Arsenal Aim For Last Eight

Preview of this evening’s early Europa League first leg in Rennes

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Petr Cech from his time at Rennes

The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Europa League round of 16 first leg match away to Rennes.

Rotation, rotation, rotation
The one thing that I think we can agree on is that Unai Emery probably doesn’t have an established first choice eleven (although you might think Mesut Ozil isn’t in it). With the games coming thick and fast at present, there’s little doubt we will see changes from the eleven that began against Spurs last Saturday lunchtime. I expect to see players such as Ainsley Maitland-Niles return to the starting eleven, as Emery uses the match partly to address match fitness issues. I can’t see Mesut Ozil starting at the weekend against Manchester United, so imagine he will be on from the start in both legs of the tie against Rennes. Lucas Torreira is another obvious selection, given he won’t be available again in the Premier League until… wait for it… Monday 15th April. Petr Cech will be in goal at the club where he spent two seasons before moving to Chelsea, so it’s kind of fitting that he plays there in his farewell season.


Interesting to see Arsenal give Tottenham the lion’s share of the possession at the weekend, a tactic that I think most observers feel worked pretty well. The Gunners should have won that match and the only visiting fans that would have felt any compensation from the late missed penalty would have been those using a Ladbrokes promo code to back the draw. When one remembers the Tottenham penalty should never have been awarded due to an obvious offside, the defending was a notch up from what we have seen most of this season. Key to this was a back four that focused principally on defending. The two full backs did make occasional forays upfield, but there wasn’t the normal gung-ho about the play. It’s likely the personnel will be changed, especially at full back, with Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac coming in. Both are naturally more attacking players. Given this is the first leg of a European tie and away from home, I’d like to see the same kind of caution we saw against Spurs. Give me a 1-0 win now and I’d settle for it.

Kudos to the travelling fans
It’s a shocker that UEFA initially publicized this tie as being played on 14th March with the leg at the Emirates happening this evening. A large number of fans would have booked to be in Rennes next Thursday before the change of decision. Not only that, but with Manchester United playing in Paris last night, the Eurostar option would have been more expensive for anyone wanting to travel the day before the game. Ferries to St Malo were another option although their frequency doesn’t tie in easily with a Thursday evening match. The club have laid on a very fairly priced £70 coach return that goes via Calais. It left last night from the stadium at 8pm and will return on Friday morning. Those on board will have to decant from the coach on the ferry in the middle of the night both ways, meaning sleeping through is not going to happen. These guys are going to be like death warmed up by the time they get home so fair play to them for making the journey. I hope the players recognize this at the end of the game.

Auba gets the chance to find his scoring touch
With Alex Lacazette suspended for both legs of this tie, it’s a chance for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to play himself into a bit of form after that horrendous penalty miss at Wembley. He has had a dip in form since the end of January, although he has had to recover from a bout of flu. One goal from six matches is quite a drop off from his early season record, although he is still only two goals behind Sergio Ageuro in the Premier League Golden Boot race. If Arsenal are to make the top four, Auba will need to start scoring more often again. His career record suggests he will. Even Thierry Henry had fallow months. A goal or two this evening would certainly set him up nicely for the huge match at the weekend.

What can we expect from Rennes?
The French club qualified for the last 32 by finishing about Astana (Khazakstan) and Jablonec (Czech Replublic). They did though beat Real Betis in their round of 32 tie, winning 3-1 in Spain after the first leg ended 3-3. Now Betis are no mugs, currently sitting 8th in La Liga. Rennes themselves are 10th in Ligue 1. So, yes, Arsenal should win this tie. Rennes are not Monaco. However, complacency is one accusation that can certainly be leveled at the Gunners in recent seasons when it comes to underestimating unfamiliar opposition. Just look at the first leg v BATE Borisov. Emery’s team need to focus on getting a result and do the basics properly. The showboating can wait until they are in the last 20 minutes of the second leg and they feel like the tie is done and dusted. One familiar face in the Rennes line-up will be the nomadic Hatem Ben Arfa, who Arsenal fans will best remember from his time at Newcastle.

Here’s a stat for you. Arsenal have never lost a competitive away game against French opposition, winning eight of 13 games. They should have enough to win this match. I’m predicting a 2-1 away win.

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  1. markymark

    Mar 8, 2019, 08:34 #113380

    Normally Rennes cures and not causes heartburn, indigestion and wind... Sorry it had to be done!

  2. markymark

    Mar 8, 2019, 08:25 #113379

    He’s really not getting those tactics right away from home. I was listening in on a shift at work , we sounded completely swamped. This is going to take a very big turnaround . Worrying times for Dick and he needs a big response starting against UTD.

  3. peter wain

    Mar 8, 2019, 07:37 #113378

    can anyone explain that comic's tactics last night? We have the slowest back four in the world so why play a high line? If the budget is £40 million might as well not buy anybody and rely on youth.

  4. The Man From UNCLE

    Mar 8, 2019, 05:11 #113377

    Just as well that Rennes aren't that good otherwise it would have been a cricket score.

  5. mad max

    Mar 7, 2019, 20:28 #113376

    another away day shambles, spot on kc38 xhaka has never been good enough 35 million wasted and 35 mill for mustafi as well, quite frankly we're no better than we were under wenger, what was the point in signing suarez?, cech is leaving so why play him, some bizzare decisions by dick reminiscent of wenger. the whole thing is the same year in year out, we've no idea how to defend, aubamayang looks disinterested. another season drifting into mediocraty. a mountain to climb next Thursday and lets pray for a half decent performance against man u or it could get embarrassing. did we really leave highbury to watch this rubbish. only way forward is to get rid of the absent parasite yank and sell to someone with some ambition

  6. KC38

    Mar 7, 2019, 20:03 #113375

    Persevere even. Add Mustafi to the roll of shame for Emery.

  7. KC38

    Mar 7, 2019, 19:50 #113374

    G Xhaka: someone please explain what this man brings to the team other than petulance danger to us and total indiscipline. Emery keeps playing him andthat scares me, poor buy poor attitude poor player and yet Emery preserves.

  8. Exiled in Pt

    Mar 7, 2019, 16:51 #113373

    Have to agree chaps , his best days were far behind him by the time we signed him. I never understand the rotation of keepers the one place on the pitch were surely consistency is key !! Could understand it more if it was a keeper coming up through the ranks that we are trying to keep hold off, not one who retires at the end of the season ...

  9. itsRonagain2

    Mar 7, 2019, 15:07 #113372

    Rob - agree. Cech is gone. Hes looked shaky for a few years in truth. Leno is just looking like an ok keeper and needs consistency of games. As you say, its the latter stages now and Cech s likely to be gone in the Summer.

  10. Rob Admin

    Mar 7, 2019, 13:42 #113371

    When Cech is in goal the opposition always have a chance, I'd prefer to see Leno between the sticks. How far does this loyalty stretch? In the proper later stages of this competition a keeper well past his best before date will ultimately prove to be costly imo.