Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said it was good to have skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back in the starting lineup after the Gabon striker’s hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Leeds United in the Premier League on Sunday.
Aubameyang, making his first start in six games after taking time to be with his ill mother, scored twice before halftime and again just after the break to put his side 4-0 ahead.
“We have been missing his goals and him at his best,” Arteta, whose side bounced back from consecutive league defeats, said. “He has been training after a difficult period with a family issue and we had a feeling he could be key in this game. He set the tone for the team up top.”
Aubameyang was hobbling near the end but Arteta said he hoped he would be O.K. for next week’s Europa League last-32, first leg clash against Benfica in Rome. “He was in pain and got a big kick, twisted his ankle but hopefully he will be fine (for Thursday).”
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Despite going four goals clear, Arsenal was given a scare by a Leeds side who lived up to its reputation for entertainment by getting back into contention with goals from Pascal Struijk and Helder Costa. It even had a decent Patrick Bamford penalty claim turned down and Arteta said he was not surprised by Leeds’ fightback.
“I am really happy because I watch them so much and I know how difficult they are,” he said.
“They are a fantastic team and they showed that over the course of the game, they showed spirit at 4-0 down. I said at halftime, it is 0-0. If there is a team in the league who will throw everything at you it is Leeds.”
Leeds slipped below Arsenal into 11th spot but its 23 games this season have resulted in 82 goals and for the neutral it remains arguably the best side to watch in the top flight. Manager Marcelo Bielsa said they paid for a poor opening period.
“In the first half we should have prevented them scoring three goals if we were more organised in possession,” he said.
“In the second half we had chances to score the third which means the ending of the game could have been different.”