(Reuters) – Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang says the club have learnt form last season’s mistakes in the Europa League after his hat-trick against Valencia sealed their progress to the final of the competition on Thursday.
A 4-2 win at the Mestalla gave Arsenal a convincing 7-3 aggregate victory over Valencia to take the London side to their first European final since 2006. They will face Chelsea in an all-English affair in Baku on May 29.
Aubameyang, who signed for Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in January last year, was ineligible for the Europa League last season when the Gunners fell at the semi-finals to eventual champions Atletico Madrid, failing to take advantage of a red card in the first leg and losing 2-1 on aggregate.
“We are through to the final and we are all happy,” Aubameyang told Arsenal’s website. “It meant a lot. I think we’ve learnt from last season and this year we didn’t make the same mistakes.”
It was Aubameyang’s first hat-trick for the club and Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal praised him and his strike partner Alexandre Lacazette, who provided the assist for the first goal and also got on the score sheet in the second half.
“We needed him and we needed Laca,” Monreal said. “We’re so proud of him because he’s scored three goals in a semi-final.
“He’s helped us a lot but it’s not only him, it’s every player. He scored a hat-trick, so we are all really happy for him.”
Lacazette said Arsenal had to push on now and win the trophy to qualify for the Champions League next season with a top four spot and automatic qualification nearly out of reach after they picked up only four points from their last six games.
The north London club, who are fifth in the Premier League, require a win, an unlikely eight-goal swing and for fourth-placed Tottenham to lose on the final day to finish in the top four.
“We want to play in the Champions League and we want to win this trophy,” Lacazette said. “We’ve played badly in the last month in the Premier League, so we have to be better now.
“We’re going to the final, so we have to use this opportunity to win and go to the Champions League.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)