Arsenal 3-0 Rennes
A chance to go into an extended interlull with both feet in the quarter finals of the Europa League as Rennes arrived for a blustery evening at the Emirates.
Unai Emery opted for the same formation that done for Man Utd with Cech coming in for Leno and Mustafi replacing the suspended Sokratis. Lacazette was in as well, after an Arsenal appeal was won! #blimey
Arsenal: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Being effectively two goals down after the 3-1 in France the importance for a fast start with a goal was not lost on the players or the crowd, the tension was there for all to see. That tension was eased very early on as in the 6th minute Arsenal worked the ball down the right with Maitland Niles finding Ramsey who in turn crossed for an Aubameyang tap in. 1-0 to the Arsenal and game on!
That got the place rocking and Rennes were reeling. More chances came for the home side before Maitland Niles made it two, Aubameyang playing a one-two with Ramsey, (possibly offside), he stood up a cross to the back post and Maitland-Niles met it perfectly with a thumping downward header into the net.
Job done in 16 mins?
Well effectively yes!
The fact Arsenal had the goals required meant Rennes had to now come out and try and attack and they didn't really muster anything for the remainder of the half, resorting to fouls rather than any kind of possession, the best chance falling to Ramsey after some sublime work by Ozil, but the Welsh Messi fluffed his lines, hitting the ball straight at the keeper.
Rennes had to up their game to make life tough for Arsenal and Arsenal would have to drop in performance or give a stupid goal away. One goal from the French would be enough and that man Mustafi nearly did the job for them two minutes in, his mistake resulting in Niang's low shot coming back off the post.
Arsenal were living on the edge and Rennes could smell the complacency in the air, going close from corners, Cech and the post coming to the rescue again. What Arsenal needed was a goal or a switch in the momentum, Unai decided to send on Iwobi and Mykitaryan for Ozil and Lacazette with 30 mins to go to try and achieve that objective.
Did it work?
Two minutes later a lovely move involving Ramsey and Mkhitaryan fed Kolasinac, his low cross found Aubameyang at the back post for his second of the night.
3-0 and good night Rennes!
Aubameyang then treated the home crowd to 'that mask' celebration.
A case of Black Panther rather than the Pink Panther which highlighted two sitters he missed to completely kill the game off before the end of the match.
There was brief scare from Ben Arfa but that was that and Arsenal had done the business.
Into the quarters!
POSITIVES: The formation yet again working.
NEGATIVES: Iwobi showing his immaturity in a clash with a Rennes player.
Cech: Did what he had to do when called upon. 7/10
Maitland-Niles: Making the position his own, strong performance and good goal. 8/10
Mustafi: Nearly got them back into it. 6/10
Koscielny: Worked hard. 7/10
Monreal: Worked harder.7.5/10
Kolasinac: Got forward well and always a threat. 8/10
Xhaka: No 'moments'. 7/10
Ramsey: Ran like a dog. 8/10
Ozil: Some nice moments but got hooked. 7/10
Aubameyang: Nice mask. MOM 8/10
Lacazette: Huffed and puffed but blew nothing down. 7/10
Mykitaryan: Got involves and made a difference. 7/10
Iwobi: Stupid boy. 4/10
Next up.... along break!