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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Fit-again Alexandre Lacazette eyes Europa League title as Arsenal close in on semi-final spot

After scoring twice in first leg of quarter-final against CSKA Moscow, Frenchman determined to carry on good work

Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette, right, had been laid low by injury in recent times. Andy Rain / EPA
Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette, right, had been laid low by injury in recent times. Andy Rain / EPA

Alexandre Lacazette is ready to show Arsenal supporters what they have been missing as he dreams of lifting the Europa League in his former home of Lyon.

The 26-year-old striker scored a double in Arsenal's comfortable 4-1 quarter-final first-leg win over CSKA Moscow on Thursday night.

With Aaron Ramsey also weighing in with a couple of goals, the Gunners seem on course to secure a last-four spot when they travel to Russia for the return leg next week.

Lacazette was making his first start since January following minor surgery on a niggling knee problem which, on the eve of the CSKA clash, manager Arsene Wenger conceded had played a part in the forward's slow start to life in England.

Signed for a then-club record fee last summer, Lacazette hit nine goals in 29 appearances before going under the knife in February.

He has already struck three times since returning off the bench in the Premier League win over Stoke City last weekend and is now setting his sights on showing his best form for Arsenal.

Asked if fans had seen the best of him, Lacazette replied: "Not yet, because I know I can do more.

"I need more time because it is really different than with Lyon. The surgery is in my past so now I can play 100 per cent and I am happy.

"A few times before the surgery I felt pain and after I decided with the medical staff it was the best solution and now I don't regret it.

"It is really frustrating because I love football and I want to play, my team-mates and the coach believes in me and when you are not as good as you want to be it is difficult."

With Arsenal 13 points adrift of the Premier League top-four, winning the Europa League now presents the only realistic possibility of the club securing a return to the Uefa Champions League.

It would also hold extra significance for Lacazette, with the final taking place at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais on May 16.

Lacazette scored plenty of goals there during his final year and a half as Lyon's star player and concedes it would be a great story to return there and fire Arsenal to victory.

"Yes, that is why I want to go to the final and win," he said when asked if having the final in Lyon would be extra special to him.

"But there are some games before the final and we need to perform like tonight. It would maybe be the best day in my life so that is why I want."

Lacazette's inauspicious start to life at the Emirates Stadium, coupled with Arsenal breaking their record transfer fee to sign fellow striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January, saw questions raised over his long-term career prospects with the club.

But after Aubameyang unselfishly passed up the chance of a hat-trick against Stoke to allow Lacazette to score a late penalty and mark his comeback with a goal, the France international believes the pair can operate in the same team.

"Auba is a nice guy," Lacazette added.

"After the first penalty against Stoke he told me, "If there is another one I will give you the ball" so it was nice from him.

"I think we can play together like Sunday but the coach will decide and we need to respect the decision, but I like how Pierre plays and I think we can be good together."

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Arsene Wenger can still have a fond farewell from Arsenal with Europa League success

Past all-English ties in Champions League: Garcia goal, Terry penalty, Ronaldo heroics

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