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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Alexandre Lacazette proves a point to Unai Emery as Arsenal win Cardiff thriller

Frenchman assisted for strike partner Augbameyang before firing in winner nine minutes from time

Alexandre Lacazette celebrates after scoring Arsenal's winner against Cardiff City at Cardiff City Stadium. AFP
Alexandre LacazetteĀ celebrates after scoring Arsenal's winner against Cardiff City at Cardiff City Stadium. AFP

Alexandre Lacazette fired manager Unai Emery an emphatic reminder he is worthy of a starting place at Arsenal, combining to set up strike partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for his side's second goal before firing in the winning goal in a thrilling 3-2 victory against Cardiff City.

Lacazette has been reduced to a bit-part role under his new manager, who has preferred Aubameyang as a lone striker in Arsenal's opening three Premier League matches.

However, the Spaniard will be hard pressed to leave out the Frenchman when the league resumes in two weeks' time after the international break following a scintillating display that saw him rifle in the winning goal after Cardiff twice pegged back their visitors.

"For me, it was important to start well," Lacazette told Sky Sports. "I wanted to prove to the coach that I can be in the first 11, I think I did that and I'm happy."

And prove he did. Lacazette was a constant menace to the Cardiff defence, taking advantage of a moment's lapse in concentration by Sol Bamba nine minutes from time to score with a right-foot missile that left Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge with no chance at his near post.

Despite a second successive win following last week's 3-1 victory over West Ham United, the surrender of infinitely preventable goals will give Emery plenty to ponder.

Chief among the Spaniard's concerns will also be the continued struggles of goalkeeper Petr Cech to deal with the Spanish manager's commitment to build from the back.

Twice in the opening eight minutes Cech made a mess of dealing with back-passes and, on the second occasion, Harry Arter fired over when he should have opened the scoring.

Cardiff goalscorer Danny Ward said there was a concerted effort to put pressure on the giant Czech.

"There were a few moments, we knew if we put pressure on him, he might make a few mistakes," said Ward, who after a career spent playing in the second and third tiers of English football will take heart from opening his Premier League account even in a losing effort.

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, making an "emotional" return to the club he left to join the Gunners 10 years ago, said adapting to the new manager's tactics was a learning process.

"We know it is a process and every game we improve that little bit and get stronger and stronger," said the Welshman.

"Hopefully can come back from International break and really kick on."

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Arsenal started the brighter of the two sides and were worthy of a lead on 12 minutes. Shkodran Mustafi out-jumped everyone to power home a header from Xhaka's cross and, in the second half, only a save from Etheridge prevented a carbon copy goal.

Victor Camarasa equalised in first-half stoppage-time as Emery received another intensive lesson in the strengths and weaknesses in his squad, not least the tendency to hit the self-destruct button. Xhaka's poor pass was intercepted, Nacho Monreal failed to execute a simple interception from Joe Bennett's cross and Camarasa spun to find the roof of the Arsenal net.

More defensive weakness on 70 minutes allowed Ward to head home unmarked off the base of the woodwork after Aubameyang had restored Arsenal's lead six minutes earlier, bending a superb shot past Etheridge after being teed up by Lacazette and Mesut Ozil in the build up.

Yet it was ultimately an afternoon of success for Emery, who saw the Gunners' persistence rewarded with Lacazette's emphatic strike nine minutes from full time.

Still there was time for Sean Morrison to head a superb chance just over for Cardiff as Arsenal did their best to give away the lead for a third time, leaving their manager with much to reflect on during the international break.

"It shows we can compete at this level, score goals and put teams under pressure, but we need to make sure we take points away from these games," Ward said.

"We knew they'd have a lot of possession but we set up well and dealt with it for the majority of the game. Unfortunately, we didn't take our chances."