The striker is back in harness after recovering from malaria.
Arsenal skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave manager Mikel Arteta food for thought after scoring on his return to the team ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League semi-final shoot-out with Villarreal.
Aubameyang managed just five minutes as a substitute in the first-leg defeat by the Spaniards after recovering from malaria, but he got 77 minutes under his belt and found the back of the net in Sunday’s 2-0 Premier League win at Newcastle to signal his readiness to play a part in the second leg.
Asked if he had played his way into contention, Arteta said: “We thought he wasn’t going to manage that. On Thursday, the day before, he was really struggling, to be fair, he could only manage to play 10 or 15 minutes.
“But the day after and the day after, he started to feel better and it’s good to see that he was fine today. He performed well and he scored a goal, so it’s a real boost.”
However, Arteta’s satisfaction at his captain’s contribution was tempered by the loss of defender David Luiz, who limped off a St James’ Park with a hamstring problem.
Arteta said: “He felt something in his hamstring, so it’s not good news. He’s put in such a shift to be back with the team for the last few weeks after the knee surgery and it’s a real shame.”
With Kieran Tierney and Alexandre Lacazette yet to train with their team-mates after knee and hamstring injuries respectively and unlikely to be available on Thursday as a result, Luiz’s loss would represent a further blow.
Arteta was able to console himself with a commanding display on Tyneside as the Gunners eased to a 17th win in 18 attempts against the Magpies in all competitions.
They took an early led trough Mohamed Elneny’s first Premier League goal and never looked back, although they had to wait until the 66th minute to wrap up a routine victory when Aubameyang rounded off a superbly-crafted move by dispatching Gabriel Martinelli’s cross at the far post.
Arteta said: “Apart from David’s injury, that’s all we wanted. We wanted to keep the team fresh, players with the right attitude to play this game and being able to focus just on today.
“We had a really strong performance from the beginning. We dominated the game and we got the three points which we needed. It helps for Thursday as well.”
Newcastle’s afternoon took a further turn for the worse in the final minute of normal time when defender Fabian Schar, who had joined the fray as a 72nd-minute substitute, was sent off for a late challenge on Martinelli, harshly in the opinion of head coach Steve Bruce.
He said: “I still think it was harsh because I was not a real reckless challenge, as far as I’m concerned.”
On the defeat, Bruce added: “The disappointment for me today is that we could have gone 13th in the table and we’ve missed that opportunity. I say missed the opportunity, we had to play well to beat Arsenal and unfortunately we didn’t play well enough.”