MX23RW : Thursday, March 21 00:38:40
Mar 7, 2019 at 5.55pm UK at ​Route de Lorient
Attendance: 29,771
Rennes
3-1
Arsenal
Bourigeaud (42'), Monreal (65' og.), Sarr (88')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Iwobi (4')
Sokratis (41')

Fixture congestion should not be used as an excuse, says Arsenal boss Emery

Fixture congestion should not be used as an excuse, says Arsenal boss Emery
© Reuters
Mauricio Pochettino and Maurizio Sarri have called on the Premier League to assist teams playing in European competitions.

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has refused to follow some of his counterparts by suggesting the Premier League should do more to help English clubs in Europe.

Both Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and Chelsea's Maurizio Sarri have called on the league to fall in line with much of the continent and assist teams playing in European competition and the fixture congestion it causes.

The Gunners face Rennes on Thursday night in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie.

Although the game at the Roazhon Park is sandwiched between huge Premier League games against Spurs and Manchester United as the battle for a top-four finish hots up, Emery insists it cannot be used as a reason for any poor performances from Arsenal.

"It is not an excuse for us, we have the habit to play a lot of matches week by week," he said.

"We played on Saturday, rested Sunday and started to work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and tomorrow I think we are going to be okay to play every player. For us, it is a very important match.

"I respect them, the Premier League they decide the schedules for our matches and we adapted.

Arsenal progressed to the last 16 with victory over BATE Borisov
Arsenal progressed to the last 16 with victory over BATE Borisov (Nick Potts/PA)

"Our adaptation is to prepare for the matches on the days we can have but, above all, our habit is to play a lot of matches during the week, so it is no excuse.

"You ask me if I prefer sometimes more time to prepare for one match then yes, but for example in this match we don't have an excuse.

"We had time to prepare for this match well, maybe we are going to play after on Sunday but we have this habit and we have the players to share and find combinations with the players who can play tomorrow with a big performance, fresh players with a big energy.

"Then also on Sunday with some of the same players who play tomorrow and other fresh players can come in and get the best performance in two matches."

Arsenal will be firm favourites heading into the clash with Rennes, who sit 10th in Ligue 1 and have never made it as far as the round of 16 in the Europa League.

If the French side are to spring a surprise then much will rest on the performance of former Newcastle and Hull winger Hatem Ben Arfa.

He endured a tough time under Emery when the pair worked together at Paris St Germain and did not feature in a single competitive game for the club last season.

Ben Arfa then left at the end of his contract and moved to Rennes and, while Emery would not be drawn on his frayed relationship with the 31-year-old, he did suggest he is the danger man.

Hatem Ben Arfa could have a point to prove to Emery
Hatem Ben Arfa could have a point to prove to Emery (Mike Egerton/PA)

"He is a very good player," Emery said.

"He is playing with a big performance and we know they have good organisation, good players and one is Ben Arfa.

"We need tomorrow to control his quality, his skills, because in the two matches they played against Betis he was playing very well. But it is not only Ben Arfa, they have good defensive players, but mostly Ben Arfa is very important for them."

Arsenal will be without striker Alexandre Lacazette as he serves the second game of a three-match ban following his red card against BATE Borisov in the last round, meaning Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is likely to lead the line despite his last-gasp penalty miss in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Tottenham.


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Rennes midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa pictured in December 2018
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool31237170185276
2Manchester CityMan City30242479215874
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs30201957322561
4Arsenal30186663392460
5Manchester UnitedMan Utd30177658401858
6Chelsea30176750331757
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves30128103836244
8Watford30127114244-243
9West Ham UnitedWest Ham31126134146-542
10Leicester CityLeicester31125144043-341
11Everton31117134342140
12Bournemouth31115154356-1338
13Newcastle UnitedNewcastle3198143140-935
14Crystal Palace3096153641-533
15Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2996143242-1033
16Southampton3079143450-1630
17Burnley3186173559-2430
18Cardiff CityCardiff3084182757-3028
19Fulham3145222970-4117
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield3135231857-3914

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