Soccer-Aubameyang goals critical to Arsenal success, says Arteta

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Arsenal v Watford - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - November 7, 2021 Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang reacts after scoring a disallowed goal REUTERS/David Klein

(Reuters) - Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta backed skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to rediscover his goalscoring form ahead of Thursday's Premier League game at Manchester United after the Gabon striker failed to find the net in his last four games.

Aubameyang, the league's joint top scorer in 2018-19, has struggled so far this season with only four goals in 12 appearances.

The 32-year-old has been paired with fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette up front in recent games, with both players tasked with pressing defenders to win the ball back, and Arteta said the duo must adapt to changes in the team's formation.

"The form of Auba is always going to be related to the goals he scores. He does many other things apart from scoring goals, but obviously we need that contribution because goals are critical for our success," Arteta told reporters on Wednesday.

"That's been shown in the last few years when we've been able to do that and that has to be his aim... I think with Laca it's a little bit different. I think Laca is more comfortable playing (at number nine).

"The formation that we play allows him more freedom to attack certain spaces more often and the defensive duty changes a lot from one formation or the other. That's something to consider, depending on the players that play alongside him."

Arteta said Granit Xhaka and Sead Kolasinac would not be involved against United at Old Trafford, but added he was hopeful Bukayo Saka would be available after the forward picked up an injury against Newcastle United at the weekend.

Arteta also praised United's appointment of Ralf Rangnick as interim coach until the end of the season.

"He has been one of the top coaches in every involvement he has had in the game, not only in coaching," Arteta said.

"He's made some radical changes in some areas and he's a really interesting person in the footballing world, a really interesting appointment for the club."

Rangnick, 63, will not be in charge for Thursday's game as his work visa is yet to be finalised, with Michael Carrick remaining as caretaker. United sit five points behind fifth-placed Arsenal.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Rohith Nair)

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