- When Arsenal took the lead in the third minute of their Europa League match against Rennes, fans of the Gunners must have been eagerly anticipating an easy win in Frances. Things didn’t pan out quite as expected though, and a red card to Sokratis Papastathopoulos shortly before half time would prove the deciding factor in turning the tie on its head, with Rennes running out 3-1 winners.
Arsenal are no strangers to overturning Europa League deficits, having come from 1-0 down in the first leg against Bate Borisov to win 3-1 on aggregate, but this time, a much tougher task awaits them. Despite the hammering at the hands of Rennes, the Gunners are still third favourites according to Betfair UEFA Europa League odds.
Things need to change
Prior to the match, many fans and commentators believed that Rennes would pose little threat to Arsenal. Within the Rennes squad, Ismaila Sarr was the most likely player to cause damage to the Gunners, but even still, it was expected that Arsenal should be able to take a respectable result back to the Emirates.
Instead they’re faced with an uphill struggle and Arsenal boss Unai Emery will need to make changes if the Gunners are to progress in the competition. The talent at Emery’s disposal certainly suggests that they have the potential to go far, but he cannot play a weakened side as he did in the first leg.
Petr Cech hasn’t looked like the same goalkeeper since leaving Chelsea. Perhaps his weaknesses were covered by a solid defence, something that has been lacking at Arsenal for a while. The arrival of Sokratis was supposed to help the Arsenal defence, but while he has put in some good performances, they haven’t been anywhere near the standard to propel Arsenal forward.
Rennes’ third goal highlighted a major issue for Arsenal – a lack of passion amongst the players. Left back Nacho Monreal lost the ball deep inside the Rennes half, but failed to track back, allowing a counter-attack to materialise. Matteo Guendouzi, who failed to see the danger, casually jogged back to goal, while Sarr burst into the box. Aaron Ramsey stormed past Guendouzi in order to try and prevent Rennes from scoring, but he was too late and Sarr scored Rennes’ third goal of the night.
— Gunnersmedia20 (@gunnersmedia20) March 7, 2019
Whether it’s an attitude change or a personnel change, Emery will need to do something in order to turn the tie around. It’s not unreasonable to believe that they can; a 2-0 win will see them through on away goals, but Emery will need to put out a full-strength side, as it’s clear that anything less than full-strength will struggle.
What’s to come?
A tough game lies ahead of Arsenal this weekend, as they host Manchester United, who sit one place and one point above Arsenal. A win against the Red Devils will see them enter the top four with just eight games to go, and with eighth place Watford being their highest remaining opponent, they’ll be looking good for a top four finish and with it, a return to the Champions League.
The Rennes result might see Emery focus on the Premier League, with the final nine games potentially being a more attractive prospect of securing Champions League football than trying to win the Europa League.
That said, Emery has a good record in the Europa League, winning it three seasons in a row as manager of Sevilla. A 2-0 victory at home to Rennes is not absurd, as the French side are struggling in Ligue 1, sitting in 10th place. Be prepared for another Arsenal turnaround and for the Gunners’ fans to be content, just for a little longer.