Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta praised captain Pierre-Emerick Abumeyang for his impactful return during Sunday’s victory in Newcastle.
Aubameyang was out of action throughout April as he suffered from malaria while on international duty in Gabon, but recovered and returned to the starting XI against Newcastle on Sunday with a goal.
Speaking after the match about the striker (quoted by The Independent), Arteta admitted that the captain’s recovery was a surprise: “We thought he would not be able to handle it.”
Discussing a small substitution against Villarreal in the first final of the Europa League semi-final, he added: “On Thursday, the day before, he really struggled to be honest, he could only play 10 or 15 minutes.
“But the day after and the day after, he started to feel better and it’s good to see that he was feeling well today.”
Arteta described Aubameyang’s return to the game as a “real boost” in the knowledge that the 31-year-old could now play a bigger role in Thursday’s Arsenal semi-final after proving his worth against Newcastle.
Aubameyang is the club’s second top scorer so far this season with 15 goals in all competitions, behind Alexander Lacasette’s 17. But while his return was the impetus for their second game against Villarreal, the performance was clouded as David Louise limped with a tendon problem.
Arteta acknowledged that “this is not good news” as the Brazilian’s injury would add to the growing treatment table, which already includes Lacazette and Kieran Tierney. Lewis only returned to action recently after minor knee surgery and regained a level of calm in the back line, but is now at risk of missing out on what is left of the season.
The Gunners have to cancel a 2-1 loss from the first leg if they want to continue until the Europa League final, when Villarreal visit the Emirates on Thursday.