Arsenal players believe winning Europa League is key to Arsene Wenger staying on
Alexandre Lacazette has suggested that there is a feeling within Arsenal’s squad that winning the Europa League could keep Arsène Wenger as manager until at least the end of his contract next year.
Wenger noticeably ignored a pre-match question about whether he would go on if Arsenal do not win the competition and, with CSKA Moscow very close at one stage last night to overhauling a three-goal deficit, there was also sense that the future of the club’s longest-serving manager was on the line.
Arsenal have always either finished in the top four or won a trophy in each of Wenger’s 21 completed seasons but, with the club 13 points off Tottenham in the Premier League, that record will come to an end if they do not triumph in Europe.
Asked about Wenger and the Europa League, Lacazette said: “It can be the way to keep the manager because he did so much good for the club. It will save our season because in the Premier League we are not doing well."
Atlético Madrid, RB Salzburg and Marseille will also join Arsenal in Friday’s semi-final draw, with Lacazette especially determined to play in a potential final in his own home city of Lyon.
"I really want to be in the final to play in front of my family and friends but it’s not only that - I came to Arsenal because I want to win trophies,” said Lacazette.
Despite Arsenal’s big wobble in Moscow - Wenger admitted that the the team were “not at the races” in falling 2-0 behind - goalkeeper Petr Cech felt that their response in the last 20 minutes showed some encouraging qualities.
The match changed when Arsenal went to five at the back and then Danny Welbeck scored a crucial away goal, before Aaron Ramsey’s late equaliser ensured a 2-2 scoreline that told little of the scare that had been endured. Arsenal have now won six and drawn one of their last seven matches.
“The first goal changed everything because they started feeling they had an outside chance to come back,” said Cech. “The best part of our game was after we conceded for 2-0. I thought we showed a lot of maturity in the last 20 minutes because we were under a lot of pressure but we played our best part of the game.
“We put ourselves in a very bad position and we actually found our way with a good calmness and I really like that. We found our feet and deserved to score at the end.”
Cech acknowledged that winning the Europa League would save the season and, despite the worst Premier League season campaign Wenger, said that it would show a progression following last year’s FA Cup win. Arsenal have not reached a European final since the 2006 Champions League, when they were beaten 2-1 by Barcelona.
“There is a big responsibility for everyone because we know with the position we are in the league,” said Cech. “Someone would have to have a big meltdown in the last seven games to give us a chance to sneak into the top four. We know this is our chance to book our Champions League spot but, not only that, you play a European competition for a cup and for a cup the club has never won. This is another opportunity to add a great trophy to the cabinet.
“You need to keep the progression. You keep that not only on the pitch but by winning things. A club of Arsenal’s size and history belongs in the Champions League.”