blank Keown wonders if he is struggling mentally.

The Gunners legend added: “I’m not sure whether this is mental and if it’s a psychological issue, but he didn’t seem himself last night. So whether that’s the lack of crowd or the motivation…

“His misses, it was like it wasn’t real. The first one, it was a bread and butter finish!

Ultimately, Aubameyang’s blushes were spared, but his misses mean Arsenal still have plenty to do to reach the Europa League last-16

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Ultimately, Aubameyang’s blushes were spared, but his misses mean Arsenal still have plenty to do to reach the Europa League last-16

“You’d expect the top players to put that behind them, but after that there were another couple of opportunities, one where he flashed past the post when he should have hit the target, and another when he was through on goal but decided to come back and it gave the defender an opportunity.

“These are all decision making, that’s usually what sets him apart, but not last night.

“If he had been himself, Arsenal would easily, comfortably, have won that game.”