Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has said he used to lie to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang about when meetings were held at Borussia Dortmund to help with his timekeeping, and questioned how the Arsenal striker kept his driving licence during their time together in Germany.
Tuchel joined Dortmund in 2015 where he managed Aubameyang for two years and together they won the DFB-Pokal in 2017 with the forward also topping the Bundesliga goal-scoring charts.
Aubameyang has largely continued that prolific form since moving to the Gunners in January 2018, although his form has dipped during the current campaign, which has been complicated by off-field problems including being dropped for March’s north London derby win over Tottenham Hotspur having reported late to the training ground before the match.
Ahead of their reunion on Wednesday when Arsenal visit Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, Tuchel was full of praise for Aubameyang but suggested this was far from the first time the 31-year-old had issues with punctuality.
“That’s not his strength, to be absolutely on time,” Tuchel said. “He was pretty much the only one so when we wanted him to be on time, we just told him the meeting was 10.45 a.m. [when] the meeting was 11:00 a.m.. Then we had a good chance he is there with everybody else!
“And you could hear him, you could hear the car from far. In the last kilometre, you could always hear [the car’s engine], we could prepare everything and start the video because he will soon arrive!
“I don’t know and I still don’t know how he managed to keep his driving licence throughout the two years in his pocket because from the sound of the car I don’t know if he was always on the speed limit and he was always on the last minute!
“That’s him. It is hard to be really mad at the guy because he comes with a big smile, he opens his heart, he gives his excuse to everybody and OK, we could accept to have one or two guys like this in a team.
“It is not the biggest problem. At the same time, don’t forget he was a top, top professional. I don’t think he missed any training session, he never sneaked off the training pitch one minute too early. The opposite. When he was dressed, he was ready. It was nice to have him.”
Tuchel attitude is markedly different to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta’s reaction to Aubameyang’s poor timekeeping, dropping him from Arsenal’s starting line-up for what was determined a “breach of pre-match protocols.”
Aubameyang’s relationship with Arteta has appeared strained during a difficult season in which his mother fell ill and he has battled malaria but by contrast, Tuchel claims he still feels a strong bond with the Gabon international.
“It was a pleasure to work with him, always a smile on his face, a very, very honest guy, bit of a crazy guy but this is nice crazy,” he added. “We still are in touch from time to time and exchange messages when some of us has a big win. He will still in some way always be my player.
“You want them to succeed and have a good time wherever they are. This contact never fully stopped and it is nice to see him because he is always on for a hug and it is nice to hug and see him laugh.
“He is a winner. We won the cup together in Dortmund and I never had the feeling that he lacks the certain edge of mentality that you need when you want to win stuff. But clearly he cannot do it alone and he also needs a top squad to play in and to compete for the highest level. But I can just say my experiences with Auba for two years, you could push him to the limit and he was always up for the challenge.”