Rennes 3 Arsenal 1
Bourigeaud 42, Monreal og, 65, Sarr 88, Iwobi 3

Rennes stunned Arsenal with a Europa League 3-1 win in France. It is the first time French opposition got the better of the Gunners who took the lead with Alex Iwobi’s opener after three minutes. Arsenal looked comfortable until Sokratis was given his second yellow card on 41 minutes and from that moment on, the visitors were up against it. Benjamin Bourigeaud struck from the resultant free kick, beating Petr Cech to the top right hand corner after his initial effort had been blocked by the wall. Former Newcastle United midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa was pulling the strings for Rennes who exposed the depleted Gunners’ rearguard. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was never going to be an effective right back however, and the home side took the lead when Nacho Monreal got the last touch on a cross which flew past Cech. As Arsenal went looking to level, they were hit with a quick counter, resulting in Ismaila Sarr’s diving header to leave Arsenal two goals adrift going into next Thursday’s return leg at the Emirates.

As with the previous round, Arsenal have it all to do, only this time they face a two goal deficit, and will need to hold the young French team to a shut out. Unai Emery faces a severe test in a completion which he has been so successful in. He said,

“The first 40 minutes I think we controlled, we scored and we didn’t concede good chances to them. But after this red card, it’s different. It’s more than we wanted and I think we can do better. But the result is for the first match and for the first 90 minutes. 3-1 is hard for us, but we are going to start the next match, next week with 11 against 11 and with the same respect we have had in the first half, the first 40 minutes.

“We are going to do that at home against them. But we need to also change our performance and I have the confidence with our players, with our supporters helping us to create one big atmosphere to give us a good spirit against them to comeback.”

Emery has to be positive, but he will not have been impressed with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s reaction and body language following his second half 79th minute replacement by Sead Kolasinac. The Gunners looked unlikely to get anything at the atmospheric Roazhon Park and might have been better served with sitting back in attempting to preserve the damage. But this isn’t in Emery’s psyche but needs should have definitely been a must. Instead, Arsenal got caught high up and Sarr inflicted a third goal.

Emery reasoned why he made the changes. “After this red card, first I wanted to keep the positioning with the players because in the second half we needed fresh players to help more in offensive moments, to take chances, to take options. We really didn’t create a lot of chances to score the second goal, but I think Micki worked very well and with a good performance. I think there is no problem with Micki, and for example, his 40 or 50 minutes playing like a right-back, he played well.”

Emery defended Sokratis, despite his second yellow card costing Arsenal at a crucial time in the tie.

I cannot say [anything] to Sokratis because he has very good commitment, he has very good behaviour and he received two yellow cards in two actions of playing. But we are going to think, for the next week, we are going to start 11 against 11, without Sokratis and without Lacazette, but we have players. Like the first 40 minutes, we can do it with our supporters also, to have the possibility to come back. But we know this result is not good. It is bad and it is going to be tough for us. But we need to do with focus and with our players, this possibility to come back.”

Before the return leg, Arsenal will have to dust themselves off for when they host Manchester United on Sunday. United had their own drama in France, but came away from Paris with the result on away goals that saw them progress to the quarter finals of the Champions League.

Emery’s side will have to be wary of United’s counter attacking, the long ball from deep is their weapon of choice. Arsenal must have defensive capabilities to cope if they are to get another home win on Sunday.