Plenty of talent on display as Arsenal travel to France to take on Stade Rennes in the Europa League
Arsenal look to kick of the next round of the Europa League as they travel to France and Roazhon Park to take on Rennes. It is the first step in qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Europa League, with competition the “easiest” way for Arsenal to qualify for the Champions League next year.
I have never been a fan of this competition, but I do respect the grind it forces managers and their teams through. You play in parts unknown and play week to week without a rest especially in the knockout stages.
In the Champions League you get a fortnight off between matches, that’s not the case in the Europa League as over the course of one round of Champions League matches, a Europa League team will play two rounds and more games. How a manager or coach manages that can make or break a team.
It’s an area Emery is familiar with and his impressive run with Sevilla is a testament to that. However, there is one exception. We always assumed that winning the Europa League was Arsenal’s easiest route to the Champions League.
That may have changed slightly as Arsenal find themselves with an opportunity to solidify a run at the top four in the league this Sunday against Manchester United at the Emirates. Will Emery consider that as he sets up for this match?
Emery’s rotational policy that says Özil and Aubameyang sit out for most of the match against Tottenham, may be a hint of how he plans to manage this run in of dual opportunities.
Lacazette is out for another two EL matches, and that definitely points to Aubameyang coming in to terrorize the French squad’s back line. Additionally, as we mentioned previously, Özil only played 20 minutes on Saturday and should be the starting creative outlet for the side.
Also with Torreira now set to miss three league games, he should feature heavily in our Europa League side
This is the first time Rennes have ever made it to the knockout stage of any European competition. This is an in-form side who were absolutely superb in the last round defeating Real Betis to earn a spot in the final 16.
Julien Stéphan’s side features a name that will be familiar to Emery in Hatem Ben Arfa, the man who had a bitter war of words with Emery during his time at PSG.
Rennes also have a few of their own suspensions to deal with as Hamari Trarore and Mbaye Niang will both be out. They also have to deal with a slew of injuries as Jordan SIebatcheu, Romain Danze, Abdoulaye Diallo and Ludovic Baal all will miss out due to injury.
They are team rolling right now and have only lost once in their last eight and the highlight of the last round in the Europa League as they fought back to beat Real Betis 6-4 on aggregate.
Rennes will come into the match rested having been given some “rest” time by Ligue 1 – and have only featured in two matches, a league match and cup match.
The Ligue 1 side are very strong on attacking set pieces and creating chances through individual skill. They like to play with width especially down the right side and through Ismalia Sarr. They take a lot of shots, especially from distance.
Any thought of this being an easy tie should be quickly put to rest.
Potential targets on display
With Niang yet, all eyes will look to both Ismalia Sarr on the wing and Benjamin Andre in the midfield – as well as the previously mentioned, Hatem Ben Arfa. However, Sarr and Andre should be the ones Arsenal fans watch.
Benjamin Andre has quietly gone about making a name for himself in Ligue 1. He says the model for his play in the midfield is Andres Iniesta and with his versatility and short passing game, he has become the prototypical box-to-box player. He has an old school approach to the game that impresses many who have seen him play.
With Arsenal hopefully in the market for a replacement for Aaron Ramsey, Andre might be at least a short-term (he’s 28) AND cheap fix.
The bigger fish to watch though is Ismaila Sarr. At 21-years-old, old he is an attacking forward that features prominently on the right wing for Rennes but can play across the entire front line.
He likes to dribble and take on defenders 1v1. He prefers to play short passes in exchange with the midfield to take the ball forward. He’s also quite good at through balls to the attacking forward. So far this year he has five goals and four assists in 23 appearances for Rennes in the league.
His rate of return though has been more impressive in Europe where in seven appearances he has three goals and two assists. He has averaged 1.9 shots per game in the tournament, receiving one MOTM rating through the early parts of the tournament.
He still has some work to do and at 21 could prosper under the right manager.
Arsenal should have the team capable enough to see off the threat of Rennes. But the home side are a team that has quality within it and if not prepared correctly, Arsenal could be the latest in a slew of big clubs that sees themselves out of Europe.
The Europa League still seems the best bet for Arsenal to reach the Champions League next season. The matches get harder from here on in and Stade Rennes offers the first stern test of what has been a relatively easy campaign thus far.