Rennes 3-1 Arsenal
A trip to France and an intriguing if not relatively simple tie in the Europa League with a chance to get one foot in the quarter finals. Rennes a team sitting 10th in in Ligue 1 and treating the prospect of a game against Arsenal like a Greek god coming round for dinner, best silver out, floor hoovered, knit knacks buried in a cupboard.
The team news saw Unai opt again for a 4-4-2, with no Lacazette due to a stupid sending off in the previous round, Aubameyang was surely enough up front. Mustafi again doing the duties at right back.
Arsenal: Cech, Mustafi, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Iwobi.
A lot of noise in the Roazhon Park stadium was silenced quite beautifully as early as the 4th minute and the tone set. Iwobi doing Iwobi things over on the left, never looking like in full control of what he was trying to do, eventually working himself some space to clip a ball somewhere near the back post. Nobody read it, not even the keeper, the ball pinging over the line via the post!, 1-0 to The Arsenal!
A cracking start was nearly made even better moments later when Iwobi found Torriera in the box that 5 foot high chap failed to finish. At the other end Rennes were busy but never looked like troubling Cech, Arsenal were in complete control of the match heading in to the last fifteen, all they need was perhaps another a goal to break the last embers of resolve.
So predictably they conceded! But lets roll it back to Sokratis getting his first yellow, which was harsh, trying to deal with Ben Arfa he effectively laid down in front of the Rennes forward, but got a yellow. Unfortunate, but from there on in the head should say:
"Right, got done there but let's not doing anything silly, only 15 minutes to go until half-time".
Unfortunately the head went out for an Ouzo and instead Sokratis got a second yellow for impeding and pulling back a Rennes forward in full flow.
Daft, stupid, or just and "an Arsenal thing to do, cannon straight to the foot". The whole situation being made doubly worse as the ensuing free kick rebounded off the wall and was thumped into the top corner on the rebound. Arsenals defensive wall not exactly showering itself in glory.
Cech no chance, 1-1 HT.
So changes made at halftime?
Mykitaryan continued at right back. which was very odd considering Maitland Niles was on the bench and the second half started to look bad. 10 minutes of Rennes pressure followed as the obvious weakness at playing a forward as a defender began to show, Cech saving well to prevent a second home goal. The sight of Iwobi's number popping up when Guendouzi came on was a surprise, the goalscorer getting hooked for what was a positive display. Perhaps the coach thought an extra body in midfield would regain some control, for me an out ball had been replaced by a guy that can lose the ball under pressure in dangerous areas.
Ben Arfa and Bourigeaud were continuing to find space as Arsenal completely lost their shape, a second was coming.
On 66 minutes a poor shot fell for the Rennes right back, Guendouzi had the chance to react or at least stop the cross, he did neither, the cross came in, deflected off Monreal and looped over Cech, 2-1 Rennes and that horrible 'Wenger sinking feeling' came over me. You know the one were Arsenal just capitulate to a team that's more up for it.
Ozil then had an immediate chance to get it back to 2-2 but kind of dithered and twisted one to many times before weakly shooting straight at the keeper. That was it for Unai who immediately hooked him for Ramsey. Again, a head scratcher another forward coming off, maybe he wants to sit on 2-1?
With Arsenal failing to to make any further in roads Unai made his final throw of the dice, hooking Aubameyang for Kolasinac, in essence, giving the game up, with no forwards on the pitch, Ramsey as some sort of false nine.
A time at least not to take any risks and at least get the French back to the Emirates with just a one goal deficit?
Er no, not this Arsenal team. Reverting back to the old Wengerisms Arsenal piled forward and invited the counter. Trying to play clever triangles in the opposition corner and with both defensive midfielders sitting in the penalty area Arsenal duly lost possession. One switch of play later and a first time cross was met at the back post unmarked by Sarr to head home for 3-1. No Monreal or Guendouzi (his cover) in sight, only Ramsey who had sped past Guendouzi to try and defend it. Remember, the same player thats Juventus bound in the summer running past a guy who has just joined. #professionalism
Game over and a mountain to climb in a week at The Emirates with no Lacazette or Sokratis and a game in-between at home to Man Utd to deal with.
A season defining 7 days on the horizon.
POSITIVES: France is nice this time of tear.
NEGATIVES: Everything else.
Cech: Could do nothing about goals, kept the score down in the 2nd half. 7/10
Mustafi: Looked very shaky. 6/10
Sokratis: Stupid. 4/10
Koscielny:Tried but in that defence just failed. 7/10
Monreal: Poor decision at the end of the game. 6/10
Xhaka: Ran around a lot. 7/10
Torreira: Ran around a lot and missed a good chance. 7/10
Ozil: Luck not to get hooked earlier and missed a great chance to draw level. 7/10
Mkhitaryan: Tried hard but disappeared and struggled at right back. 5/10
Aubameyang: Got hooked and looked unhappy about it. 6/10
Iwobi: Scored. MOM 7/10
Guendouzi: Poor and his in-experience showed. 4/10
Ramsey: Ran around a lot. 5/10
Kolasinac: Did zip. 4/10
Next up, ManUre at home and a chance to get in that back four again!