Analysis

Arsenal 3-0 Rennes: Three things we noticed

A brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ainsley Maitland-Niles' first strike at Emirates Stadium saw us progress to the last eight of the Europa League with a 3-0 win over Rennes.

But what did we notice? Read on to find out...

AUBA ON SONG

Two goals, one assist and an instantly iconic mask celebration was Auba's return from another dominant Emirates performance, and it was richly deserved for a busy, energetic showing throughout the 90 minutes.
 
The striker cut a frustrated figure during the first leg in France last week, but he looked determined to make amends for that this time out, and was buzzing around the Rennes penalty area from the opening minutes.
 
His two goals were both poacher's efforts - taking his tally to 22 for the season - and in between those he stood up a wonderful cross for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to power home at the far post.
 
That only tells half the story though. His touch map shows he was a livewire presence all evening, and indeed on another night he could easily have had a hat-trick.
 
The numbers are stacking up nicely. It was his sixth brace of the season, and he's now been involved in 15 goals in his last 13 home matches – 11 goals and four assists. 

Aubameyang's touch map during the victory over Rennes


STARTING FAST

This was the seventh game in a row that we have opened the scoring in the first quarter of an hour, and the fifth time in that run that we scored within six minutes of the first whistle.
 
And tonight a fast start was just what we needed, knowing we had to overturn a two-goal deficit. Rennes looked intent in disrupting our rhythm all evening, so wiping out their advantage so early was crucial in ensuring we were able to control the game, with relatively few scares.
 
We played with an excellent intensity in the opening 15 minutes, picking up where we left off against Manchester United at the weekend.
 
In fact recently we have become used to being front runners – we have led for a total of 516 out of the last 630 minutes played, and the team look increasingly adept at protecting a lead.
 
A big criticism of the first leg was how we failed to guard against the counter attack in the closing stages, leading to what potentially could have been a killer third goal, but that lesson was well learnt here. At least twice Laurent Koscielny reminded his defenders not to pour forward when the game was in the balance, a message also conveyed from the bench in the closing stages.
 
It all meant we were able to overturn a two-goal first leg deficit in European competition for the first time since beating Anderlecht in the final of the Fairs Cup in 1970.

CECH CONTINUES
 

Had we gone out tonight, it's very possible that Petr Cech would never have played again, having already announced his plans to retire at the end of the season.
 
The decorated Czech stopper has been the regular goalkeeper for us in the Europa League since November, and was one of our best performers in the first leg, despite being on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline.
 
At the Emirates he produced another well-earned clean sheet – our fourth in a row at home in European football. His fingertip save from M'Baye Niang at the start of the second half was crucial.
 
In the knock out stages especially, home clean sheets are clearly very important, given the weighting on away goals, and it was impressive how we found a good balance between protecting the defence while also carving out enough chances to get the big win we needed.
 
In terms of hunting silverware this season, Arsenal are not done yet. Neither is Petr Cech. After seeing off his former side Rennes, he now has his eyes on a victorious end to a glittering career - lifting his 19th club honour.