London (AFP) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang said he was happy to give up the chance to claim a hat-trick on Sunday, preferring to see Arsenal strike partner Alexandre Lacazette convert a confidence-boosting penalty
Arsenal defeated relegation-haunted Stoke 3-0 with Aubameyang scoring twice — a penalty and another from open play — with substitute Lacazette scoring the third, also from the spot a minute before time.
Aubameyang revealed he passed up the opportunity to score a maiden Arsenal hat-trick — he had scored two for Borussia Dortmund this season before his January transfer — because he wanted to help Lacazette.
The Frenchman had returned from injury for his first game since February 10 and accepted the gift gratefully.
“I had scored twice already so I knew it would be good for his confidence,” Aubameyang explained.
Some managers do not allow anybody other than the designated penalty-taker to have a go from 12 yards but Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger made it clear he approved of the gesture.
“That shows the state of our society — that when people are generous they are surprised,” he said.
“Even more when it is footballers — and when it is strikers even more.
“I wasn’t surprised because I know they have a good understanding. I like that because it can only make the team stronger. I think it’s great.”
Meanwhile, Wenger’s opinion on Aubameyang’s new hairstyle remains unknown.
– Hair’s to you –
The Gabon forward had the name Marina etched on to the side of his head.
“It is my grandmother’s name,” he said. “She passed away last week so this is my dedication to her.”
The win did nothing to alter the Gunners’ position of sixth in the Premier League table, and they are now concentrating on the Europa League, with CSKA Moscow due at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday for a quarter-final first leg clash.
But Stoke boss Paul Lambert was left fuming with the penalty decision on the first goal.
A point would have been precious to second bottom Stoke and they were 15 minutes away from achieving just that when referee Craig Pawson awarded a penalty for Bruno Martins Indi’s challenge on Mesut Ozil.
Lambert was convinced the penalty should not have been given as Martin Indi, although approaching from a position behind Ozil, had got enough on the ball.
The Scot argued that the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system — not yet used in the Premier League — would have seen the original decision overturned had it been in operation.
“It was a game-changer because a couple of minutes earlier we had hit the post,” he said.
“I know we have the benefit of replays and Craig doesn’t but for the big moments you have to be so precise.”
VAR has courted plenty of controversy itself since trials began in the FA Cup earlier this season, but Lambert was a fan.
“I’ve seen VAR work in Germany,” he said. “It worked seamlessly, absolutely no problem at all.
“We bring it over here and it seems to be confusing but for this sort of incident? Absolutely. The referees need help for the big calls.”
Wenger inevitably had a different view to Lambert, the Arsenal boss saying: “From the outside it looked a penalty. I don’t think that Ozil dived.”
Stoke have managed just one win since Christmas and will have to conjure up some more points if they are to avoid relegation.
Lambert remained bullish about their prospects however. “I’m 100 percent confident we will stay up,” he said. “I thought that when I came in and nothing has changed my mind.
“I have won games here and come here and drawn and not played as well as that.
“We never deserved a 3-0. The first goal was always going to be crucial. The one thing that’s missing from our game at the minute is Lady Luck.
“I thought the players were brilliant. Performance-wise, I couldn’t have asked for more.”