Is there going to be any decent football to watch for the next 16 days?

March 16, 2019

The short answer is ‘no’ as our next competitive game is not until April Fools day. April the first is a Monday so even when proper football returns, we’ll have to wait for the whole weekend to pass before seeing the lads play again.

When I say ‘competitive’ match, I notice that a new fixture has appeared on, a friendly on Tuesday March 26th, 3pm kick off. This is part of a mid-season break in Dubai for those not involved in the internationals and the opposition is Al-Nasr Dubai SC. This is not purely an exercise in trying to boost our profile in the Middle East, latching on to a portion of oil money. Oh no.

Al Nasr capture former PSG midfielder Cabaye

How about this weekend? Is there anything interesting in the Prem games. Saturday is a complete wash out with three non-entity fixtures. Let’s hope the rugby is good and England still have something to play for at 5 o’clock.

Sunday sees Liverpool trying to go back to the top of the table at everyone’s favourite ground, Craven Cottage, followed by the chavs at Goodison. Theo always used to score against them, didn’t he?

There appear to be some FA cup games this weekend, too, but hold little appeal for anyone apart from fans of the participating teams. Millwalll fans have been told they’ll get a severe telling off if there’s any homophobic chanting at the Brighton fans. Good luck with that. City and United to go through to add to their fixture congestion? Who cares?

As far as the international fixtures are concerned, attention turns to European Championship qualifying. Yawn.

England play the Czech Republic next Friday at 7.45 and Montenegro away on the Monday evening.

When the Premier League returns, City go to the Cottage (lucky Fulham!), the red mancs are at home to Watford and on the Sunday, the chavs are at Cardiff and spuds go to Anfield. 🙂

Let’s hope all our boys involved in matches for their respective countries return unscathed, so when April does come around we can continue afresh.

The following is a translation from the French website Ouest France and is just an excuse to show another photo of the lovely Ben Arfa. My reaction to seeing photos of him has gone from disgust to barely concealed delight. No idea why.

Hatem Ben Arfa kicked off the second leg last Thursday: “Now we’re favorites and we’ll go to London to win. “Having fun with the behavior of his former coach at PSG, which had deprived him of competition for a year and a half, after doing everything to recruit him:” I saw the same Unai Emery, who was very excited on the bench. I looked at him from time to time, and it made me laugh a little, because he did not change. “

Ben Arfa and Le Wagner on Thursday afternoon


Arsenal 3 Rennes 0 – Player Ratings

March 15, 2019

A similar line-up to the team which beat Man U was chosen to engineer our fightback. The only changes being Cech in goal and Mustafi for the ineligible Papa.

First Half

What a magnificent start to the first half – Ainsley finding Aaron Ramsey in the perfect position in the area to swivel and feed Auba for a goal poacher’s tap in. These are easy and straightforward if you have the instinct to be there in the first place.

Things went from peachy to orgasmic with the second goal after a quarter of an hour.  Wardrobe knew he was offside from the dinked ball through, leaving Auba to stand up a tempting cross Brady-style to the far post and who should be there to nod it into the net – only our Conservative candidate for Lower Holloway. Ainsley was ecstatic and from that moment on you could see him visibly grow in confidence.

Rennes struggled to put many passes together and their game was again characterised by play-acting and blatant attempts to con the ref into issuing cards. Well, it had worked once in France.

Rambo had another fine chance from Laca laying the ball back but could only find the keeper when under pressure to get a shot off quickly.

After 4 minutes stoppages at the end of the half we found ourselves up on aggregate via away goals. No chance it could stay at 2-0, surely?

Second Half

The second period started with a near calamity with Mustafi getting caught wrong side. the ball hit the post and we could breathe again. Shkodran was generally pretty solid though tonight, so we can excuse him this one because it didn’t lead to us conceding and he did get back up on his feet and block the follow up shot from the rebound.

Rennes had a series of corners and a few vague sniffs at goal that tended to be snuffed out by the gloriously erect flag of the lino at the North Bank end. Why BT saw fit to keep showing play which was after the ball was dead, is anyone’s guess. Same reason they would employ Stuart Robson as co-commentator, no doubt – to wind us up, as there can’t be any other reason. His monotone banality is enough to drive any self-respecting fan into thinking any game is full of tedium.

Emery’s substitutions on 70 minutes were absolutely inspired. Mesut had been fairly lacklustre by his own very high standards and he was replaced by Micki. Laca had run his socks off and was on a yellow so, Iwobi made sense, too.

There was an immediate transformation. We suddenly had the ball and kept it purposefully in midfield. the passing interchange was swift and decisive resulting in a beautifully constructed goal of glorious simplicity. Wardrobe’s driven cross to Auba was like an express takeaway brought by Deliveroo. Superb, three goals to nil and a mask celebration to add a further minute to injury time.

We dominated the next 10 minutes and should have had a 4th and 5th with Auba missing a one on one and then fluffing his lines when he had the goal at his mercy with his left foot from Rambo’s wonderful pass.

Lucas Torreira came on for Rambo who was, once again, quite sublime. His tackling, positional sense and ability on the ball were just exceptional. Five extra minutes were seen out without too many scares and a well-deserved passage to the quarters secured.


Three goals and none conceded. There were virtually no Arsenal fans predicting a clean sheet.

The Rennes players’ attempts to recreate the Papa situation were pathetic in the extreme. I suppose their only chance of winning was to play against 10 men again. Luckily we didn’t have to endure too many close ups of the hideous Ben Arfa as he was barely in the game – so much for laughing at Unai Emery mate, he done you up like a kipper. Hahahaha.

Stuart MacFarlane

Loved the substitutions. they really secured the victory.

Ratings (perhaps slightly high but, heck, the fightback was glorious)

Cech – clean sheet – took a kick in the head – didn’t have too many clear cut saves to make as Rennes were offside so often …. 7

Maitland-Niles – his first half was superb and a goal to boot – great to see him grabbing his chance with both hands …. 8

Mustafi – the much-maligned Shkodran played well tonight apart from the one slip – well done that man …. 8

Koscielny – rock, shield, bulwark, buttress, captain …. 8

Monreal –  excellent throughout – Sarr barely got a look in ….. 8

Kolasinac – our Bosnian battering ram excelled again – assists, last ditch blocks, the whole shooting match …. 8

Xhaka – the odd misplaced pass amongst hundreds – he really does ooze class regardless of what the nay-sayers think – was he a single fulcrum or was a certain Welshman providing able backup in the double pivot? …. 9

Ramsey – another top top performance from Rambo with one assist (and could have had another if Auba hadn’t failed his Football proficiency test with his left foot) – again gets my MOTM with his tireless, selfless running, challenging and top quality with the ball at his feet …. 9

Ozil – not his most effective Arsenal game – seemed to lose possession easily without too much care on occasion …. 7

Aubameyang – 2 goals, 2 misses, 1 Bradyesque assist – an elite goalscorer’s lot, I suppose – will get most of the papers’ MOTM as goalscorer’s usually do …. 8

Lacazette – the man has grand couilles – unlucky to be booked for a great challenge – didn’t have too much joy in front of goal but worked like a Trojan …. 8


Iwobi – added ball retention and availability for a pass which had been lacking further forward … 8

Mkhitaryan – his quality on the ball was immediately apparent – helped to get us over the line …. 8

Torreira …. not on for long but chased and harried …. 7


Emery – Manager of the Match, of that there is no doubt – restored his reputation from last week with a great team set-up and tactics – the subs on 70 minutes were bang on and sealed a fine win …. 9

Le Wagner – should go back to Huddersfield, but would be laughed out of Yorkshire if he asked his players to feign  injury at every opportunity ….3

Stuart MacFarlane


The UEFA Europa League draw begins at 12 noon on Friday 15th March. The draw will be for the Quarter/Final and Semi/Final.


p.s. please give your own match thoughts and ratings in the comments below

Arsenal FC – Our home record against Rennes

March 13, 2019

Our home record against Rennes is, of course, yet to take shape as we haven’t played them at THOF before. Let’s hope it is a glorious night tomorrow, remembered for all the right reasons this time around.

While our away game against Rennes was perhaps the highlight of their history, it was one of the low points of our season to date – so we should expect a lot more from Arsenal at home with our supporters willing us on.

Jon Sammels after scoring our second against Ajax in the 1970 Fairs Cup semi-final

The following is a match report that sums up our poor performance at Roazhon Park

Arsenal’s Europa League hopes suffered a serious setback after a 3-1 first-leg loss at Stade Rennes in round of 16 action on Thursday.

The Gunners took early control of the game at Roazhon Park when Alex Iwobi scored in the third minute, a curling cross-shot that bounced off the far post and into the net.

Matters turned sour after Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off for his second bookable offence in the 41st minute. Arsenal were doubly punished as Benjamin Bourigeaud’s equalised for the Ligue 1 hosts from the resulting free kick.

Rennes took the lead with Nacho Monreal’s own goal in the 65th minute and Ismaila Sarr’s spectacular header from a left-wing cross two minutes from full-time secured the French side a deserved win.

“The first 40 minutes I think we controlled, we scored and we didn’t concede good chances to them. But after this red card, it’s different,” Arsenal coach Unai Emery said in a post-match news conference. “Two yellow cards and it’s the referee’s decision. After, I think we must learn to play — when it’s coming like today — with one less player on the pitch.

“Not a good experience today, because we couldn’t do our work in difficult moments, in difficult minutes, with one less player, like we wanted. I think we can do better.”

Arsenal had never lost to French opposition away from home in 12 previous European games.

“I think the biggest disappointment is the third goal because at 2-1, you go home and you know that there’s a result where you’ve scored away at home and you can overcome it.,” Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Czech said. “We can still overcome a two-goal deficit because in the end the goal we scored might play a big part, but we made it a little bit harder for ourselves.”

Cech’s comment is a classic understatement, we certainly have the quality to overcome a two goal deficit at home but what Arsenal team will show up? From the March 7th loss to Rennes to the March 10th win against Manchester Untied we witnessed two totally different performances from basically the same players.

After the two yellow cards to Papa it seemed that the team sadly overestimated their ability to stay within comfortable touching distance for the second leg. To their credit Rennes, became an inspired team and were fully deserving of their historic victory. I was particularly impressed with the enthusiasm of their supporters – although throwing paper darts at our team went a bit too far.

Here is a look at Stade Rennais’ away performances in Europe, I must admit that I’m not positive that the list is 100% correct as I found many differing statistics.

After our incredible performance against Manchester United I cannot foresee anything other than us overcoming the 2 goal deficit and making the away goal work in our favour.

Update – Laca is available after his 3 match ban was reduced to 2 on appeal.


Rennes 3 Arsenal 1 – Player Ratings

March 8, 2019

The team selection saw Ozil picked to play with Auba. Some have been suggesting this is a decent pairing, complementing each other, as do Rambo and Laca.

First Half

Iwobi got us off to the perfect start with his curler towards the far post which sneaked in past the unsuspecting keeper.

There seemed to be an awful lot of French players pretending that they’d been cracked on the head. Ben Arfa was the worst culprit, the disgusting little maggot.

Arsenal’s attacking play was very slack. Auba couldn’t trap a blind rabbit and Mesut didn’t seem to want to repay any of the manager’s faith in him.

We seemed to be lacking that link between Xhaka/Torreira and the front 4, a scenario we’ve seen several times already this season. Micki should be realising this and stepping into the breach but instead was fairly anonymous. Iwobi also seems a luxury away from home when his other three attacking partners are under-performing.

Having said that, both Torreira and Mustafi should both have done better with very respectable chances within the Rennes penalty area. We seemed to be in control on the whole, barring some sort of outside intervention. Cue the ref.

Sokratis had received his first yellow when the cheating Ben Arfa fell over him which was to prove costly 5 minutes from half time when the referee was conned by another French dive as Big Sok barely touched the onrushing striker who went down as if he been felled in the forest.

So, down to 10 men and made worse when the lad taking the resultant free kick hit a pearler as the ball bounced back to him off the wall. Cech had no chance as the ball flew past.

Second Half

Iwobi was subbed shortly after half time with Guendouzi coming on in his place. We really needed 3 or 4 additional subs at that moment but that’s not allowed.

Nothing stupid, lads, see if we can salvage a draw with a man down. Oh dear, what followed was a flashing near post finish from Nacho, while  Auba was debating with the ref whether it was a corner or not, putting paid to any notion of salvaging parity.

Other chances followed but it did seem as though we might take a 2-1 defeat back to the Emirates and finish the job there. But then to be caught with so many men forward in the 88th minute though, was unforgivable. How stupid can a team collectively be?


Rennes deserved to win despite their transparent cheating, diving and all-round shit-housing. If I never see Ben Arfa’s piggy-like face again, I’ll be happy. Oh no, just remembered, he’ll be at the Emirates next week.

On this showing, we stand virtually nil chance of winning the tiddly winks cup let alone the Europa. Complacent, lazy, idiotic, gutless – all words which could be applied to our team’s performance in this first leg.

Originally the thought of 17 days without a game for the second half of March seemed a terrible prospect; now it doesn’t seem so bad. Then again, a decent result on Sunday might make me think differently.


Cech – made some good saves – not much he could do about any of the goals … 7

Mustafi – persistently requiring treatment in the first half but none of his injuries forced him off … 5

Koscielny – as captain he leads by example – Arsenal required someone to scream at them in tonight’s game, lifting them up to perform at a higher level, didn’t happen … 6

Sokratis – unlucky to be sent off as the first yellow was soft and second was an obvious dive as far as I could see – Ben Arfa pleaded for the ref to send him off and then winked at Big Sok as the ref produced the red – it was almost as if it had been a deliberate tactic from Rennes … 6

Monreal – not his best game – didn’t have the legs or cover ahead of him to cope with the winger’s pace – great OG … 5

Xhaka – he’s ok if he’s looking at the game in front of him but on the turn he’s pretty redundant – some really sloppy passing when we needed sharpness … 5

Torreira – I still don’t understand why Emery wants him to play so far forward sometimes – miles out of position for the third, no idea why he would think that was sensible … 5

Ozil – really poor all night – earn your money, man, put in a shift – slack … 4

Mkhitaryan – he seemed to be in good form coming into the game – shame he didn’t bring it to France – did ok as a makeshift right back though … 5

Aubameyang – absolutely dreadful – worse first touch than Adebayor – clueless … 3

Iwobi – not a game for him, unfortunately, but gets an extra point for scoring a majestic curler … 5


Guendouzi – where was he meant to be playing? – I’m not sure he knew – all over the place is probably the best description … 5

Ramsey – showed more spirit in 20 minutes than Mesut had shown in 70 … 6

Kolasinac – on for the ineffectual Aubameyang … 6


Emery – Wenger was always berated for not being able to motivate players – this performance fell into the same category – he must be so angry … 6

Le Wagner – better team on the night … 7

Final thought


Rennes: Pre-match

March 7, 2019

Rennes: I know nothing about them. Does anyone apart from a French football enthusiast? Apart from Ben Arfa I know none of their players. Do you? Do you want to know? If so, look elsewhere as it’s a special day for Big Raddy and he is not in research mode.

Even GN5 struggled to pad out a post!


I could just write … We are playing Rennes in the Europa, they are in 10 place in La Ligue. We should beat them over two legs. End. It’s a wrap but  having left clicked your mouse  to AA you probably expect more.

Arsenal. We travel with as full a strength squad as possible. With a big game on the weekend I expect UE to rest a few chaps – Mhki, Kos etc.

My Team:


AMN (Cons)   Mustafi   Sokratis    Monreal

Terrier   Xhaka   Wardrobe

Ozil   Iwobi


No Douzi in my line up so it is certain to be wrong.

We are on a fine run, let’s keep it going.


Arsenal FC – our away record against Rennes

March 6, 2019

We have never played Stade Rennais FC (known as Rennes) and so our competitive history begins on Thursday.

This is Arsenal’s 25th European game against opponents from France and we haven’t lost any of the 12 matches on the other side of La Manche, winning eight. Arsenal’s former Czech Republic international goalkeeper Petr ÄŚech played for Rennes from 2002–04, making 78 appearances in total.

Rennes’s history goes back more than 2,000 years, at a time when it was a small Gallic village named Condate. Together with Vannes and Nantes, it was one of the major cities of the ancient Duchy of Brittany. From the early sixteenth century until the French Revolution, Rennes was a parliamentary, administrative and garrison city of the historic province of Brittany of the Kingdom of France.

Rennes old town

In 2015, the city was the tenth largest in France, with a metropolitan area of about 720,000 inhabitants. With more than 66,000 students in 2016, it is also the eighth-largest university campus of France. The inhabitants of Rennes are called Rennais(e)(es) in French. In 2018, L’Express named Rennes as “the most liveable city in France”.

Stade Rennais FC 1904 – love the pipe

Stade Rennais Football Club, commonly referred to as Stade Rennais, SRFC or simply Rennes, is a French association football club based in Rennes. The club was founded in 1901 and currently plays in Ligue 1, the top tier of French football. Rennes plays its home matches at the Roazhon Park, located within the city – it has a capacity of 29,778. The team is managed by Julien StĂ©phan. The team’s president is Olivier LĂ©tang and its owner is ArtĂ©mis, the holding company of the Pinault family. Businessman François-Henri Pinault is married to actress Salma Hayek

Domestic Honours

Ligue 2

Champions (2): 1955–56, 1982–83

Coupe de France

Champions (2): 1964–65, 1970–71

Runners-up (4): 1921–22, 1936–37, 2008–09, 2013–14

Coupe de la Ligue

Runners-up (1): 2012–13

Trophée des champions

Champions (1): 1971

Rennes play in Ligue 1 and are currently in 10th place with a record of W10, D7, L9, GF35, GA 34, they are 34 points behind 1st place PSG.

Les Rouges et Noirs finished second in this season’s Europa League Group K behind Dynamo Kyiv to qualify for the Round of 32. Drawn against Real Betis (currently 8th in La LIga), they could only draw 3-3 in the home tie but ran out 3-1 winners in the away leg in Spain to earn their place against us in the Round of 16.

The League de Football Professionnel (LFP) agreed to postpone the Rennes Ligue 1 game against Nimes Olympique, scheduled for March 2nd, to allow them 8 days to prepare for The Arsenal. Meanwhile we played the spuds on March 2nd and will play Manchester United on March 10th, 3 days after the Rennes away leg.

Even with this cramped schedule I expect Arsenal to be too strong for Rennes.


What does the rest of March hold in store for Arsenal?

March 4, 2019

The simple answer is, not a great deal considering the stage of the season. Having successfully dealt with our away game to the spuds and been a touch unlucky not to win, we seem to be really finding our stride.

Associated Press

Time to build some momentum for the final push. Oh look, there’s a chuffin international break in the last two weeks of March. Dennis save us from this madness.

Our fixtures in March continue this Thursday with the first leg of our Round of 16 Europa League tie in France, kick off 17.55pm. Rennes will have had just over a week’s rest before the tie thanks to some club-friendly scheduling by the Ligue Un authorities. Hopefully it will have had a contrary effect and left them slightly short of match sharpness, unlike our brave lads.

Lucas Torreira will be itching to play in both the away and home ties since his red against the spuds will see him sidelined in the League well into April.

Roazhon Park

Next Sunday we face Solskjaer’s mob at home in the last game of the weekend, kick off 16.30pm. The match will almost assume the status of 6 pointer. It’s essential we don’t lose, but hopefully home advantage will see us grab all six points. No silly goals conceded on the counter this season, lads, please.

Thursday week we welcome Stade Rennais FC back to The Home of Football. I’d imagine the tie will still be finely balanced with again (hopefully), home advantage allowing us to overcome them and progress to the quarters.

The following weekend to the Rennes home fixture, we were down to face Wolves at Molyneux but their participation in the FA Cup has led to this game being postponed and it is yet to be re-scheduled.

Therefore, because of the international break (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) and clashing cup comps, we only have the 3 games to play in the whole of the rest of March. So much for building momentum!

In the next 11 days we’ll know if our Europa journey will be continuing and also the task left in the final 8 Prem games to reach a CL spot.

Then in the following 17 days we’ll have an Arsenal-less break. Baffling.