What a few weeks it has been for English clubs in Europe.
From Manchester United overcoming a 2-0 deficit to gun down French giants PSG in a stunning 3-1 win to Liverpool claiming the same scoreline away to Bayern Munich to Spurs not Spursing it up against Borussia Dortmund, it’s been an unusually good set of results for English teams on the continental stage.
As well as teams in the Champions Leagues, the Premier League teams in the Europa League have been doing the business too. Chelsea eased past Dynamo Kiev 8-0 on aggregate, and late last night Arsenal overturned a 3-1 first-leg loss against Ligue 1 outlet Stade Rennais to win 3-0 at the Emirates and to complete six-for-six in English teams in European quarter-finals.
It was an inspiring Arsenal performance. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and new fan favourite Ainsley Maitland-Niles put the Gunners ahead after just 15 minutes, and Auba rounded off the result with a second-half tap in.
The atmosphere was electric at the Emirates. Fans were chanting and signing from the first minute to the last, and the players were eager to go out there and overturn a result.
Passion isn’t something you normally associate with Arsenal Football Club, but last night they showed it and was ultimately a key factor on Unai Emery’s side getting the vital 3-0 win. But this alone won’t lead to Europa League glory.
The passion for the badge last night was a complete contrast to what happened in France last week. Arsenal last time out unmotivated, hopeless and frankly lucky to have only escaped Rennes with only three goals conceded.
Sokratis’ sending off clearly played a major role in the final result, but from the first whistle to the last Arsenal always looked the second best team.
Arsenal’s mentality has always been a talking point about the club for years. Arsene Wenger’s sides of years gone by, particularly at the end of his tenure, were often criticised for their lack of a strong mindset in games that mattered most, but this season has been different.
Sure, we have seen Arsenal completely collapse in a handful of games this season, Liverpool and Manchester City away being good examples, but this season it has been clear that Emery has got this side playing with passion when it matters most, but there needs to be more in order to get more and bigger results.
Even though Arsenal came away as 3-0 winners last night, there were a few moments to cause mild heart attacks for the Gunners faithful. Shkodran Mustafi’s pass to a Rennes attacker in the second-half almost resulted in the French side grabbing the sole away goal they would have needed to progress at 2-0 down, and Cech’s post was tested moments after the restart.
The lack of Sokratis, again, resulted in another shaky Arsenal defensive display, and if the Gunners are to go all the way in the Europa League and also claim a top-four finish in the league, the defence must remain calm and consistent and avoid trying to be smart in dangerous situations.
Arsenal has a great opportunity to win their first piece of European silverware since 1994, but if they are to achieve this they must be defensively sound in these big games, and being passionate on and off the pitch will only fuel this level of security.
Arsenal fans, will the Gunners get Champions League football this season?