Petr Cech has called on his Arsenal team-mates to overcome their disappointment following Sunday’s draw with Brighton and secure their place in the Europa League final this week.
The Gunners were held at home by struggling Brighton, meaning their hopes of a top-four Premier League finish are now all-but over with one game of the domestic season remaining.
Unai Emery’s side could not take advantage of rivals Tottenham losing to Bournemouth on Saturday as they could only draw 1-1 with the Seagulls.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s contentious penalty was cancelled out by Glenn Murray’s second-half spot-kick to leave Arsenal three points behind fourth-placed Spurs heading into the final round of fixtures.
Cech was honoured on the pitch after the game, Arsenal’s last at the Emirates Stadium this season, as he will retire at the end of the campaign.
The 36-year-old joined from London rivals Chelsea in 2015, having won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, the Champions League and Europa League at Stamford Bridge.
Although he has been replaced by Bernd Leno as Emery’s first-choice goalkeeper, Cech has been playing in the Europa League and is expected to start the second leg of their semi-final clash with Valencia on Thursday night.
Having won the first leg 3-1, Cech is now targeting a trip to Baku on May 29 to lift one more piece of silverware before hanging up his boots – with an emotional meeting with former club Chelsea in the final still a possibility.
“I wish that we could have won the (Brighton) game and finished the season at home on a high,” he told Arsenal Player.
“We put ourselves in a good position to play until the last game of the season for a chance of the Champions League, but obviously we didn’t manage to do that, so it’s mixed feelings for me.
“I’m sad on one side because my journey here is over, but we still have hopefully three weeks to go until Baku. We need to pick ourselves up and get ready for Thursday because this is most important.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) May 2, 2019
“I have to say I’m very grateful to everyone because I came from a rival club and everyone accepted me.
“I’ve always believed that if you work for the team and work hard, then you’ll give everything for the shirt. Hopefully I’ve done that.
“I have to say that I hope my last game will be in Baku. That would be the best thing.
“I want to progress to the final and lift one last trophy. I think everybody at Arsenal deserves that, so I hope we can make it.”
Danny Welbeck, who will be released when his contract expires this summer, and Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey were also given a guard of honour and presented with a memento by Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick.
But on the pitch, Emery’s side struggled to break down Brighton and were jeered off at full-time having now won only one of their last six league games.
The visitors were celebrating their own survival following Cardiff’s defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday and took a deserved point home from north London.
Brighton’s final game of the season sees them host title-chasing Manchester City – with goalkeeper Mat Ryan hoping to have a say in the battle for the trophy.
💬 “It’s nice to get a bit of icing on the cake with that result for our fans that turned up, and hopefully we can give them a good send off for the off-season come Sunday.”#BHAFC 💚
— Brighton & Hove Albion ⚽️ (@OfficialBHAFC) May 6, 2019
“We’ve got our home fans there, and we want to make them proud one last time this season,” he told the club’s official website.
“What better way to do it then beat a title contender and effect history? If we’re able to get a draw or win and have a massive say in who wins the title, then that would be the icing on the cake for the season.”