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.
“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.
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.”
‘Arsenal prepared better’ – Bielsa
Despite a disastrous first 47 minutes, at one point in the second period Leeds looked destined to leave London with a point.
Struijk’s thumping header from a Raphinha corner just before the hour-mark and Costa’s close-range finish 11 minutes later halved the deficit, with the Yorkshire side’s first two real chances of the game.
At 4-2 Patrick Bamford went down in the area under pressure from multiple Arsenal defenders with 15 minutes remaining, only for play to be waved on.
But, after a few nervous minutes, it was Arsenal who always looked the likelier to grab the game’s seventh goal, with Aubameyang nearly grabbing a fourth, curling the ball against the crossbar, and Saka striking the post in the closing stages.
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa, routinely praised for his team’s approach this season, admitted he got his tactics wrong.
“We couldn’t pressure their build-up and we could not avoid their pressure when we were trying to build from the back,” he told BBC Sport.
“You could see it clearly, the opposing manager prepared the game better than I did.
“We did not manage to bring the ball from our half to their half.”
Without star midfielder Kalvin Phillips the visitors struggled to get on the ball, and have now conceded four goals or more for the fifth time since gaining promotion to the Premier League.
For all their attacking flair Leeds remain leaky at the back, with strugglers West Brom the only side to have conceded more goals in the league this season.
The result means Arsenal leapfrog Leeds to go 10th in the table, six points off the top four.
Leeds’ London woes – the stats
- Arsenal scored four (or more) goals at the Emirates for the first time in the Premier League this season, having last done so in a 4-0 win over Norwich in July of last season.
- Leeds have won just one of their last 24 away league games in London (D6 L17), losing all four such matches this season by an aggregate 14-4 score.
- Leeds remain without a win in nine meetings with Arsenal in all competitions (D2 L7), since a 3-2 victory in the Premier League at Highbury in May 2003.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his 199th, 200th and 201st goals in Europe’s big-five leagues in what was his 369th appearance. He is one of just nine players to score 200+ goals across the five divisions.
- Aubameyang was the third player in Premier League history to score a hat-trick on Valentine’s Day, after Matt le Tissier vs Liverpool in 1994 and Michael Owen vs Sheffield Wednesday in 1998.
Arsenal face Benfica in Athens in the Europa League on Thursday (20:00) while Leeds are in Premier League action, travelling to Wolves on Friday (20:00 GMT).
Player of the match
with an average of 8.06
Squad number14Player nameAubameyang
Squad number7Player nameSaka
Squad number32Player nameSmith Rowe
Squad number11Player nameØdegaard
Squad number2Player nameBellerín
Squad number8Player nameDani Ceballos
Squad number6Player nameGabriel Magalhães
Squad number1Player nameLeno
Squad number34Player nameXhaka
Squad number17Player nameCédric Soares
Squad number23Player nameDavid Luiz
Squad number16Player nameHolding
Squad number25Player nameMohamed Elneny
Squad number12Player nameWillian
Squad number18Player nameRaphinha
Squad number17Player nameHélder Costa
Squad number52Player nameHuggins
Squad number11Player nameRoberts
Squad number21Player nameStruijk
Squad number9Player nameBamford
Squad number15Player nameDallas
Squad number2Player nameAyling
Squad number6Player nameCooper
Squad number22Player nameHarrison
Squad number46Player nameShackleton
Squad number43Player nameKlich
Squad number10Player nameAlioski
Squad number1Player nameMeslier
- 23David Luiz
- 17Cédric Soares
- 8CeballosSubstituted forHoldingat 89′minutes
- 11ØdegaardSubstituted forElnenyat 78′minutes
- 32Smith RoweSubstituted forWillianat 62′minutes
- 10AlioskiSubstituted forHugginsat 53′minutes
- 21StruijkBooked at 70mins
- 15DallasBooked at 90mins
- 43KlichSubstituted forRobertsat 45′minutes
- 22HarrisonSubstituted forHélder Costaat 45′minutes
- 17Hélder Costa
Match ends, Arsenal 4, Leeds United 2.
Second Half ends, Arsenal 4, Leeds United 2.
Stuart Dallas (Leeds United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Stuart Dallas (Leeds United).
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Leeds United. Conceded by Cédric Soares.
Substitution, Arsenal. Rob Holding replaces Dani Ceballos.
Foul by Patrick Bamford (Leeds United).
Gabriel Magalhães (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Cédric Soares (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner.
Offside, Arsenal. Willian tries a through ball, but Bukayo Saka is caught offside.
Luke Ayling (Leeds United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal).
Foul by Tyler Roberts (Leeds United).
Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Arsenal. Mohamed Elneny replaces Martin Ødegaard.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Liam Cooper.
Attempt blocked. Martin Ødegaard (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Héctor Bellerín.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) hits the right post with a right footed shot from the centre of the box. Assisted by Granit Xhaka.
Luke Ayling (Leeds United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
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