Mikel Arteta says Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang recognised a need to up his game and has praised the way the striker and his close friend Alex Lacazette have started to lead Arsenal’s young squad.
In addition to rediscovering his scoring touch – Auba has seven goals in nine games – the Gunners captain has also been a visible in-game cheerleader this term and set the tempo for his teammates with a determination in his defensive work.
In the eyes of the boss, it all adds up to a decent quarter-season report card.
“Leading is not telling someone what he needs to do, for me it is being able to transform that person and not just with words, but with facts as well,” Arteta told Arsenal.com ahead of Tuesday’s Carabao Cup game with Leeds United.
“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.”
Put to him that Auba is finding his best form after last season’s disappointments, Arteta continued: “I wouldn’t go to the goals, again it is what Auba is transmitting on the pitch. I have never seen Auba transmit what he is doing now.
“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.”
On what is driving the change, he added: “For me, it is a click. It is a click. It is a combination that realising that his role has to go well beyond that. 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. I would say the same with Laca, look what he is transmitting, not just doing or playing, what he is transmitting. For me that is really, really important.”
Last week, Alex Lacazette came off the bench against Crystal Palace to grab a late equaliser before putting in a decent shift as a starter against Aston Villa.
Given he’s not played much football this campaign – Friday’s match was his first Premier League start – the boss was quick to praise his attitude and selflessness.
“They [Auba and Laca] lead by example and not only there [on the pitch] but as well at the training ground,” said Arteta.
“Certain things, a role they could have had three years ago in the squad, now it has changed.
“Human beings change themselves every six months, they have all new selves, and it’s incredible so we are able to adapt very quickly and manipulate and change our minds very quickly as well.
“They are doing that for the benefit of the club, but for sure for the benefit of themselves.”