Alexandre Lacazette believes Arsenal’s decision to appoint Unai Emery has been justified after the club reached its first European final in 13 years.
Having missed out at the semi-final stage of the Europa League last season when they were knocked out by eventual winners Atletico Madrid, the Gunners started an exhaustive process selecting a successor to Arsene Wenger.
In the end they turned to Emery, who had just left Paris Saint-Germain, and the Spaniard has gone on to lead Arsenal to the final in his first season in charge of the club.
He has now won 19 successive knock-out ties in the competition and should Arsenal go on to beat Chelsea in the final in Baku on May 29, Emery would have won the Europa League in each of the last four seasons he has taken part in it - following three wins in a row during his time at Sevilla.
It’s an exceptional record and, speaking after Arsenal beat Valencia 4-2 at the Mestalla on Thursday night to seal a 7-3 semi-final aggregate victory - Lacazette was quick to pay tribute to the work Emery has done.
"That’s why the club got the coach," said the France striker. "To go to the next step and he did because we go into the final in his first season.
"I hope it is going to be great final and we will prepare for this."
Having seen their hopes of a top-four finish all but disappear following a disastrous run of results in the Premier League which has seen them win just once in their last six games, Arsenal went to the Mestalla with their season on a knife-edge.
A 3-1 lead from the first leg gave them a cushion to protect, but when Valencia scored inside 11 minutes the prospect of a second successive semi-final exit in the Europa League seemed a very real one.
But - as has been the case throughout the knockout stages of the competition - Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stepped up to haul Emery’s team over the line.
Lacazette’s 19th goal of the season, combined with a stunning Aubameyang hat-trick sealed a comfortable 4-2 success to set up a final with Chelsea and leave Arsenal just 90 minutes away from a first European trophy for 25 years and a return to the Champions League.
"We’re really happy, really proud," said Lacazette. "We know in the Premier League we’ve played really badly in the last month so we knew it was a great opportunity to hope to go to the Champions League.
"But it is as well about a trophy. The club needs to win trophies and the players as well.
"We knew in this stadium it was going to be hard because there is a big atmosphere and they were gong to push us.
"We conceded the first goal but we showed character, we showed we can control the game even if we are 1-0 down."
The France striker added: "We want to play Champions League. The Champions League is a big competition.
"Last season we lost at the semi-final stage. This season we wanted to be better and that’s what we did."