There’s still a lot to fight for this season with a top four place and the Europa League still in the mix, but the 3-1 first leg loss to Rennes last week Thursday was a bitter pill to swallow to say the least. It was expected that the Gunners would use their home advantage to good effect, but anything less than a 2-0 win for the home side would have been a disaster.
In a classic case of ‘If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’, Unai Emery stuck to the same formation that was so successful against the high-flying Manchester United, but Bernd Leno had to make do with a place on the bench as the Europa League is Petr Cech’s tournament. Shkodran Mustafi filled in for the suspended Sokratis Papathathopoulos, alongside captain Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal.
Arsenal came off the blocks really fast with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showing his predatory skills in the box to nick home Aaron Ramsey’s hopeful punt into the danger area. The forward turned from scorer to provider when he lofted a ball into the six yard box that was headed aplomb by Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Auba was clearly offside but I’d let you know when I care. It feels kinda sinister when these decisions go for you, but hey, that’s football.
It’s not like it was all Arsenal all the way, the away side had their moments and almost earned themselves an away goal when a snap shot from some bloke clipped Cech’s post and returned to the fray. Mustafi was in his usual careless self and one wonders what can be done to take away this erratic behavior from him.
The Gunners sealed the game when substitute Henrikh Mkhitaryan teed up Sead Kolasinac on the byline that drilled the ball for Aubameyang to poke it home. Instead of the usual somersaults, Auba revealed and donned a Black Panther mask much to the delight of his fans. I clearly remember crossing my arms on my chest in response to his Wakanda Forever expression. He earned a yellow card for his troubles but that didn’t matter – Arsenal are in the last eight of the Europa League and are set for a double date with Italian side, Napoli.
When that bridge comes, we would cross it but its nice going into the international break with such a great result and feeling to match, all thanks to our Gabonese Black Panther that came through for Arsenakanda.