Stade Rennes 3-1 Arsenal: 5 Talking Points and Tactical Analysis
The Gunners got off to the best possible start as they led through Alex Iwobi in the 3rd minute. The Nigerian’s cross cum shot nestled into the bottom corner to give the visitors the initial impetus they required. However, things turned pear-shaped in the 41st minute when Sokratis was given his marching orders after collecting a second yellow card.
Moments later, the hosts equalised courtesy Benjamin Bourigeaud’s thunderous strike.
With the game level at half-time, the French side turned the screw in the second period and put Arsenal under immense pressure. The away side eventually wilted in the 65th minute as Nacho Monreal put one through his own net.
The home side though weren’t finished and Ismaila Sarr’s diving header provided them with an invaluable two-goal cushion heading into the second leg.
Here is a look at the major talking points from the game:
#5. Arsenal succumb to Rennes’ inspired display
When the Round of 16 match-ups were announced, many believed that Arsenal had dodged a bullet. All signs pointed to a straightforward tie yet Rennes threw a spanner in the Gunners’ works with a sensational performance.
The French side looked fresh throughout the game and were quicker to every loose ball. The hosts showcased tenacity in midfield with Clement Grenier (once an Arsenal target) controlling the tempo.
Though they portrayed exuberance in the first half, they took their display up a notch in the second period. With the numerical superiority, Rennes completely exploited the space Arsenal left.
The hosts’ wide players had a field day with the Gunners’ left flank being targeted often. The likes of Monreal and Matteo Guendouzi weren’t able to deal with the directness of the home side’s offensive play and were eventually left chasing shadows.
On paper, Arsenal should easily have swatted aside Rennes’ challenge. Yet, football is hardly played on paper and the Gunners were given a rude reminder of the same.
And with a two goal lead to take to North London, the French side is in pole position to prove the doubters wrong and advance.