LONDON • Leaving his skipper and most influential player out of the north London derby for disciplinary reasons could have backfired on Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta but the Spaniard's decision paid off as his side beat Tottenham 2-1 on Sunday.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was pencilled in to start the game but a late change saw the forward left on the bench with Arteta declining to elaborate on exact reasons, other than saying a line had been drawn and they had moved on.
British media reports said that the Gabon striker was dropped after turning up late for an earlier squad meeting, with The Athletic saying this was not the first time he has disregarded the club's match-day protocols.
Had Arsenal lost, fans would have accused Arteta of shooting himself in the foot, but his team, who twice hit the woodwork, responded to going behind with a stunning Erik Lamela "rabona" goal to claim a first win in six against Spurs.
Martin Odegaard netted his first league strike and Alexander Lacazette converted his penalty, while Aubameyang stayed rooted to the bench.
"I made what I thought was the right decision," Arteta, who enjoyed his first win over Spurs as manager, said. "We know how important Auba is for us, for the club and that's it. It's been dealt with and we move on."
His principled stance displayed the standards he expects from his team, with Matteo Guendouzi also falling foul of the Spaniard last season after similar disciplinary issues.
"For me, it's the foundations and the platform that we can build something medium and long term that is sustainable and that can bring us joy and happiness," he said. "Without that, I don't believe it will happen so that's why I keep talking about it and acting on it...
"I love the way the team reacted, with the courage that they continued to play, the belief that I was sensing from the touchlines. I'm glad with that."
Only after Lamela was sent off for a second yellow card in the 76th minute did Arsenal begin to look nervous, with Harry Kane having an effort disallowed before hitting the post with a free kick.
The visitors had won their past five games in all competitions to spark hope the team could get back into the top-four race.
The last time Tottenham beat Arsenal in the Premier League at the Emirates.
But despite starting with Kane, Son Heung-min and Gareth Bale in a formidable looking forward line, Spurs were strangely timid, leading manager Jose Mourinho to accuse some of his players of "hiding" during the first half.
"We played really bad in the first half. The 1-1 score was not a fair reflection of the first half. We were poor. Defending bad. No intensity or pressing. Some important players hiding," said the Portuguese, whose side were seventh on 45 points, four in front of 10th-placed Arsenal, before Liverpool's game at Wolves yesterday.
Son was taken off after suffering a hamstring injury before the interval, while Tanguy Ndombele and Bale were substituted in the second half. On his changes, Mourinho said the pair were not offering enough on the pitch.