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Sunday 24 September 2017

Petr Cech denies Arsenal lack leaders after reaching FA Cup final

Petr Cech's Arsenal beat Manchester City 2-1 after extra-time on Sunday.
Petr Cech's Arsenal beat Manchester City 2-1 after extra-time on Sunday.

Petr Cech believes Arsenal have disproved accusations they lack leaders by beating Manchester City and reaching the FA Cup final.

But Cech has warned his team-mates winning the FA Cup for a third time in four years would still not excuse them failing to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Arsenal will face Chelsea in the final at Wembley on May 27 after goals from Nacho Monreal and Alexis Sanchez sealed a 2-1 win in extra-time against City, who had earlier led through Sergio Aguero.

City were dominant for the best part of an hour at the national stadium but the Gunners, rejuvenated in their new 3-4-3 formation, provided a rare display of grit and determination.

They are not qualities often associated with this Arsenal team but Cech says criticism of the players' mentality has been unfair.

"I think it's easy to hide behind 'oh they lack leaders but they have leaders'. You need to see behind the scenes how well the team works and how we operate," Cech said.

"Sometimes you have periods of games where you prepare and do the right things but the game starts and it goes completely wrong.

"We had a difficult period where the team was losing games it should have not lost and obviously you come to the situation where you play under pressure and need to find a way out.

"Sometimes you find a way out quickly and sometimes it takes a bit of time."

The victory on Sunday means Arsenal have registered back-to-back wins for the first time since January, following a miserable run of form in the league.

They sit seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, albeit with a game in hand, and are still to play Tottenham, Manchester United and Everton during the run-in.

Arsenal's chances of qualifying for the Champions League qualification therefore appear slim and Cech insists even winning the FA Cup would not diminish the disappointment of missing out.

"The FA Cup is at the end of the season so there will be a lot of conditions before we play the final," Cech said.

"Our target is to finish as high as possible. At the moment we have games in hand but the situation in the league is a bit complicated for us.

"We will be able only to judge and measure at the end of the season. Then we'll see for the final because if you don't qualify for the Champions League it will be a big loss and a big disappointment."

Arsenal host a resurgent Leicester on Wednesday before travelling to White Hart Lane for a crunch north London derby on Sunday. There is little margin for error.

"I think we're going to be under pressure in every game now because of the position we're in in the league," Cech said.

"There is no other option than we need to keep getting three points in every game to hope we can get automatic qualification for the Champions League for next season."

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