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Online Ed: Ten man Arsenal lose in Britanny

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Arsenal lost their first ever competitive match in France last night

It all started so well in a packed stadium away to Rennes. Alex Iwobi was probably trying to put a dangerous ball into the six yard box for someone to get on the end of, but it managed to go in off the post without an Arsenal player near it. As Unai Emery’s side fashioned more danger, it felt like a matter of time before another away goal.

Emery had selected a pretty strong line-up. The back four, significantly, remained unchanged after an impressive display at Wembley. The formation remained the same, although Arsenal did not spend so much time sitting back to soak up opposition pressure. The changes from Saturday were predictably Petr Cech in goal, and the spine of Torreira, Ozil and Aubameyang coming in for Guendouzi, Ramsey and the suspended Lacazette. This was certainly a strong enough eleven to come away with a result.

There’s a movie called ‘Gone In 60 Seconds’ starring Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie. A car chase film. For Arsenal in Brittany last night, think car crash. In 60 seconds they had Sokratis dismissed for a second yellow as he was done for pace, and suffered an equaliser from the resulting free kick. We will know by this time next week whether that brief spell put paid to Arsenal’s chances in this competition, but playing 50 minutes a man down against a team with pace in wide areas proved a difficult watch.

Emery put Mkhitaryan at right back and waited until 7 minutes into the second half to make a change – removing Iwobi and replacing him with Guendouzi. It was an interesting decision. The usual form in such situations is to remove the attacking player who is going to battle the least – think Robert Pires in the Champions League Final 2006. Emery, presumably thinking from 1-1 Arsenal could still create enough chances to get a better result, left Ozil on the pitch. The other consideration was that Ainsley Maitland-Niles was on the bench, in theory a better option on the right side of the defence than the number 7.

As it turned out, Rennes were pretty loose defensively and Arsenal did create some danger, but were found sloppy at key moments. Ozil had a shot at goal, but it was on his wrong foot and went tamely to the keeper. There were a couple of moments when the ball was waiting for a shot at goal from just outside the six yard box, but the player in possession failed to get the ball under control.

Yet the possibility of another away goal was far outweighed by the opportunities Rennes were carving out at the other end, not least when both Monreal and Mkhitaryan were being exposed for pace on their respective flanks. Ultimately, Monreal suffered the ignominy of an own goal as a cross deflected off him. 2-1 though, was not the worst of results under the circumstances.

Emery then switched Ramsey for Ozil and subsequently decided to take off his one forward by replacing Aubameyang with Kolasinac. So we had a team with Mkhitaryan at right-back, and no-one playing up front. Go figure. One thing you cannot throw at Emery is an unwillingness to try something different. I suspect the thinking was that Kolasinac and Ramsey, with fresh legs, might combine on the counter. What the formation was by this point in front of the backline though is one I can’t be certain of. Gunedouzi, Torreira and Xhaka were definitely in midfield. Ramsey a false nine? Answers on a postcard.

It looked like Arsenal might be able to see it out, but losing possession near the corner flag at the end Rennes were defending, within a few seconds, the ball was in Petr Cech’s net as the French side broke with pace. If there was one thing that last night confirmed, it was that the defenders Unai Emery was using largely looked past their prime and off the pace. What a contrast with the more disciplined display at Wembley, although the tactics last night were more ambitious. Arsenal played higher up the pitch and took more chances. It was not the kind of first leg European performance that makes you think this is a team likely to win the competition, belying Emery’s reputation.

So Arsenal need to win by two clear goals back at home next week, and if Rennes manage to score twice, they will need to score five. Phew. Suddenly, the match on Sunday is looking a lot more significant than it already did. We may be looking at the stage where it actually benefits Arsenal to not have the distraction of the four European matches that would be required to reach the final in Baku, should they actually progress after the second leg next week.

Fundamentally, Arsenal were exposed by tactics that pointed out their defensive limitations all too clearly. So you have to point the finger at the head coach on this one. Much as he got it right in the North London derby, he got it wrong in Rennes. This was no European masterclass. The confidence established by the performances against Bournemouth and Tottenham will have taken a huge dent. A response will be needed on Sunday. God alone knows who will play and what we’ll get.

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  1. RobG

    Mar 9, 2019, 16:52 #113397

    Yes !!! Spurs lose. Win tomorrow and third place is on ?

  2. Exiled in Pt

    Mar 9, 2019, 16:15 #113396

    Don, your last sentence is so true it is exactly why whatever we say will make no difference!! The club will not play the youngsters but they will not break the bank for marquee players. We will continue to coast in 4th to 6th place in the league, with a team of not quite good enough players, flattering to deceive..With money spent on hyped up mediocre nearly men and the odd good find like MG or Toreira who will be sold on for a good profit. As spending a bit looks like they are trying to get success which keeps the so called tourist fan base happy. To go to the youth and build would please the real fans, like us who could except the time scale for the improvement but would lose the club too much money in the process and money is all there interested in.....

  3. Don Howe

    Mar 9, 2019, 15:50 #113395

    Two points. Firstly using the youngsters is a good idea. They are physically very strong and well motivated. Secondly kits. These do not matter to the pros but it is also true that good uniforms and style are cohesive forces and that in a fast game, spotting your teammates in peripheral vision easily is important. Red teams are by and large successful. If I was in charge of the kit contract I would let the manufacturers do what they liked with the third kit, but first kit and yellow and blue away kit compulsory. But then I’m an Arsenal supporter and the people who own and run the club are not.

  4. itsRonagain2

    Mar 9, 2019, 11:37 #113394

    Rob - i think a draw is on the cards. AFC seem psychologically shot when it comes to playing Utd this last 10 years. We win only when they play appallingly badly. Yr right, theyre not near Fergies teams and need a re build as much as Arsenal do. They ll give that job there to OGS and its their next big mistake in waiting in my view. They should burst the bank and get Pochetino. Utd are a club that needs a real presence in the coach ' s seat and OGS isnt it. Its ll be a good few years before they win a title. They are better than Arsenal right now though i think while they ride the matey matey, 'smile on face' bandwagon for the moment. I lay a bet on that the directiors there didn't really want these results theyve had and had no intention of giving OGS that job when they set him on. Now , theyve a dilemma in more or less bending to the popular call to give it to him, when really they want a proven Coach. They only benefit by getting a coach far more cheaply than otherwise.

  5. RobG

    Mar 9, 2019, 10:55 #113393

    We'll get through next week. But it makes Sundays encounter all the more demanding. Regardless of their results, I don't rate this Utd side and they are not up to the Utd's of Fergs time. We'll do them ?

  6. John F

    Mar 8, 2019, 17:00 #113392

    Good report Kev I did think Arsenal were playing some good counter attacking football but as soon as the sending off happened Dic k and the players looked clueless in what to do.With the away goal the priority should of been not to concede then get them back at the Emirates.I am not confident for the return with Auba in very poor form and no Socratis I think we will struggle especially as Rennes will disrupt Arsenal by play acting.

  7. mbg

    Mar 8, 2019, 16:06 #113391

    Just when we thought we were getting back on track they go and blow it again and kick the fans up the arse, i see some of the fans done some kicking back at the airport, it will do the players no harm at all, whether it will do any good remains to be seen, a poor performance and after going a goal up so early. But look on the bright side only one player gave wenger a Xmas present last Xmas lol, not to hard to guess who he could well afford it on £350k a week for doing nothing.

  8. itsRonagain2

    Mar 8, 2019, 15:29 #113390

    SKG - you made me laugh with that post. Matey, ive revised my views on Ian Ure and Ian McKechnie, Sneddon and Co this last 10 years. Maybe they werent so bad? Watching Phil Senderos was the initial catalyst to me thinking Old Ian was an able player after all and whats followed since in the middle of that defence and in goal has underpinned that view!!

  9. KC38

    Mar 8, 2019, 14:54 #113389

    At Peter wain absolutely correct. Until we learn to be compact and be defensively professional we will continue to be a bit of joke. Wenger or Emery everyone scores for fun against us. You have Xhaka passing along our goal line in the penalty area incredible. Please please xhaka mustafi out of the team squad club.

  10. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Mar 8, 2019, 14:16 #113388

    We cannot blame the shirts - Utd played in pink and did them no harm at all. For those of you who never watched Arsenal under George Swindon and Billy Wright, last night would have been a typical away from home performance. I squinted and I am sure it was Laurie Brown and Ian Ure in partnership ably assisted by Jimmy Magill and Flint, I almost expected Eddie Clamp to replace Ozil to give a bit of steel to the half back line. I think Dick was playing a W formation in the end - lost for anything sensible to say other than it was just another Europa Leage "Sh*t show" Dick may want to win it but his players most certainly do not. "Exiled", I am with you, finish 7th and get some home grown players back in the team.

  11. Exiled in Pt

    Mar 8, 2019, 13:46 #113387

    Problem as i see it is we need to drop out of the top 7 to avoid European football completely for one or two seasons to maybe see an improvement ! Which will not happen so we stuck right were it suits the yank making money but not having to put it in , one thing for sure imo we will not see any marque signings coming to this club for a long time irrelevant of making the CL or getting rid of Ozil !! Who has no interest in leaving like many of the other players we are all hoping will get sold in the summer..

  12. itsRonagain2

    Mar 8, 2019, 13:33 #113386

    A Magna - i can see yr point. The present flitting about 4th to 7th diet the club survives on and the odd run through the EL and FAC s (recently) has sustained the illusion that Arsenal are 'on the cusp' all of the time and thus needing only fine tuning when in reality, the club needs nigh on a new team and totally new mentality totally to really progress. The fall from the present lofty heights as you suggest might instill some reality in to the club, though i wouldn't hold yr breath. As for Mr Ozil, for me, he d never get a start in any awkward away game. As you say, him going is the key to a new start there.

  13. Exiled in Pt

    Mar 8, 2019, 12:31 #113385

    Still cannot understand some of Dicks ideas , every time you think the team are grasping his plans , they manage a result like that . In my view the sending off should of seen Miki or Ozil substituted for Ainsley!! Lets hope the team that played the scum turns up for the united game , as for that kit sums up what the current regime think of our club its tradition and history.........

  14. ArsenalMagna

    Mar 8, 2019, 12:31 #113384

    Only saw the highlights and read match reports but it doesn't sound like we were doing too badly before the sending off? We'll play a full-strength team next week at home and probably win comfortably at 3-0. Even if not, I really think it might be better for us not get 4th place or win the Europa League, because we'll put the money into a marquee player on major wages, who might not even take us to the next level... I think we have to wait till Ozil is gone to start making major additions to the squad. As we're seeing with Sanchez at United, the best players (like De Gea) will want parity or to be close to earning what the top earner makes (Ramsey here, for eg); that will financially ruin Arsenal. That decision to grant Ozil a £350k per week deal was beyond stupid.

  15. GoonerRon

    Mar 8, 2019, 12:08 #113383

    That was a really naive second half. Caught in that shitty no mans land of not genuinely trying to protect a 1-1 nor genuinely trying to win it in a controlled and concerted manner. Do that and you leave yourself wide open without looking hugely dangerous yourselves, i.e. exactly what happened. Now we’ve got one of those horrible ‘our season could be completely derailed in 4 days’ scenarios next week. Time for Emery and the team to step up.

  16. peter wain

    Mar 8, 2019, 11:45 #113382

    so what's was the comic's tactics? It just emphasises the appalling quality of our squad. Why is Mustafi and Xhaka in the first team squad. They cost £70 million and are worth 70p.Why not use the youngsters? With only £40 million for transfers put that money into the academy and write off the next five years. Emri and the yank must go now.

  17. itsRonagain2

    Mar 8, 2019, 10:12 #113381

    Pitiful as they are , i still think they'll scramble through somehow and maybe scratch a draw v Utd. This Season needs to end really!! Its torture isnt it. Mind you, i would suggest that any team that plays in that kit deserves to be beaten out of sight. Its as anaemic as the football they play.