Last summer, when Unai Emery was appointed Arsenal’s first new manager since before a non-zero percentage of you were born, one of the things that he was (rightly) lauded for was a run of three consecutive Europa League championships with Sevilla from 2013-2016. It was thought that Emery could push Arsenal through the wall they hit last year against Atletico Madrid in the semi-final last season, and thus return them to the Champions League and its gushing rivers of money.
There was a wobble in the first Round of 32 game against BATE Borisov, before the ship righted itself and Arsenal swept the Belarussians aside and set up a last-16 clash against Stade Rennes, a team that Arsenal had never faced before. It didn’t go well.
Arsenal are thus 3-1 down and hanging on to Europa League play by the thinnest of threads. A 2-0 Arsenal win sees them through to the last eight easily, a 3-1 Arsenal win sends the match into extra time and penalties, and anything more than one Stade Rennes goal means Arsenal have to score in buckets.
The bad news is that they’ll have to defend without Sokratis, who double-yellow-carded his way out of tomorrow’s game like a dope. The good news is that they’ll have Alexandre Lacazette back, so that whole “score goals in buckets” thing is still on the table. As with most of this season, though, the key for Arsenal will be to stop the other team from doing the same.
I have full confidence Arsenal will score at least two goals. I do not have the same confidence that they’ll stop Rennes from doing the same, though, so I’ll be white-knuckling my way through this one, hoping that Arsenal at the Emirates do to Rennes what they did to BATE Borisov, and subsequently hoping they stop having to leave it this late in the next round.
Arsenal v. Stade Rennes
UEFA Europa League
Thursday, March 14, 2019
1PM PT/4PM ET/8PM BT (Remember: England hasn’t moved to Summer Time yet)