The Chalkboard: What Arsenal should expect from their clash with Rennes

Arsenal have drawn French outfit Rennes in the last 16 of the Europa League. The two legs of the tie will be held on the 7th and 14th March, with the second fixture taking place at the Emirates Stadium.

Whilst the Gunners will be favourites to progress to the quarter finals, Unai Emery must recognise the genuine threat that the Ligue 1 side pose to ensure his side don’t stumble to an embarrassing exit from the competition.

On the chalkboard

Whilst Rennes are currently undergoing an underwhelming domestic campaign, they should not be underestimated. They certainly pack a punch going forwards, and given that the Gunners’ rearguard is far from solid, Emery must take measures to ensure his side aren’t exposed.

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In the likes of playmaker Clement Grenier, mercurial attacking midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa, rapid winger Ismaila Sarr and striker M’Baye Niang, Rennes have plenty of attacking talent with the capacity to hurt Arsenal.

Emery must mastermind a way of ensuring that his side aren’t undone by the opposition’s firepower.

A conservative approach

In order to address this concern, the Gunners must play a more conservative game in the first leg away from home. Keeping a clean sheet must be the priority in this fixture, with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Iwobi posing a threat on the break.

Reverting to a flat three-man midfield might also be a smart, if cautious, move for this game. With Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka and Matteo Gundouzi forming a solid block ahead of the Arsenal backline, Emery’s side ought to be able to keep Rennes out.