Arsenal paired with Atletico

Danny Welbeck scoring Arsenal's first goal against CSKA in Moscow on Thursday. They drew 2-2 but Arsenal went through to the semis 6-3 on aggregate.
Danny Welbeck scoring Arsenal's first goal against CSKA in Moscow on Thursday. They drew 2-2 but Arsenal went through to the semis 6-3 on aggregate.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Alexandre Lacazette believes that winning the Europa League will "save" Arsenal's season and lead to manager Arsene Wenger staying on for another year, amid increasing speculation that the Frenchman could leave the Emirates at the end of this term.

Arsenal survived a scare to come from two goals down to draw 2-2 at CSKA Moscow in the second leg on Thursday, going through 6-3 on aggregate, only to be handed, arguably, the toughest semi-final draw - Atletico Madrid. Marseille will play RB Salzburg, with the first leg on April 26 and the return on May 3.

Fedor Chalov and Kirill Nababkin scored for CSKA to set Arsenal nerves jangling in the Russian capital, but Danny Welbeck pulled one back before Aaron Ramsey levelled the scores in stoppage time to keep alive their hopes of a first European trophy since 1994.

Salzburg and Marseille earned their places in the last four when they did what CSKA could not - mount a comeback. Lazio capitulated, conceding three times in five second-half minutes to lose 4-1 and 6-5 on aggregate as Salzburg became the first Austrian side to reach a European semi-final since 1996.

Marseille staged a thrilling fightback to see off RB Leipzig 5-2 at home for a 5-3 aggregate victory, while Atletico Madrid also squeaked through 2-1 on aggregate despite losing 0-1 away to Sporting Lisbon.

The Europa League remains Arsenal's salvation this term as it is their only chance of winning silverware, and also because it is their only chance of qualifying for the Champions League given their poor domestic form.

Asked about the significance of the Europa League and Wenger's own future, Lacazette replied: "It will save our season... It can be the way to keep the manager because he did so much good for the club."

With the final taking place in his hometown of Lyon, the France striker has extra motivation to get through the last four. "I really want to be in the final to play in front of my family and friends," he said. "I came to Arsenal because I want to win trophies."

Goalkeeper Petr Cech admitted that the Gunners are under pressure to deliver Europa League success because of the prize that is on offer.

"You play... for a cup the club has never won," he added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2018, with the headline 'Arsenal paired with Atletico'. Print Edition | Subscribe