Barcelona are struggling financially but Xavi is desperate to reinforce his attack following Sergio Aguero's retirement.

Ferran Torres and Edinson Cavani are believed to top Barca's transfer list heading into the January window.

It could be a busy month ahead for the LaLiga outfit.

 

TOP STORY – TORRES, CAVANI TO BARCA?

Manchester City's Ferran Torres and Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani are priority objectives for Barcelona, according to Marca.

Barca continue to be linked with Spain international Torres as Xavi attempts to bolster the embattled LaLiga giants.

Cavani has also emerged as a top target after Sergio Aguero retired from football and the duo could reportedly arrive in January.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail claims Arsenal are open to selling Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang next month, but the Gunners are more likely to move on from the former skipper at the end of the season. Aubameyang has been stripped of the captaincy and linked with Barca and Juventus.

Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt are eyeing Yusuf Demir as Diario Sport reports Barca have decided to cut short the 18-year-old's loan spell from Rapid Vienna.

Rafael Leao is poised to sign a contract extension with Milan until 2026, per Nicolo Schira.

- Calciomercato says Arsenal have not given up on signing Juve attacker Dejan Kulusevski. The Sweden international has also been linked to London rivals Tottenham.

Barca are monitoring United sensation Mason Greenwood, reports El Nacional. England international Greenwood is highly rated at Old Trafford.

- Jeunes Footeux says Liverpool have joined the race to sign Lille star Jonathan David. The Canada international is reportedly wanted by Arsenal, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain.

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."

Edinson Cavani re-signed with Manchester United at the start of the season but Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford has hampered the Uruguayan.

And following Sergio Aguero's shock retirement, the door has opened for Cavani at Camp Nou.

Cavani is believed to be on the verge of swapping Manchester for Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY – CAVANI TO CAMP NOU

Edinson Cavani will join embattled LaLiga giants Barcelona in January to replace Sergio Aguero, according to TyC Sports.

Aguero announced his retirement from football this week due to a heart problem and Barca are on the lookout for a replacement.

Manchester United forward Cavani has emerged as a target, with the Uruguay international reportedly rejecting an offer from Boca Juniors to move to Camp Nou.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Friday's Gazzetta dello Sport claims Antony Martial is eager to leave United for Serie A giants Juventus. He has also been linked with Atletico MadridCavani, Paris Saint-Germain's Mauro Icardi and former Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are believed to be among Juve's targets.

- Barca have held talks regarding a move for Juve winger Federico Bernardeschi, claims Sport. The Italy international is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Neither United nor PSG have opened talks with Barca midfielder Frenkie de Jong, reports Fabrizio Romano. Bayern Munich and Liverpool are also believed to be interested.

Newcastle United have offered £88million (€100m) for Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Calciomercato. Vlahovic is wanted by Manchester United, Manchester City, Bayern, Tottenham, Arsenal, Inter, Juve and Atletico.

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.

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."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's lack of playing time will cause problems for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, according to Gary Neville.

The Gabon international dropped to the bench for Monday's 2-1 defeat to Everton, with Arteta instead using Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli in attack.

Arteta turned to Eddie Nketiah from the substitutes' bench before finally introducing Aubameyang five minutes from time.

Aubameyang missed a glorious chance shortly after Demarai Gray had fired in what proved to be a superb late winner for Everton to relieve the pressure on Rafael Benitez.

Arsenal's out-of-form captain has now failed to score in his last six Premier League appearances, which is his longest run in the competition and his longest goalless league run since going 14 without a goal for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga between February and August 2014.

Former Dortmund striker Aubameyang has had 15 shots across that barren spell and has failed to find the net from an expected goals (xG) return of 3.1.

Neville does not believe Aubameyang will react well to being left on the bench for so long, with the Manchester United legend predicting a possible parting of the ways between the player and club in January.

"I think there will be a problem with Aubameyang off the back of this game," Neville told Sky Sports. "I don't think he'll like the idea of Eddie Nketiah coming on before him. I don't think he'll like the idea of being a substitute, full stop.

"There's always that little bit of a bug there between Arteta and Aubameyang. I know he's the captain but he leaves him out and it just feels like something that's a little bit awkward, and it's going to cause a problem.

"I suspect, if Arteta could probably get money for Aubameyang and he could get someone else, they probably would. And I bet if Aubameyang could move on he probably would as well because it could maybe turn a little sour."

Aubameyang failed to find the target from his two efforts against Everton and now has a big chance conversion rate of 33.33 per cent in the Premier League this season.

That is down from 46.2 per cent last season and 63.0 the season before when registering 22 goals in 36 games, matching his tally from 2018-19.

Arsenal, who had taken the lead against Everton through Martin Odegaard's strike before late goals from Richarlison and Gray, are seventh in the league after losing three of their last four games.

The Gunners have named the youngest average starting line-up in the English top flight this season and Neville believes a lack of experience is costing Arteta.

"I think when we talk about this being a young team in terms of the average age, when you go to places like Old Trafford and Goodison Park in a night game one or two of the young players won't have experienced it too many times," he said.

"I remember my first game going to Anfield and it was tough, going to Arsenal at Highbury. You need experience to get you through those difficult moments when the crowd go up and a few decisions go against you and you can feel something happening.

"You need comfort in there. You need that spine. Arsenal's senior players are not really massive characters. They are not really leaders. They don't get those young players through those difficult moments in the game so the other players just go under a little."

Chelsea host Manchester United in the headline game of the weekend in the Premier League, with Sunday's showdown at Stamford Bridge a lip-smacking occasion.

Will United put the misery of their five defeats in seven domestic league games behind them and start afresh after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking, or will it be the same old story for the Red Devils?

The threat comes from all quarters with Chelsea: Reece James and Antonio Rudiger may be as likely, if not more so, to score than Timo Werner, for example.

Leeds are boosted by the return from injury of Raphinha as they head to Brighton, while Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang face opponents against whom they have outstanding past records.

The pursuit of fantasy points is on, and here are suggestions for possible picks ahead of the weekend, powered by Opta data.

REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Manchester United)

Will Manchester United's Champions League victory at Villarreal be a spur for them to find a way back to winning ways in the Premier League? Not if Reece James can help it.

Chelsea's exciting right wing-back was sufficiently impressive last term to make England's Euro 2020 squad, but he has gone to another level this time around, and a midweek goal against Juventus just confirmed his progression.

In the Premier League, James has been directly involved in eight goals this season, three more than in his previous 56 appearances in the competition across the last two seasons (5 - one goal, four assists). His total of involvements is higher than any other defender in the league in 2021-22, and United will be wary of that danger. Whether they can stop it remains to be seen.

ANTONIO RUDIGER (Chelsea v Manchester United)

Another Chelsea defender who provides value as an all-rounder, Rudiger provides Premier League fantasy points possibilities at both ends of the pitch.

Among Premier League defenders, only his Blues club-mates James (4) and Ben Chilwell (3) have scored more goals in the competition this season, while only Manchester City's Joao Cancelo (8) has registered more clean sheets than the German (7).

With Harry Maguire suspended and Raphael Varane injured, United seem likely to be susceptible to crosses from set-pieces, which is where Rudiger could come into his own.

RAPHINHA (Brighton and Hove Albion v Leeds United)

Leeds are hovering just above the bottom three, heading into the weekend, so to have Raphinha available will be a major boost to Marcelo Bielsa.

After missing the defeat at Tottenham last time out, the Brazil international is expected to be involved at Brighton this weekend as Leeds target a third win of the campaign.

They missed his creative influence in north London, with Leeds having won 45 per cent of their Premier League games in which Raphinha has featured (18/40) since his debut for the club in October 2020, They have won none of their six matches when he has been absent (D2 L4) and have averaged a measly 0.5 goals per game.

His 20 goal involvements in the league over the same period (11 goals, 9 assists) is second only at Leeds to Patrick Bamford (23 - 15 goals, 8 assists).

RAHEEM STERLING (Manchester City v West Ham)

Has Raheem Sterling played himself into form for City? Three goals in his last three appearances across all competitions suggests that is the case for a player who struggled in the early weeks of the season, in the wake of his exploits at Euro 2020 with England.

Now, assuming he keeps his place in Pep Guardiola's starting line-up, Sterling gets to face one of his very favourite opponents when West Ham visit the Etihad Stadium.

Sterling has been involved in 11 goals in his last eight Premier League games against the Hammers (6 goals, 5 assists), hitting a hat-trick when the teams met in London on the opening day of the 2019-20 season.

EMMANUEL DENNIS (Leicester City v Watford)

It was Emmanuel Dennis who inflicted the final blow to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, completing the rout as Watford whipped Manchester United 4-1 last Saturday.

The Nigerian appears to have been an outstanding acquisition from Club Brugge and Leicester will be wary of his menacing form ahead of a King Power Stadium tussle.

Dennis has scored four goals and assisted five more in just 11 Premier League appearances for Watford. Should he score in Sunday's game, he would become only the sixth player in Premier League history to reach both five goals and assists in 12 or fewer games, after Eric Cantona (11 games), Jurgen Klinsmann (12), Arjen Robben (11), Andrey Arshavin (10) and Bruno Fernandes (9).

JOSE SA (Norwich City v Wolves)

The handover of the Wolves goalkeeper job from Rui Patricio to fellow Portuguese Jose Sa has been seamless, and the new man between the sticks has been highly effective already in the Premier League.

Only Chelsea's Edouard Mendy (3.71) has prevented more goals in the PL this season than Sa (2.18). That is based on Opta's expected goals on target (xGOT) metric, which assesses the quality of shots. On that basis, Sa would have been expected to concede 14.18 goals, but he has picked the ball out of the net just 12 times.

His 38 saves from 50 shots faced gives him a healthy 76 per cent success rate, beaten only by Mendy (88.57 per cent) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale (78.95) so far this season. Norwich will do well to find a way past one of the most in-form glovesmen in the top flight.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal v Newcastle United)

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not scored or had an assist in his last three Premier League games, creating just one chance in 270 minutes.

But if there is any team he is going to score against, Newcastle would be close to the top of the list, and not merely because Eddie Howe's team are bottom of the table.

The former Borussia Dortmund striker has been involved in nine goals in his eight appearances for Arsenal against Newcastle in all competitions (6 goals, 3 assists), scoring in each of his last five games against the Magpies.

Mikel Arteta is unsure whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thomas Partey will be fit for Arsenal's Premier League trip to Liverpool on Saturday.

The in-form Gunners travel to Merseyside without a win at Anfield since September 2012, but with the longest unbeaten run in the top flight of eight matches.

Captain Aubamayang has emerged as a doubt for the clash with the Reds after returning from international duty with Gabon early, while Ghana midfielder Partey's fitness is also a concern for the London club due to a muscle injury.

Asked about Aubamayang's early return, Arteta said on Friday: "No, it wasn't pre-planned, we have to assess him and see how he is and make a decision.

"We have a lot players who have been through some different games, issues, little injuries, so today we have to test everybody and see how we are to play tomorrow.

"Same again [for Partey], he could not play for the national team, he really tried to do that because they had a massive game and he really pushed for that one, but he wasn't close enough to do that. Again, it's something we have to assess today."

Liverpool's 3-2 defeat at West Ham before the international break ended their 20-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

The Reds are unbeaten in nine at home in the top flight and Arteta is relishing the challenge of trying to secure a long-awaited win at Anfield.

"It is always a test, it is a fascinating stadium to play football in," said the former Everton midfielder. "You have to be at your best, and raise the level to your maximum standards, emotionally, physically, tactically, because if you don't you will be exposed.

"Going to Anfield is always a test, but if you are able to do that, there are not many grounds as good as there to feel that you are a proper footballer.

"You really feel as a footballer you are in a place where you really have to give your best and when you do, it's an incredible feeling, because you have overcome a really difficult and challenging situation.

"When you don't, like it has happened other times, after you feel regrets for things that you haven't done or you should have done differently, or you haven't approached the game in the right way. I think it's one of those places where you have to go there and believe on the day and show why you want to play football.

"I don't know [why we haven't won there more], obviously the quality of the opponent has a big say. It's not a coincidence that last year as well before we went to Old Trafford, it was I don't know how many years before we won at Stamford Bridge the same, but first of all you have to believe that you go there and that you can beat them, that's the first thing.

"If somebody is not with that mindset, they should not put the shirt on and go to Anfield tomorrow and then as I said you have to raise individually your game to your best, emotionally, physically, technically and tactically you have to be able to suffer in the right moments, because there’s going to be moments where you're going to have to do that and then as a team you have to have very clear ideas of what you're going to do on that pitch to beat that side."

Mikel Arteta described his players as "the most honest" after Claudio Ranieri accused them of a lack of respect following Arsenal's 1-0 win over Watford at Emirates Stadium.

The Watford head coach was unhappy that Arsenal did not give the ball back after it had been put out for an injury in the move that led to Emile Smith Rowe's decisive goal.

The result extended the Gunners' unbeaten run to 10 games across all competitions and marked Arteta's 100th game as Arsenal boss with a win.

Arteta issued a staunch defence of his squad's conduct, revealing that, if anything, he feels his side can occasionally be too honest.

"If I have to define my players, my team and my club, I would say that they are the most honest - all of them," Arteta said. "At some stages, we can even become naive.

"But still, if [Ranieri] feels like that towards our club, our team, I have to apologise if that's the case but, for sure that was not the intention to take any advantage."


Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed his second consecutive Premier League penalty, having missed only two of his first 11 in the competition, but Arteta still retains confidence in his skipper's ability from the spot.

"[Aubameyang] will stay on penalties if he is happy to do so," Arteta continued. "You will miss if you take penalties, that is part of your career and the job."

Smith Rowe's second-half strike earned Arsenal the three points, but Ainsley Maitland-Niles - starting in midfield in the absence of the injured Thomas Partey - put in an impressive performance as Arsenal extended their unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions.

The 24-year-old was strongly linked with an exit in the most recent transfer window, even posting a message on social media indicating his desire to leave in search of regular minutes.

However, the Englishman was retained and Arteta is glad to have kept hold of the versatile Hale End graduate, saying he has seen a great deal of improvement from Maitland-Niles.

"First of all, I see a different player in terms of [Maitland-Niles'] urgency, his commitment, clarity in his play, his purpose," Arteta said. "We made a decision. I was clear, with what I was seeing, that I wanted him to stay because he was going to be useful.

"He has a huge talent which is that he is versatile enough to adapt to almost any position on the pitch. When I see him in training sessions, when I see how he prepares, when I see the questions he's asking, his level of attention - everything you talk through, his response is immediate.

"He's a really clever boy, a really intelligent boy and I think he has come a long way."

Emile Smith Rowe scored for a third Premier League game running to extend Arsenal's unbeaten run as they beat Watford 1-0 in Mikel Arteta's 100th game in charge.

Arsenal's breakthrough came after a frustrating first half that saw a Bukayo Saka goal ruled out for offside before Ben Foster saved Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's penalty.

Foster was in inspired form but could not keep out Smith Rowe's drilled shot with 56 minutes on the clock, with that proving to be the only goal of Sunday's clash at Emirates Stadium, where Juraj Kucka was sent off late on for Watford.

Arsenal are now eight league matches without defeat – winning six of those – making this their best such run in the competition since another eight-game spell ended in March 2020.

Saka thought he had opened the scoring early on when Aubameyang's heavy touch ran to the winger in front of goal, but he was stood beyond Foster and identified as offside by a VAR review.

Arsenal continued to dominate and were awarded a penalty when Danny Rose clattered into Alexandre Lacazette. However, Aubameyang's attempt from the spot lacked precision and Foster saved with a combination of his arm and leg down to his right.

Although Foster was then equal to Gabriel's header, the Gunners had scored at least once in all 14 previous Premier League meetings with Watford and keep that run going here.

Smith Rowe picked up the ball following a positive run from Ben White and swept a first-time finish away from Foster to make it five goals for the season in all competitions.

Substitute Martin Odegaard was then denied when his goalbound effort was tapped in by an offside Aubameyang at the back post.

That set up a slightly nervy finish as Joshua King fired into the side-netting following a lapse in judgement from Aaron Ramsdale, but Kucka's second yellow card for a wild swipe at Nuno Tavares effectively ended Watford's hopes of snatching a point.

Mikel Arteta hailed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for leading from the front as the Arsenal captain adapts to a changing role from previous seasons.

Arsenal endured a tough start to the new Premier League term, losing their opening three games before responding with six wins from eight unbeaten games across all competitions.

Aubameyang has been key to their upturn in form, having been involved in five goals in his last six top-flight appearances (four goals, one assist) with the Gunners climbing into 10th.

The forward has operated in a more central role this campaign, as opposed to cutting in from the left flank, and has led the line effectively so far.

Indeed, Aubameyang (four) ranks second at the club for possession won in the final third, only behind Emile Smith-Rowe (nine), while also sitting fifth among club charts for chances created (eight).

Utilised as Arsenal's spearhead who leads the press, Arteta credited Aubameyang's willingness to adapt to his new role and praised the 32-year-old's leadership qualities.

"We had various conversations and obviously where you have a season where as a team we haven’t fulfilled our expectations, and individually we haven’t, we have to find the right reasons why," Arteta said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"How we can change that, how we can improve them, how we can help him to improve certain things that are going to have a huge impact on the team.

"And he’s been so willing to do that from the start. I am so pleased because again, his role is different to one that he had two or three years ago, and now he needs to lead in every sense – and he’s doing that and I’m really happy with him."

Aubameyang's finishing seems to have improved as well, given he has outscored his expected goals (3.08) in the Premier League after eight appearances with four strikes to his name.

Arteta also believes his experienced striker is enjoying his new role, which is producing results on and off the pitch.

"I think he is, and I think you can see it on the pitch," the Arsenal manager responded when asked if Aubameyang was enjoying himself.

"He’s playing with a smile on his face, he’s transmitting energy, passion, willingness – and not only that but outside the pitch as well.

"That’s what I want – a happy Auba leads with his character, and that’s what he’s able to transmit to everybody, and that energy is always positive."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta believes that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has taken his game to the next level and "prefers" this version of the striker.

After a poor campaign by his standards in 2020-21, Gunners captain Aubameyang is the club's top scorer in the Premier League with four goals from eight appearances, but his manager has been equally as impressed with the 32-year-old's improved all-round game.

The Gabon forward ranks second at the club for possession won in the final third in the Premier League (four) behind only Emile Smith Rowe (nine).

Aubameyang has also outperformed his expected goals (xG) value of 3.08, suggesting his finishing has been above the standard that would be expected from the chances he has been presented with.

He ranks fifth in Arsenal's squad for chances created (eight), providing one assist from those opportunities. 

Arteta feels that Aubameyang is giving off an energy that he has never done before and is becoming a more complete player in the process.

"I have never seen Auba transmit what he is doing now," Arteta told Arsenal's official website ahead of Tuesday's EFL Cup tie with fellow Premier League side Leeds United, against whom Aubameyang netted a hat-trick last season.

"Apart from the goals, the celebration when they put the ball in the net, do you see the way he runs, the purpose he has to press the ball, and when he takes it his movement, his link, how is leading the game - that is when he is changing the rest, not when he is static and then he puts the ball in the net. I prefer this Auba.

"It is clicking. It is a combination of realising that his role has to go well beyond [scoring]. What was good, or very good, two or three years ago, with his role in this team, at this club, it is not enough. He had to take a step forward."

Arteta explained that both Aubameyang and fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette have a responsibility to lead a young squad on and off the field.

"I would say the same with Laca, look what he is transmitting, not just doing or playing, what he is transmitting," Arteta continued. "For me, that is really, really important.

"They lead by example and not only there but as well at the training ground. Certain things, a role they could have had three years ago in the squad, now it has changed.

"The group's age is a little bit closer [together] so they are experiencing most of the same things and they talk a lot about it. Then we have the senior players that they have to lead and they have to take that role, and they are doing that in a different way.

"There are players now that on that pitch that they are able to transmit something and change certain behaviours and attitudes in other players. That is contagious, and for me that is leadership."

Lacazette has played a bit-part role so far this season but was handed his first league start of the campaign as Arsenal beat Aston Villa 3-1, producing an impressive display despite not getting on the scoresheet himself.

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