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Why has Arsenal striker Aubameyang been sent home from Afcon 2021?

01:09 GMT+3 18/01/2022
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Arsenal 2021-22
GOAL has what you need to know about why the Arsenal striker was sent home from Gabon duty in Afcon

Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was sent home from Afcon 2021 duty with Gabon despite not playing a single match of the tournament, with health problems being cited.

His involvement with the tournament has now been blocked on medical grounds – so what were the reasons for Aubameyang's Afcon exit, and when will he feature next for Arsenal? GOAL takes a look.

Why was Aubameyang sent home?

Aubameyang has returned to Arsenal due to "health issues" relating to contracting Covid-19 earlier in the month.

Aubameyang had tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving at Yaounde airport in Cameroon on January 6, days before the start of the tournament.

The striker had travelled to Cameroon alongside team-mate Mario Lemina from Abu Dhabi, and the positive test led to him missing out on Gabon's opening 1-0 Afcon 2021 group stage victory against Comoros.

He returned a negative test last Thursday before Gabon's second group stage game against Ghana, but after another test showed that he still had remnants of Covid-19 in his system hours before kick-off, he was once again deemed unavailable to play.

Initially, it was thought the cardiac tests that Aubameyang underwent showed evidence of "cardiac lesions", but the tests only revealed lasting traces of the virus.

Speaking to GOAL, Gabon stated that they were optimistic that follow-up tests would give the green light for Aubameyang to return. On Sunday, however, it was decided that Aubameyang and Lemina were allowed to return to their clubs where the medical tests did not have an impact on the circumstances.

What has been said?

“It’s very complicated,” Gabon boss Patrice Neveu said. “I’m not new to this team, I’ve worked with Gabon for three years, and fortunately Caf gave us the option of having a squad of 28 players.

“However, losing Pierre-Emerick and Mario, it’s a lot for this team. We don’t have the squad of Nigeria or Morocco, and we know we’re in a hard competition.”

He continued: “Since yesterday, the decision was taken to send them home to their club. We can’t judge it here [in Cameroon], we can’t assess the pathology of Covid here.

“It’s important that Mario returns to Nice and Pierre returns to Arsenal. It’s a decision that we’ve taken among ourselves.”

The Gabon Football Federation confirmed in a statement that both players are being released: "The Gabonese Football Federation has decided to put the players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina back at the disposition of their clubs in order for them to follow more in-depth exams."

Aubameyang, denying rumours his exit was related to indiscipline, wrote on Twitter: "We have problems that are already complicated to solve, then on top of that there are rumours, in short, we have health to take care of first and foremost, I won't go back to address these false rumours and I sincerely hope that our team will go as far as possible."

Lemina wrote on his Instagram story: “I’m not even going to feed the lies which seek to harm. I have nothing to do with them. I have pain upon pain for my national team, which is surrounded by liars seeking a buzz."

When will Aubameyang play for Arsenal next?

It is not currently clear when Aubameyang will feature for Arsenal next given the complications surrounding his positive Covid-19 test.

But given Aubameyang did not actually turn out for Gabon during the tournament, he might not need to take as much time to recover from his international duty.

Arsenal are due to play Liverpool in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final on Thursday, but this may be deemed too early a return date for the Gabon international.

Other potential return dates for the striker include the Gunners' Premier League meeting on January 23, their clash against Wolves on February 10, or when they host Brentford on February 19.

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