Lethal Lacazette! Arsenal's Champions League level attack leading Gunners back to the promised land

Comments()
Getty Images
The France international striker scored twice before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added a crucial third against Valencia on Thursday evening

If Arsenal are to qualify for the Champions League next season then they will have Alexandre Lacazette to thank for it.

The former Lyon striker has shown all season long that he deserves to be among Europe’s elite, and on Thursday he moved the Gunners a step closer to regaining their place in football’s promised land.

It was Lacazette who scored the crucial away goal against Napoli to put the quarter-final to bed, and now his vital first-half double has ensured Unai Emery’s side will travel to Spain next week with a lead to protect from the first leg of their semi-final with Valencia.

There is still a long way to go for Arsenal before they can start booking their travel to Baku for the final, but had it not been for Lacazette then this tie could have already been over.

Emery’s side - who went into the game on the back of three straight defeats in the Premier League - looked a team totally void of confidence early on.

They fell behind after just 11 minutes when Mouctar Diakhaby headed home from point blank range and were fortunate not to fall further adrift. with the defence looking as shaky as always.

The danger signs were there for all to see, but then Lacazette stepped up when needed him most - not for the first time this season.

Two goals in seven minutes turned the tie on its head and ensured Arsenal can continue to dream of returning to the Champions League for the first time since 2016.

And that’s where Lacazette belongs. This was the third season in a row that he has scored at the semi-final stage of the Europa League.

He did it for Lyon against Ajax in 2017, for Arsenal against Atletico Madrid in 2018 and now against Valencia in 2019. It’s time he got the chance to perform on Europe’s top stage again.

His brace took his tally for the season to 18 in all competitions while he has also chipped in with 10 assists. His strike partner meanwhile, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, has 25 goals and seven assists - with the Gabon’s international’s latest goal coming in the 90th minute here to complete the 3-1 win.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Arsenal 2018-19

There is no doubt that Emery has a Champions League worthy attack; unfortunately the rest of the team does not quite match up.

Arsenal rely on their £100 million strike force so much, something that is indicated by the fact that the closest player to them in terms of goal contribution this season is Aaron Ramsey (13), who has scored six and set up seven.

Article continues below

With the Wales international sidelined for the remainder of the season with a hamstring injury, it’s going to come down to Lacazette and Aubameyang to get the goals Arsenal need to bring Champions League football back to the red side of north London.

They still have work to do in this tie, and for all Lacazette’s fine finishing in the first half, he did waste two excellent chances to extend the home side’s advantage after the interval.

But Aubameyang’s crucial volley right at the death, moments after Neto had denied Lacazette a hat-trick, means that the Gunners will head to the Mestalla firmly in control of a tie that had looked like getting away from them early on.

Close