Unai Emery was pleased with his players’ competitiveness as Arsenal beat Rennes 3-0 at the Emirates to secure safe passage to the Europa League quarter-finals with a 4-3 win on aggregate.
After last week’s defeat in France, the Gunners knew they’d have to score at least two goals on the night to progress and made the perfect start when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ainsley Maitland-Niles both tucked home from close range inside 15 minutes.
With 18 minutes remaining Sead Kolasinac set-up Aubameyang for his second, he celebrated with a Black Panther mask and then squandered to great chances for his hat-trick, leaving the defence to dig in doggedly for a clean sheet that ensured the game didn’t go to extra-time.
While Emery welcomed the win, he made clear that there remains room for improvement.
“It was a good evening,” he told BT Sport. “3-0 is good for us. We had chances to score the fourth goal and be more calm.
“I’m very proud of the supporters and players. We worked very well this week. We can be happy.
“We were very competitive over 90 minutes but can do better. We could have had more control of the ball. It’s easy to say here instead of on the pitch.”
The draw for the quarter-finals will take place tomorrow. The other sides involved include Olivier Giroud’s Chelsea, Napoli, Franny Coquelin’s Valencia, Benfica, Frankfurt, Slavia Prague (who knocked out Unai’s old club Sevilla) and Santi Cazorla’s Villarreal.
Asked whether Arsenal are one of the favourites to win the competition, Emery replied told his post-game press conference, “These two matches gave us a very difficult way. This competition, today for example, Inter Milan is out, Sevilla is out. A big surprise.
“The last eight teams are very important teams and it is going to be very difficult. But we are going to think the same ideas before this match, before Sunday’s match against Manchester United.
“The next match is the most important match for us and the next competition is the same.
“After 15 days, we are going to play against Newcastle here in the Premier League and then other matches in the Europa League. We are going to prepare for each match as if it’s the most important.”