PIERRE-Emerick Aubameyang thanked Arsenal for helping him through a “tough period” after his hat-trick led the Gunners to a convincing win over Leeds at Emirates Stadium.
The 31-year-old missed two matches at the end of January with his mother in ill health.
“Everyone was giving a lot of love to me, my mum and my family,” the Arsenal skipper told Sky Sports.
“I have to say thank you to everyone at the club, and the fans.”
Aubameyang opened the scoring in the 14th minute before doubling his side’s advantage from the spot towards the end of the first half.
Right-back Hector Bellerin grabbed a third on the stroke of half-time, with Aubameyang completing his first Premier League hat-trick with a header moments after the restart.
But from 4-0 down Leeds grabbed two second-half goals through Pascal Struijk and substitute Helder Costa to give Arsenal a late scare.
‘The hat-trick means a lot’
Making his first start in almost a month, Arsenal skipper Aubameyang proved just how valuable he is to the north London club.
Since he was last named in a starting XI, the Gunners had gone out of the FA Cup and taken four points from four games in the league.
“The hat-trick means a lot to me,” added the forward.
“I’m a guy who always works hard. It’s been a tough time for me.”
Right from the off the Gabon international looked lively, cutting in from the left and finding the bottom corner with a cultured finish in the opening quarter.
And he was denied a second moments later when Leeds defender Luke Ayling superbly blocked his shot after good work from David Luiz.
VAR intervention led to referee Stuart Atwell overturning an Arsenal penalty after Bukayo Saka was brought down by Liam Cooper in the 35th minute.
But the 19-year-old won another spot-kick minutes later, being tripped by Leeds keeper Illan Meslier after the stopper was unable to clear a routine backpass.
Aubameyang made no mistake from 12 yards – sending Meslier the wrong way – before Bellerin caught out the Frenchman at his near post to net Arsenal’s third.
We’ve missed Aubameyang’s goals – Arteta
Arsenal started the second half just as they finished the first, with Aubameyang heading home Emile Smith Rowe’s cross to net his second ever Arsenal hat-trick – his first since the Gunners beat Valencia 4-2 in the Europa League in May 2019.
And Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was quick to praise his captain at full-time, remarking that the forward is “key” to Arsenal’s success.
“We have been missing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goals and him at his best,” said Arteta.
“He has been training after a difficult period with a family issue and we had a feeling he could be key in this game.
“We know that a big part of our future success is related to Auba being at his best and scoring as many goals as possible.
“If he is in that type of form we are going to be closer to winning football matches, that is for sure – we cannot just rely on him but he is a big piece of our puzzle and you saw today that when he is firing he is a difficult player to play against.”
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