Alexandre Lacazette has stressed the importance of Laurent Koscielny to Arsenal ahead of Wednesday’s Europa League final against Chelsea.
The 33-year-old has been the Gunners’ most authoritative defender since returning in December from a long-term Achilles injury, which had required surgery and caused him to miss out as France won the World Cup.
Amid fears surrounding the Arsenal skipper’s future, he has instead provided leadership and stability to a team that has long been vulnerable in defence.
Wednesday’s fixture will determine not only whether Arsenal win a major trophy this season, but also whether they play Champions League football next term.
And, as Arsenal prepare for the threats posed by Eden Hazard, Pedro and others, Lacazette knows how valuable Koscielny will be.
Discussing his compatriot, Lacazette said: “He worked all summer to come back quickly and when he came back he played four games in a row after a big injury. That is really hard.
“He has helped us all season to be better in defence. We all have a big respect for Laurent. A really big respect.
“I know it is a really good atmosphere to have the Champions League in your stadium, so I want to know it in the Emirates. We just have to win.”
For all of their reliance on Koscielny in defence, it is in the final third – where Lacazette combines so effectively with fellow striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – that Arsenal are among the strongest teams in Europe.
Chelsea, by comparison, are still waiting for on-loan striker Gonzalo Higuain to truly impress.
Lacazette hopes to line up alongside Aubameyang on Wednesday, but he accepts it is not a guarantee.
“Playing with Auba is always a pleasure for me,” he said. “The coach (Unai Emery) knows we want to play together, but of course he has to make a choice and we have to respect them.
“Even when I don’t play, the team is good and we play well, so I don’t think it’s just because of Auba and me.
“I am not jealous of anyone. I just want to win trophies, Auba as well. Of course it is always better to play together, but when one plays and the other stays on the bench, you just have to help the team.”
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