Arteta and Aubameyang are thought to have not spoken since the striker was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy, made to train alone and had his contract terminated so he could join Barcelona on a free transfer.
Aubameyang fanned the flames ahead of his first game against his former club with Chelsea by taking part in a promotional advert in which he said: “Arsenal, nothing personal. I’m back. I’m blue. I’m ready.”
But while it is not personal between Aubameyang and Arsenal, and he holds no grudge towards the club, his former team-mates, staff or the fans, the striker wants to get one over Arteta, who his associates believe made their fall-out personal.
Before his sacking, former Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel hinted at Aubameyang’s desire to prove a point to Arteta by saying: “If he wants to show somebody in London he’s better than certain people think he is, then the more (goals) the better.”
It is why tomorrow’s Arsenal fixture is the first one Aubameyang would have looked for when he returned to England from Barcelona, and why he has extra motivation to start the game at Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal are top of the Premier League table and Aubameyang’s first priority is to help sixth-placed Chelsea try to close the gap on their rivals.
But settling a score with Arteta would also be a cause for celebration for Aubameyang, who believes he was unfairly treated by the Spaniard and made a scapegoat for poor results that put Arteta under pressure.
Aubameyang was left isolated when Arteta not only made him train alone, but made sure he could not see his team-mates at the club’s Colney base.
Arteta’s treatment of Aubameyang was laid bare by former Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, who told German tabloid Bild: “I was allowed to go to my team-mates in the dressing room. It was different with Aubameyang, who was only allowed into the dressing room when no one was there.”
Any doubt that Arteta’s problem with Aubameyang was personal was extinguished in Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary, in which both technical director Edu and chief executive Vinai Venkatesham made it clear they wanted him reintegrated into the squad.
Edu said: “We have to talk to Aubameyang and to Mikel. He has to come back to the squad and help us until the end of the season.”
Venkatesham agreed, saying: “We are going to have to reintegrate him.”
Aubameyang is proud of his performances for Arsenal during a period of huge upheaval at the club. The manager who signed him, Arsene Wenger, left just four months after his arrival and Sven Mislintat, who played a key role in taking him from Borussia Dortmund, soon followed.
Under Wenger, Aubameyang scored 10 goals in 14 appearances and then enjoyed his two most prolific seasons for the club under Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and then Arteta. He scored both goals in the FA Cup final success over Chelsea in 2020, Arteta’s only trophy win to date, and was rewarded with a new contract before problems started to develop in his fourth season in north London.
A club-approved trip to France to visit his ill mother last December proved to be a breaking point for Arteta. Aubameyang insisted he returned back to England on time and that coronavirus restrictions prevented him from being able to train immediately.
Arteta had punished Aubameyang for being delayed on the way to a game against Tottenham Hotspur nine months earlier and the Gabon international was shocked to find out, via All or Nothing, that Arteta had been keeping a dossier on him.
In the documentary, Arteta said: “I have everything documented. With the dates, the times, the conversion, how it happened, why it happened ... because if one day it is needed.
“He has been late, apart from all the issues, many times. The club has got a tradition. When you get paid that much money ...”
Arteta’s punishment of Aubameyang was heavy handed in comparison to the way Tottenham Hotspur treated England captain Harry Kane, who returned late to pre-season training and missed the first game of last season as a result.
Aubameyang also watched Romelu Lukaku reintegrated into the Chelsea squad after speaking out against Tuchel and has seen Cristiano Ronaldo play for Manchester United despite refusing to go on as a substitute.
Despite all the problems he suffered under him, Aubameyang has not spoken out publicly against Arteta although a video did emerge of the player criticising his former manager.
Aubameyang told friends: “Big characters and big players ... he can’t deal with it. He needs some young players who don’t say anything.”
After the video was made public, Aubameyang posted a message on Twitter that read: “At the time I still had a lot of bad feelings in me – Arsenal are doing great things this season and I wish all my old guys well. Just not on November 6.”
Tuchel stood up for Aubameyang last season, praising his character, and Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez described the 33-year-old as being “a gift from heaven” during his four months in Spain. Aubameyang top-scored at Barcelona during his time at the Nou Camp and fired the club into the Champions League before the summer signing of Robert Lewandowski offered Chelsea an opportunity.
Other than the lure of Chelsea and the Premier League, the prospect of working with Tuchel again was extremely attractive to Aubameyang, as was the chance to face Arteta.
Tuchel was sacked just six days after Chelsea signed Aubameyang, but the former Borussia Dortmund star was immediately assured of his position by the Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital ownership and he is said to be enjoying working under Graham Potter.
Aubameyang scored three goals in his first four appearances under Potter but has not scored for six games during which time Potter has rotated his attackers.
Having started and being taken off after 65 minutes of the Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday night, Aubameyang is desperate to start on Sunday and make a point in front of Arteta. Expect fireworks.
Chelsea v Arsenal
Live BT Sport 1, tomorrow 12.0