Arsenal: Cech, Mustafi, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Iwobi.
Subs: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Suarez, Ramsey, Nketiah
Arsenal face an uphill task to stay in Europe after 3-1 win defeat to Rennes in the Europa League this evening, which also saw Sokratis sent off and thus suspended for the second leg.
Unai Emery made three changes from the side which drew 1-1 with Sp*rs last weekend Petr Cech, Lucas Torreira, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came in for Bernd Leno, Matteo Guendouzi, Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette.
The Gunners got off to the perfect start, going ahead in the 4th minute through Alex Iwobi. The ball was worked it down the left, Monreal fed the Nigerian who stepped into the box and put in a low cross which evaded everyone and crept in at the far post. 0-1.
Iwobi then turned provider, creating a good chance for Torreira to which the keeper was equal, while the home side looked for an equaliser from a 35 yard free kick which sailed over the bar. Grenier shot wide after Koscielny defended a free kick, and Iwobi saw a good cross palmed away after a great Ozil pass.
Arsenal worked a lovely free kick in the 30th minute with Ozil and Monreal then pulling the ball back, it fell for Mustafi in the box and he drilled a low shot not far wide of the far post.
Sokratis picked up a yellow card for a foul on Ben Arfa which presented the Ligue 1 outfit with a free kick just outside the D, and the former PSG man forced a good save from Cech to deny him the equaliser. Hunou then shot over the bar, Bourigeaud was booked for a foul on Torreira who was taking quite a kicking from the home side, and Koscielny’s defending prevented Ben Arfa a sight of goal when he beat two men in our box.
The game took a turn in the 41st minute though, when Sokratis was booked again – harshly as replays showed – and sent off for a foul on Sarr. It presented Rennes with a free kick just outside the box, Bourigeaud took it, it hit the wall, rebounded to him and he smashed it into the top corner to make it 1-1.
There was a chance to respond quickly when Ozil found space in the box and then found Aubameyang, but not for the first time the striker’s touch was poor and he was dispossessed, and then Mkhitaryan fired over.
It was a half which left Unai Emery with plenty to ponder at the break and needing to bring on a defender to fill the gap left by Sokratis, the manager surprisingly stuck with the makeshift solution he ended the first period with and kept Mkhitaryan at right-back.
Bourigeaud curled a cross-shot just wide as Rennes dominated with the extra man, and the goalscorer had a great sight of goal but could only fire his shot straight at Cech from the penalty spot. It prompted Emery into a 52nd minute change, bringing on Guendouzi for Iwobi, but French side remained dangerous.
Sarr got down their right, drove beyond Monreal, and his low cross deflected away off Koscielny with players scrambling around our box. Bourigeaud and Sarr both tested Cech as they took advantage of the extra man, and the winger went down in our box looking for a penalty but the referee and his assistant waved the claims away.
Xhaka got booked for a foul which presented Ben Arfa with another free kick chance, but once more Cech was equal to his goalbound effort. More last ditch defending was required to stop Ben Arfa’s danger and eventually the pressure told and Rennes went ahead. A poor shot fell for the right back, we were too slow to close him down, the cross came in, deflected off Monreal and looped over Cech. 2-1.
We tried to respond, Ozil shooting at the keeper with his right foot after being set up by Xhaka. Cech had to make another save from Ben Arfa before Ramsey replaced Ozil in the 69th minute, and by the 71st minute the home side had had 17 attempts on goal – 13 of them after the red card.
Emery made his final change when Kolasinac replaced the ineffective Aubameyang in the 79th minute. The striker didn’t look happy but his performance didn’t merit much else. Xhaka gave away another free kick and was perhaps lucky to avoid a second yellow, and as the game headed towards the 90th minute the task for the second leg was made even more difficult when they scored again.
Arsenal lost the ball down on our left, Rennes switched it and broke down their left hand side, a cross from deep found Sarr unmarked at the back post and he planted a header beyond Cech. 3-1.
It leaves the Gunners with a lot to do in the second leg.