I don’t know if Unai Emery will make that change to Sunday’s formation but I like the thought of a midfield diamond pressurising Rennes into surrender this season. The French side being unable to sustain any semblance of defence after wave after wave of Arsenal attack as we cruise to a 5 – 0 half-time lead before reaching double-figures at the full-time whistle.
The romanticism about the competition recently stems only from the cracking KNOCKOUT games in Madrid and Turin. Don’t ask me to include United and Liverpool in that; I didn’t watch either.
Anyway, it’s time to turn my limited attention span to this evening’s match. Rennes picked up their pitchforks, lit their torches and railed against not only Alexandre Lacazette’s suspension being lifted but also switching the tie around to suit us.
Surprisingly, the latter wasn’t an issue at 90 minutes last week but obviously, things change. Be prepared for a Rennes appeal to UEFA when they have a last-minute goal disallowed for a dubious offside call. I’m not saying the referee and his assistants are likely to do so just that, well, we never get this kind of luck with UEFA before.
Hey, Hatem Ben Arfa…
Some fear Unai’s natural conservatism; he went for it with his team selection on Sunday, why not again. Indeed, beyond Sokratis’ suspension, do we need any changes for this match? I don’t think so, and that includes Cech. Sorry, Petr but we need to qualify and Leno’s distribution is better than yours.
Mustafi will come in on the right of defence but the team which beat United did so well. A little open on occasion, I confess, which is why I think Leno is preferable given his form. So, that’s the German on form and distribution; we’re going with Cech, aren’t we?
It’s a night which calls for high intensity but also guile; Ramsey and Ozil fit the bill, provided the latter turns up, of course, but I’m assuming he will given he played well on Sunday. Fitting Lucas Torreira into the starting line-up suggests a back-four to accommodate the Uruguayan.
I don’t know; Unai has a habit of picking the weird and wonderful at times when football’s received wisdom is to not change a line-up which played well the previous game. Nobody believes in that stuff any more, surely? Since the rules were changed to accommodate a second XI on the bench, wrecking Reserve football in the process, consistency of team selection is hard to find. Managers and coaches all tinker around the edges to the extent that if you refer to Ranieri as the ‘Tinkerman’, it no longer makes sense. Data is king, just don’t tell Zuckerberg that.
Right, having wafted through 500-odd words, it is time to post the XI to the corkboard:
Cech; AMN, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Torreira; Ramsey, Xhaka, Ozil; Aubameyang, Lacazette
There are plenty of variants tonight, all with the singular aim of ramming reminding Rennes that celebrating after the first leg is a dangerous thing to do.
Unai expects the players to think through the mists of a burning desire to win. Controlled passion, you could call it. One where the badge on the shirt brings pride and courage to the fore without leaving the defence exposed. Rennes, I’m sure, will play on the counter as their prime task is not to concede an early goal. Patience is also vital for us, as well as them. They will get opportunities, we ‘re that kind of team; the task is keeping those to a bare minimum and making sure they aren’t costly.
Can we do it? Just to puncture some ‘big club arrogance’, they are unbeaten in six with five wins by a two-goal margin. However, Rennes lost two of the last three on their travels by scorelines which would see them eliminated tonight.
Anderlecht stands as a proud beacon in the club’s history but really, the only two-goal deficit overturned?That needs changing.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.