Rennes manager Julien Stephan warns Arsenal are already at ‘Champions League’ level
Rennes manager Julien Stephan has tipped ‘Champions League’ level Arsenal to go the distance in the Europa League.
The Gunners overturned their 3-1 first-leg defeat at the hands of the French side back at the Emirates on Thursday night to book their place in the Europa League last eight.
Arsene Wenger took Arsenal to the semi-finals last season, where eventual champions Atletico Madrid knocked them out, but in Unai Emery the Gunners have a Europa League specialist.
The Frenchman says his players can start to think about a first trophy of his tenure, while Stephan said Arsenal were already Champions League quality.
“We got caught up in the intensity of the game,” the Rennes boss said. “They have a very strong attack. We got caught up into the one-on-ones and the intensity of the game.
“The level that was being played against us was Champions League football.
“They have got a coach who knows what it takes to win this trophy. They have got a deep squad, when you can sub [Alexandre] Lacazette and get in [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan and [Alex] Iwobi they have got quality on all levels, they can go until the end.”
While Arsenal were too much for Rennes at the Emirates, Stephan had every right to be enraged by how things conspired against his side.
Before a ball was kicked they had the advantage of a second-leg at home taken away, with the tie reversed to accommodate Chelsea’s home first-leg, before Alexandre Lacazette’s three game ban was cut to two days before Thursday’s game.
Add to that the fact that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was offside in the build up to the goal which put Arsenal in the driving seat, and it is quite the set of circumstances.
“On the offside I think there is a big mistake so this goal changes a lot of things,” Stephan said. “As for Lacazette, they thought he only deserved two games, the commission decided it was worth a two game ban.
“A few things have gone against us over the last few days. A team of our level there is a lot to learn from these experiences, we don’t have the name or history of Arsenal but we are learning.”