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Mikel Arteta hails ‘strong’ Alexandre Lacazette as Arsenal cruise into semis

Sheffield United v Arsenal – Premier League – Bramall Lane
(Image credit: Laurence Griffiths)

Mikel Arteta praised Alexandre Lacazette’s personality as the Arsenal striker hit a brace to help the Gunners into the Europa League semi-finals.

Lacazette was guilty of missing two clear chances during the quarter-final first-leg tie with Slavia Prague, which finished 1-1 at the Emirates Stadium just over a week ago.

But he captained Arsenal to a fine 4-0 win in the return leg on Thursday evening, scoring from the penalty spot and wrapping up the win in the second half to take his tally to seven goals in his last nine games.

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Nicolas Pepe opened the scoring in Prague with Bukayo Saka also finding the back of the net as Arsenal struck three goals in rapid succession to kill off the tie.

But it was Lacazette, who also scored twice in Sunday’s Premier League win over Sheffield United, who was singled out by Arteta.

“It shows the personality that Laca has,” he replied when asked about the France striker’s response to his misses in the first leg.

“He missed two big chances in the home game and then you have to see a reaction. That reaction could be with some fear, some doubt or feeling a little bit guilty.

“Or the other one is to have a strong personality and to react, to say, ‘Now I’m going to put them in the back of the net’.

“He’s done that in two games consecutively, being really, really efficient. Then his momentum continues, the form that he’s in continues and it’s really important for the team.”

Lacazette reached 50 Premier League goals for Arsenal when he hit his second against the Blades – but Arteta feels there is still more to come from the former Lyon man.

“In key moments and in big matches, you need players – and senior players who have this experience – to make the difference for you,” he said.

“For me, in his style and in his development, even if he’s soon turning 30 years old, he’s on the right path because he’s very willing to learn.

“He’s doing things in a much better way than before. He really glues the team together and that’s a quality that is not easy for a striker. He’s got it.”

Mikel Arteta and Alexandre Lacazette

Mikel Arteta wants Alexandre Lacazette to maintain momentum (Naomi Baker/PA)

With fellow forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sidelined after contracting malaria during the recent international break, Lacazette is likely to lead the line when Fulham visit the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Scott Parker’s side are fighting for Premier League survival but – despite a Europa League semi-final clash against Villarreal and former Arsenal head coach Unai Emery on the horizon – Arteta wants his own players to keep the momentum up.

“I think the better we are in the league, and if we keep winning, the confidence will be higher, the spirit will be better, the players’ individual performances will maintain and that will have a knock-on effect on the Europa League, for sure,” added the Spaniard.

“The priority now is Sunday, forget about the semi-finals, we now have two big games to play at home and we have to do our best to win them because if we do, the season will start to look a little bit different.”

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