2019 UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE
GUNNING FOR GLORY
Alexandre Lacazette has been named Arsenal’s player of the season and he hopes to get his hands on one more trophy before the campaign is out
This article was first published in the 2019 UEFA Europa League Final Programme. Buy your programme here.
Alexandre, how do you look back on Arsenal’s Europa League campaign?
I think it was good even though, of course, we lost two away games against BATE Borisov and Rennes. Apart from that, I’ve think we’ve been good and consistent. We gained in confidence and we got stronger the further we got into the Europa League. The coach has known how to use the whole squad well and has given everyone playing time. Everyone has been involved and participated in this campaign throughout the season.
You mention the two defeats, but what other games have stood out for you?
The return leg against BATE. Even if we had only lost 1-0 in the first leg, we knew we had to get the job done at home. Then there was the first match against Napoli, and we were very good defensively away from home as well. Then, of course, Valencia, where we knew that it was double or nothing. That was the key moment. There was also the return leg against Rennes, having lost the first leg 3-1 in France, with that great atmosphere. But as a group we were confident coming back from Rennes, and that showed on the pitch.
Let’s move on to your relationship with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. You seem to have very good chemistry on the pitch.
Yes, we’ve played more together towards the end of the competition. The coach rotated us both at the start, so we played with other players. Of course, we get on very well. We speak the same language, both on and off the pitch, so that helps.
Have you had to work at that partnership?
It’s natural. You always have to work in training. We talk a lot before matches, depending on the opponents, about what each one of us can expect from the other to take the club to the top. Off the pitch it’s been very natural. When he arrived, by the end of the second day, we were having a laugh together. We quickly struck up a rapport, but it’s very easy to get on with him because he likes having a laugh, like me. We share the same values in life so it’s been pretty easy.
How would you judge Unai Emery’s first season as Arsenal coach?
I think he’s had a good season. It was hard for him because he needed to learn about the Premier League and English football. That was new to him. He didn’t have much experience with a team like that. He was able to learn what it means to play and coach in England. I think it’s gone pretty well.
What do you find most striking about him?
He’s always positive, maybe sometimes a bit too much in my opinion! Yes, he’s very positive. You can see that he loves working with the squad and that he gets a lot out of training and coaching his players every day. Every detail is important to him because he knows how to get to the next level.
People say that he has incredible attention to detail. Do you share that view?
I do. Each time we come to do some video work, everything is ready, he knows exactly what’s going to happen on the video. You can see that he’s prepared everything really well. He knows every team, not necessarily inside out, but definitely very well. He knows their strengths and weaknesses, and that makes it much easier going into games.
ALL WE WANT IS TO WIN. WHETHER OUR OPPONENTS ARE FROM ENGLAND OR ELSEWHERE, IT'S ALL THE SAME
How does it feel to have reached the final against Chelsea?
It feels good, it’s a relief. They say that bad things come in threes [defeats], so I was a bit worried about that, but it all went well over in Valencia and I’m happy now to be looking ahead to this final. Chelsea are a very good team, strong tactically, both in defence and in attack. They’ve had their ups and downs this season, as is the case with most ‘normal’ teams, but they deserve to be in the final, and finals are always difficult, so we’ll see how it goes.
Does it add something extra to be playing against another English team?
No, not particularly; it would be exactly the same if it was a German team. From my point of view, all we want is to win and to get our hands on the trophy, so whether our opponents are from England or elsewhere, it’s all the same.
If we asked you to imagine what it would be like to win, is that something you’d rather not think about?
No, of course we’re thinking about it. We’re so close to winning that we can’t not think about it. A European trophy is always special as a player, but it would be a mistake to think we’ve won before the game has even been played.
Finally, if selected, this will be Petr Čech’s last game in football. Have you enjoyed playing with him at Arsenal?
Yes. Even though he’s getting old, you can still see that he’s got plenty of talent. He’s been very useful this season in terms of allowing us to hold on to our lead or getting points. Petr has been important.
Alexandre Lacazette celebrates one of Arsenal's four goals in the semi-final second leg