A very good win against Manchester United yesterday should serve as a confidence boost for our do or die Europa League second leg v Rennes this Thursday. I will be attending the match and I will be flying to London from Amsterdam on Wednesday.
Through the years the Arsenal matches that I have attended against French opposition have been mixed.A 2-1 defeat to AJ Auxerre in the Champions League group phase in 2002 , A solid 2-0 win against Montpelier in 2013 which included a cracking volley from Lukas Podolski and the most recent a 3-1 defeat against AS Monaco in 2015.
This Rennes team reminds me of AS Monaco of that time.Vibrant and underrated.They are unbeaten in their last five European matches winning four and drawing one.We have it all to do in the second leg and we must fight tooth and nail to make it through to the Europa League Quarter Finals.
This morning I wached the highlights of Rennes 3-1 home victory v Caen in Ligue 1 yesterday. Three great goals including a tremendous free kick from Benjamin Bourigeaud who was a thorn in our side in Brittany last Thursday.Considering how much an impression Benjamin Bourigeaud made in particular last Thursday we his free kick ability , pace and provocation of Arsenal defenders surely it is worh enquiring about obtaining his services in the summer.
Benjamin Bourigeaud came through the youth setup at RC Lens in France who are famous for having a tremendous youth academy that has spawned the likes of Rafael Varane , Serge Aurier and Thorgan Hazard. It is no surprise to me to see yet another player coming through that system to play regularly and be decisive for a French side in the top division.
As we saw last Thursday in Brittany this Rennes side have a lot of quality with the likes Benjamin Bourigeaud, Ismaïla Sarr and Clément Grenier and they will not be phased by their upcoming trip to London.They won 3-1 away to Real Betis in the previous round which was very impressive. We will have to keep an eye on Hatem Ben Arfa, Did you know that he came through the famous Clairefontaine academy in France.I recently interviewed former AJ Auxerre goalkeper Quentin Westberg who described him as the most gifted player that he has played with due to their experiences in the academy together.
We must score early on Thursday and set a high tempo. We could also be in for a long night. My predictions is 3-1 then extra time and Arsenal to win on penalties.It would be a crying shame to exit the Europa League at this stage especially with it being 25 years since our last European trophy. Let’s hope that Unai Emery and the players can evoke the spirit of 1994 and we can continue on the road to Baku on May 29th.