Mikel Arteta explains his "hope" over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returning to Arsenal

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has opened up on his relationship with former Gunners captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – just days after the world got a glimpse of the way the Spaniard exiled him from the first-team fold.

Amazon's latest 'All or Nothing' series is centred around the red half of North London and the most recent episodes have given fans a behind-the-scenes look at the way Arteta and Aubameyang's relationship fell apart midway through last season.

The Gabonese striker signed a mega-money contract extension with Arsenal in September 2020 which saw him pocket a reported £350,000-per-week. But 18 months later, on January deadline day this year, Aubameyang was flying to Barcelona to try and force through a move to the La Liga titans without Arsenal's permission on deadline day.

With that in mind, Arteta could be forgiven for holding a grudge against his former player. Yet, on the contrary, the Spaniard had nothing but compliments for his former talisman while conducting his pre-match media duties ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with Leicester.

“Auba is an exceptional player,” Arteta explained. “He did so much for us. He was our captain and I think we have to be grateful, very grateful as well, for what he did for this club.”

Recent reports have seen Aubameyang become the subject of interest from Arsenal's London rivals Chelsea given their desperate need for a striker. Blues boss Thomas Tuchel is already familiar with 33-year-old from their shared time at German giants Borussia Dortmund.

Were Aubameyang put pen to paper at Stamford Bridge, it would come as quite the surprise considering he only arrived at Camp Nou eight months ago.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has impressed since joining Barcelona in January ( Image: Getty Images)

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It would also present the chance for him to return to the Emirates, though he'd be donning blue rather than red. If that were to happen, Arteta has insisted he hopes fans give the striker a warm reception rather than the jeers that traditionally greet a player who left during unsavoury circumstances returning to his former side.

“I hope he does (get a great reception from Arsenal fans) because I think he deserves that,” the Gunners boss claimed. “There are moments in life, there are moments in your career, and sometimes the trajectory or the objective of each individual is different to the club's – and you have to respect that.”

Reflecting on the decision to strip Aubameyang of the captaincy, Arteta kept his cards close to his chest as he explained: “Listen, it’s a long time since that happened. I cannot go back every time there is another series. I have made my comments on that, I was really clear and honest with my opinion.

“What has been done has always been done to defend our club, put the club in best possible position, and being always as clear, as honest and as consistent as we can.”

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