I am concerned about tonight.
Arsenal really should have put the tie to bed in that first leg.
Prior to Sokratis’ sending off, it was all Arsenal. We should have scored 2 or 3. Not for the first time this season we failed to get that second goal. I am confident had we got that, we would have gone on to win comfortably.
Instead it all fell apart when Sokratis received an extremely harsh second yellow which reduced Arsenal to 1-men.
Let’s get things right. It was not a yellow card. The players came together, tangled themselves. It was not even a foul. And from the resulting free kick Rennes equalised with a stunning finish.
If the first was a world class strike from a free kick that should never have been given, the second was down to simple bad luck – the ball deflecting off of Monreal. Own goal.
I could have taken a 2-1 defeat. Not the best result. But it was also not the worst, circumstances considering.
1 goal down with the away goal in the bag, Rennes not overly looking threatening despite having 11 men. You would back Arsenal to overturn the deficit quickly like they did against BATE Borisov.
Instead, in the 88th minute, Arsenal shot themselves in the foot conceding the 3rd goal froma counter attack.
I remember a game a few years ago against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League group stages.
Having been 1-0 down at home, Olivier Giroud had made it 1-1 at half time. With 10 minutes to go. Arsenal were pushing forward. Wave after wave of attack. They were hit on the counter attack and lost the game 2-1 with Robert Lewandowski scoring with just over 5 minutes to go.
Better game management would have recognised that a draw was not a bad result. Would have left Arsenal not pushing forward as aggressively, and resulted in both sides leaving north London with a point.
In the end Arsenal did manage to qualify from a tough group including Napoli and Marseille.
The first leg against Rennes was similar.
Arsenal players (and management) should have recognised that 2-1 with the away goal was not a bad result. Especially down to 10-men. To be hit on the break and end up losing 3-1 was simply down to poor in-game management.
So now instead of needing just the single goal tonight to be leading the game, we need 2. It will a tough task.
Saying that, Arsenal were all over Rennes prior to Sokratis’ sending off. They could not cope with us.
With it being a 2 goal deficit, Arsenal know that they need to attack, attack, attack. And with that away goal in the back, Arsenal now it does not really matter if we concede one.
Rennes will set up to frustrate Arsenal. To protect what they have. It is a game to play Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with Grant Xhaka holding.
It does not matter if we concede one, we still need to score 3.
Go out and be aggressive. Start the men who can unpick the lock and have Xhaka dictating the play from deep.
The majority of the play tonight will be in Rennes half.
It really is a simple game plan.
Leave the central defenders (Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi) on the half way line. Xhaka just infront of them, and pile everyone else forward.
Bernd Leno has to be on his toes.
As we saw against Manchester United at the weekend, he is good at coming out of his goal. He will need to remain close to the edge of the box to cut out the long balls over the top.
Am I confident about tonight? No. Do I still expect us to go through? Yes.
We need to keep the dual paths to qualifying for the Champions League open.