Europa League 2018/19, Arsenal 3-0 Stade Rennais: 5 Talking Points
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's brace and Ainsley Maitland-Niles' first European goal saw Arsenal recover from a 3-1 first leg deficit against a lackluster Stade Rennais side at the Emirates to earn their Europa League quarter-final place.
Unai Emery's men needed a fast start and that's precisely what they got. Maitland-Niles combined with Aaron Ramsey and Aubameyang for the Gunners' opener after just five minutes before the 21-year-old academy graduate headed home from close-range to gift them a two-goal cushion in the 15th minute.
In a feisty affair at the Emirates, M'Baye Niang hit the post shortly after the break while Hatem Ben Arfa and Ismaila Sarr threatened in flashes too. Henrikh Mkhitaryan made an instant impact off the bench, threading through a key pass into Sead Kolasinac - giving Aubameyang an open goal to finish at the far post to increase their lead.
Despite a nervy finish, Emery's men held firm for a hard-earned clean sheet and important victory which sees them take their place in tomorrow's draw.
With all of that being said, here's a look at five talking points from Arsenal's second successive big win after an inconsistent set of results:
#5 Ben Arfa, given his ability, was underwhelming
Given Hatem Ben Arfa's troubled history with Emery after being frozen out during his spell at Paris Saint-Germain, as well as a Man of the Match display in last week's first leg, you'd be forgiven for expecting a better performance from the creative midfielder here.
The experienced Frenchman racked up three key passes, nine dribbles and was fouled on four occasions in Rennes' home tie last week, proving himself a real handful for a ten-man Arsenal backline to contend with.
It's what we've come to expect from Ben Arfa given his individual moments of magic in England's top-flight, but last night it was arguably his worst showing of 2019 to date.
Being the visitors' best technical player, he struggled to properly impose his threat on the game. One key pass, 87.9% pass accuracy and despite 57 touches of the ball, he failed to create much in the final third.
Shackled for sustained periods here, he completed five dribbles but was dispossessed a game-high eight times. There were brief flashes of danger that Arsenal needed to remain aware of, like the chance where he strayed offside and another which was stopped in its tracks after a poor decision saw him relinquish possession.
It was that type of game and not sufficiently helped by his attacking teammates, they tried to force attacks too often which only saw them lose possession more easily in a match they couldn't afford to.