5 November 2022

Potter: Arsenal Clash Not About Auba | Elneny: We Don't Allow Big Egos Now  (Sky Sports)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mikel ArtetaChelsea manager Graham Potter says it will take more than just the burning incentive of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to beat Arsenal during this weekend's high noon London derby showdown at Stamford Bridge.

Aubameyang faces his former club for the first time since his acrimonious departure when Chelsea host the Premier league leaders on Sunday.

Potter, speaking to the media ahead of the game, insists Aubameyang is up for the battle against Mikel Arteta's side, but stressed it will take more than just the former Gunners striker to secure the three points.

"It's a London derby, two good teams," Potter said. "Arsenal are doing really well and the history makes it an interesting one for Auba. But the past is the past as far as we're concerned."

He added: "I don't think we should make it about him. He is an important part of the team for us but it takes everybody, not just one person. I understand the interest around him because it's Arsenal.

"I think he's looking forward to the game, excited for it. He's been pretty normal I'd say, quite a quiet guy."

Former captain Aubameyang was dropped and later lost the armband - according to Arteta, because of "certain moments where he has not fulfilled his duties".

He joined Barcelona as a free agent in February after his contract was cancelled, but returned to the Premier League with Chelsea in the summer and will come up against his former club when the table-topping Gunners travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

His Arsenal exit came after Arteta had previously frozen out Mesut Ozil, with midfielder Mohamed Elneny claiming in Arsenal's All or Nothing Amazon documentary that the manager's decision to take the captaincy from Aubameyang showed "balls".

In a video promoting this weekend's game, the Gabon international is seen fronting up to the camera describing his switch to a London rival as "nothing personal" and adding that he is "now back, Blue and ready".

When those words were put to Arteta at his post-match press conference against FC Zurich, the Gunners boss said: "If you ask any of our players what they feel about where they are, they will say the same."

Arteta dismissed suggestions it was challenging to manage Aubameyang towards the end of his time at the club, adding: "We made decisions. We discussed things and we made a clear decision between all of us."

When asked about the threat he still poses aged 33, Arteta said: "He's very dangerous. You know, if Auba's got something it's the ability to put the ball in the back of the net and he's going to be doing that until the day that he decides he's had enough of football."

Elneny: We don't have big egos

Elneny, meanwhile, has said there are no egos allowed in the Arsenal dressing room - revealing players are "scared" to step out of line after Arteta axed Aubameyang.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's London derby, the Egypt midfielder said the Arsenal squad was now benefiting from a feeling of togetherness as they look to remain at the Premier League summit.

"We don't allow big egos," he said. "This is the dressing room we have now. Everyone loves each other and everyone works for each other.

"This is what actually makes our squad really strong, because we don't have egos in the team.

"Now everyone looked at themselves because Mikel did that to the captain of the team. What is he going to do with another player?

"This showed that now we can't play around, now we have to be calm with the team and the way the team is going we have to stick with the team, not do something different."

While many outside of Arsenal were surprised with the decision to release their captain, first-choice striker and highest-paid player, Elneny believes it showed the squad that Arteta is boss.

Asked if the incident unified everyone at the club, the 30-year-old - who is currently Arsenal's longest-serving player - replied: "I think so, because now everyone was scared!

"Everyone is scared with their position because this happened to Aubameyang. Of course if anyone is not the captain of the team, does a small mistake, they are going to have the same problem, and no one needs that problem.

"We agree with what Mikel decided because he is our boss and we just have to agree what his vision is for us."

Potter: Chelsea players shouldn't hold back

Potter does not expect Premier League players to hold back ahead of the World Cup despite concerns that injuries might rule them out.

Ben Chilwell's dream of making the England squad for Qatar has potentially been crushed after he sustained a hamstring injury in the Blues' Champions League clash with Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday.

He is one of several top-flight stars who have late fitness concerns ahead of the finals, with Tottenham's Son Heung-min having undergone surgery for a facial fracture sustained at Marseille on Tuesday.

It has sparked calls from some corners for the Premier League to postpone the final round of matches before the break.

But Potter said: "I don't think it's fear (from the players), I just think it's part of the challenge, it's how it is. It's very difficult to play Premier League football, or Champions League football, and go at it half-hearted.

"That's pretty much impossible, then at the same time you know there's a World Cup a couple of weeks away, so that's a tricky position for everybody."

Chilwell was due to undergo a scan on Friday to evaluate the severity of his injury, though Potter did not sound especially optimistic about his defender's prognosis.

He said: "He feels OK, he's aware of the injury, we need to let the swelling settle down and we'll know more after that.

"I wouldn't say he fears the worst. Until we get the scan, it's difficult to say. At the moment, we are hopeful and fingers crossed. It's disappointing, of course."

Chelsea host Arsenal a week after suffering a 4-1 defeat at Brighton in Potter's first trip back to his former club, though the Blues bounced back with a 2-1 midweek win over Dinamo.

"(Brighton) was a defeat we didn't like and didn't enjoy," said Potter. "Be strange if we did. So, they've responded well, their performance in Zagreb I think was a solid one and a professional one.

"It had intensity, it had enthusiasm, and everybody has trained well, everybody has been responsible."

It will conclude a packed run of games for Potter's side, who will have played 13 times across all competitions since the beginning of October.

The Blues boss agreed that even the 24-hour difference between a Saturday and Sunday kick-off offered a modicum of relief.

"The fact that we've all been playing so much it's almost like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic to a certain extent," he said.

"I don't think it's that big a deal but it's helpful in a way. It's an extra 24 hours. We take what we can at this point in the season.

"I don't think it has an impact on anything, we're all used to the quick turnaround, we're all used to the short space in between games, but any time you have you have to use it well."