Rennes Bring Footballing Indigestion, Napoli The Relief

Arsenal 3 – 0 Rennes

Arsenal broke their 56-year hoodoo and overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit to progress to the next round in European competition. A return to the Champions League is still open on two fronts. Woohoo! Provided we get past Napoli, of course.

It was ‘job done’ inside the opening fifteen minutes. Aubameyang struck early, Maitland-Niles doubled that lead after a blistering start. The tie ended prematurely, descending into a niggling slog before Aubameyang rendered away goals irrelevant.

Emery’s desire to attack down the flank. Kolasinac on the left and Maitland-Niles opposite, both provided a threat Rennes struggled to contain all evening. That all three goals came from wide positions underlined the importance of energetic wing-backs.

A spell in the second-half where Rennes, hitting the post courtesy of a typical Mustafi brainfart, were on top. However, the linesman’s flag seemed permanently raised for offside, such was the French club’s naivety in attack and a well-drilled defence.

In that respect, we played well; Cech made a couple of smart saves but by then French heads were largely lost as their plan to progress through Arsenal being reduced to ten men wasn’t working. The referee was poor, even by the Premier League’s low standards.

At one point, Ben Arfa stared at Unai Emery. The Spaniard seemed impervious but inside was surely screaming “You want to know why I didn’t play you? This, you worthless gilipolla, is why; you are only fit for a small Ligue 2 side. Tonight shows even Ligue Un is above your ability.”

Or something similar. It was still 2 – 0 at this point.

Aubamyang’s second saw him booked for the celebration and not because the mask called Ben Arfa a ‘Wakanda’, either. On unnecessary bookings, Xhaka misses the first leg of the Napoli tie.

Napoli Await

Unai Emery was delighted after a “very difficult week” and so he should be; consecutive clean sheets in two key matches which go a long way to deciding our season’s fate.

He was more pleased by the manner in which the players grasp tactical changes in a match:

I think we were playing and being very competitive. The clean sheet is important and gives us confidence with some players scoring, different players, and also using different systems. We started with 3-4-1-2 and finished 3-4-3. When we were defensively together, we were playing with a 5-2-1-2 or 5-4-1 in the last minutes with Micki and Iwobi. I think we can play and can change each match with the players we have, with the system we have, while continuing to be effective.

Unai Emery is our flexible friend

It left us with a route to Baku via Napoli and the winner of Villarreal vs Valencia. The latter you would expect but in this competition, who knows?

Napoli’s form isn’t too dissimilar to our own but they will be happy with UEFA’s divvy ruling about fans in the same city. They pulled the same stroke with Manchester United; gone are the days when the Met could cope with more than one visiting team to the capital on a matchday, eh?

It’s a tough draw and I genuinely think only Chelsea could be a tougher opponent and we’ve avoided them until the final. But does anyone not think we’re capable of winning? I suppose the question is, will we?

We’ll need to improve in the away leg but at home, summoning the spirit of Spurs and United is certainly the answer.

’til Tomorrow.

15 thoughts on “Rennes Bring Footballing Indigestion, Napoli The Relief

  1. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    If we got Chelsea in the final, i would back us to win.

    Chelsea very much a one horse team when it comes to big games, we nullified them by taking Hazard out the game at the Emirates and i’d back them to do the same in Baku were we to get there.

    Also, Insigne, Chiriches and Diwara are all rumoured to be out for the first leg at Emirates. Opportunity knocks to get as many past them as we can!

    It won’t be an easy run in, Chelsea have favourable fixture as means they can probably rest some players and concentrate on top 4 form.

    I just really hope they finish outside top 4, and we beat them in final as their transfer ban kicks in and Hazard get’s set to pack his bags for Madrid

  2. Blue Yonder says:

    I think Arsenal have shown they can beat Chelsea, if they rise to the occasion, so I wouldn’t be afraid of that. In any event, they have to beat the best to win the title – whoever it may be.
    Meanwhile, consecutive clean sheets (and in crucial games) is impressive. Dare one say a corner has been turned?

  3. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Not counting my turkeys just yet. It’s Arsenal after all! Lest we forget season’s gone past and some of the all too familiar thumping’s we’ve had this season. Albeit there does seem to be a rekindled spirit of defiance and togetherness. Long may the clean sheets live and let’s hope the lads can remain focused for this final leg of the season. COYG!

  4. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Tough draw but certainly a winnable tie.

    I still feel our best hope for CL qualification is via the league but there’s probably not much in it.

  5. Arsetralian says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    Great to be in be that draw and we pulled an exciting European fixture!

    Let’s hope we play our stuff in a first leg for a change

  6. C says:

    One of the biggest things that isn’t being talked about is the fact, Ozil is not only doing his attacking thing but the defensive work. He is pressing the oppositions pivots and stopping them from building. Ozil is responding to Emery like most thought he couldn’t but in the attacking play, is dropping that little bit deeper to allow Ramsey the ability to make the runs that make him a good player.

  7. Bill says:


    At this point in his career Ozil is not the same player and his influence on the attacking end has faded so he has to do something positive and its nice to see him coming to training regularly and working a bit harder on the pitch. it seems like Emery’s man management worked out for the best after all because we were not not getting anything from him before Emery dropped him. Ozil is still getting subbed off around 70 minutes when we need to close out the games so I suspect Emery still does not think his influence on the defensive end is as solid as you seem to think

  8. Bill says:

    I have to give a huge amount of credit to Ramsey and my respect for him has skyrocketed. He only has pride and his duty to his team to motivate him. A lot of players in his situation would have packed it in. He has several million reasons to take it easy and get ready for next season but he is playing as hard as he ever has.

  9. ferkov says:


    Spot on Bill.
    Glad I didn’t sell his Shirt now.
    His, and Ozil’s stories this season serve as a reminder of how a nebulous online/press agenda can create a false appreciation in the public eye. All the character assassinations that both players received are being shown to be predictably wild and wide of the mark. A couple of months ago, even some of us on here were convinced they were too self cantered to be of any further use to the team.Myself included.
    Never been more pleased to be proved wrong.

  10. Bill says:


    I think Emery has been vindicated for his handling of the “ozil situation”. All of the stuff about his poor man management and the idea that he was trying to stamp his authority at the expense of the club was off the mark. IMO. The reality is what options did he have when your highest paid highest profile player does not show up for training regularly and is not putting out the necessary level of effort or producing on the pitch and then calls out the club in public on twitter? The only thing Ozil ever had to do was show up at training with the rest of the team and play like he actually cared

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