A masterful second leg performance will be necessary next week as Arsenal will try to turn around a 3-1 deficit to Stade Rennais. Arsenal managed to get ahead early in the match with a wonderful goal by Alex Iwobi. Arsenal looked fully in control of the match during the first half hour, but continually spurned good opportunities. The match turned on its head when Sokratis received a second yellow card for a challenge in the 41st minute. Bourigeaud leveled the score with a wonderful ball from outside the box after taking a poor free kick.
The writing was on the wall for a bitter defeat after Rennes first goal. Arsenal simply capitulated after Sokratis’ dismissal. Usually a side with ten men is more difficult to break down than a full squad. Defense becomes paramount and the team develops a structured formation based on communication. Unfortunately for Arsenal, they were far from organized. The Gunners would make sloppy passes in an attempt to clear the ball and start a counter attack. The players looked like they did not know what they’re responsibilities were. Sokratis’ invaluable leadership qualities for dictating the defensive duties was sorely missed.
It was unacceptable to have given up three goals, but for a side that has struggled on defense this season, it was hardly surprising. Matteo Guendouzi, who has been a bright spot for Arsenal this season, made an inexcusable error as he tracked back on a Rennes counter attack with a lack of energy. Ramsey was bolting back to cover for Guendouzi’s responsibilities but it was in vain as the ball was crossed in from the left for an easy header by Sarr.
Unai Emery made some questionable decisions regarding tactical substitutions. Notably, he did not substitute Maitland-Niles in to cover right back and the decision to bring on Guendouzi in this situation was poor. Guendouzi has not been known for his defensive responsibilities since joining the Gunners over the summer. The final substitution of Aubameyang for Kolasinac, who was Arsenal’s only goal scoring threat, was problematic as Arsenal should have continued to have a counter attack threat.
Arsenal now head into next week’s clash at the Emirates with a 3-1 deficit. Sokratis will be unavailable as well as Lacazette. Arsenal will need to win with a clean sheet performance, otherwise they will have to score at least three goals. They certainly have the quality to get the job done, but with an important match against Manchester United this weekend, fitness may be a concern. It is a crucial next seven days for Arsenal, which could determine whether or not they will be playing Champions League football next year.