Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s lack of fitness was likely the reason for a substandard performance in his final appearance for Borussia Dortmund, says Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Aubameyang had a single shot – a header sent over the crossbar – and only one touch in the opposition box in a 2-2 draw against Freiburg before joining Arsenal for a club-record £56million.
Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke subsequently accused the Gabon international of “withholding performances” to force through a departure.
But Wenger noted Aubameyang missed the Bundesliga club’s two matches prior to facing Freiburg due to a lack of focus because of speculation over his future and a disciplinary issue.
Aubameyang struck on his Arsenal debut, a 5-1 rout of Everton, and Wenger hit back at Watzke’s comments about his new signing.
“If you look well at the history, he played only one game. He played, they suspended him for two or three games,” the Frenchman told reporters on Thursday.
“One before the [winter] break and one after the break. So he played only one game at home, where they played a 2-2 against Werder Bremen [sic, Freiburg].
“So maybe he was not ready physically to perform at his best, but I don’t believe that he didn’t want to perform.”
January signings Aubameyang and his former Dortmund team-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan both excelled against Everton, the Armenia international recording three assists after moving to Emirates Stadium as part of a swap deal with Manchester United for Alexis Sanchez.
And Wenger indicated he will have no doubts about selecting Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan from the start against Tottenham in Saturday’s north London derby.
“I think we are in the middle of the season and they are top-quality players, so why should they not repeat that type of performance?” Wenger said.
“We want them focusing on how we want to play the game, tactically and technically. Once the game has started, these guys have experience, they have played top-level games. They know what is important and they know that the most important thing is to focus on the performance.
“[Mkhitaryan] has a very professional attitude and overall I think that is what you want from every player. I am not surprised about that because I find that absolutely normal.”