Alexandre Lacazette has said memories of the anguish he felt on the long flight home from last season’s Europa League final will spur him on for a rematch against Chelsea that could, he believes, salvage the toughest campaign of his career.
Arsenal were hammered in Baku and the consequences, not least the continued absence of Champions League football, were severe. Their players spent six hours in the air and Lacazette wants them to remember that sense of desolation.
“Nobody was really talking,” he said. “It was a long flight, really silent. Maybe the worst flight I have ever had. But when you lose a final it is really hard to talk with someone or laugh. Hopefully the ones who played will not forget the final last season. Everybody has to find their own motivation for this game.”
At Wembley, Arsenal will fight for a place in the Europa League. It would make their worst top-flight finish in 25 years taste better and Lacazette, who said victory would “save our season”, expects it could have a fundamental impact on Mikel Arteta’s plans.
“[Playing in Europe would] bring money to the club. Players who have a lot of ambition want to play in Europe and I think it will be easier to sign new players, and to keep all the players in the group.”
Lacazette’s close friend Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the star player whose future appears most at risk although Arteta has expressed confidence the forward will sign a new deal. Beyond agreeing it is “obvious Arsenal should keep him,” Lacazette could not offer any update on Aubameyang’s intentions.
Lacazette himself has endured a patchy season, scoring 12 times while struggling with an ankle injury early on and, later, being dropped for Eddie Nketiah. He referred questions about the latter situation to Arteta.
“It was a difficult season, maybe the most difficult of my career,” Lacazette said. “When we talk about statistics it is not the best one. But it’s still only one season and I know next season is going to be totally different.”