Arsenal manager Unai Emery says he is “excited” by the prospect of winning his first trophy with the club following their 4-3 aggregate victory over Rennes to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League. Emery has already won the competition three times with former club Sevilla. Arsenal were knocked out in the semi-finals of the Europa League last season under Arsene Wenger. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inspired a Gunners comeback as they overturned a two-goal deficit from the first leg to reach the quarter-finals. The striker put the Gunners ahead within four minutes, firing in Aaron Ramsey’s cut-back, before setting up Ainsley Maitland-Niles at Emirates Stadium. He then poked in Sead Kolasinac’s low cross after the break to make it 3-0 as Arsenal joined Chelsea in the last eight following their 8-0 aggregate thrashing of Dynamo Kiev.
Both English clubs are favourites to win the competition after five-time champions Sevilla’s shock exit in the last 16 and Italian giants Inter Milan failed to progress. Emery sees success in the Europa League as an extra ticket into the Champions League as Arsenal – who are currently fourth in the Premier League – battle to remain above Manchester United and Chelsea in the table. “The last eight teams are very important teams and it is going to be very difficult,” said Emery. “The Europa League is giving us a big opportunity also to make one way to the Champions League. “And also, it’s one title. I said to the players, I am excited about this competition. It’s not just because you can get to the Champions League.” The draw for the quarter-finals takes place on Friday at 12:00 GMT.
Despite trailing 3-1 from the first leg and needing to score at least twice, Arsenal remained favourites to progress to the quarter-finals and they got off to a brilliant start. Alexandre Lacazette, who was eligible to play after a ban was reduced, had a great chance after just three minutes when he latched onto Ramsey’s ball over the top, only to be denied by Rennes keeper Tomas Koubek. A minute later, Aubameyang did put Arsenal in front when Maitland-Niles cut inside the defender and laid it off to Ramsey, who put it on a plate for the Gabonese striker. Aubameyang was energetic, efficient and dangerous throughout and it was his willingness to chase the ball down which led to the second goal. There was some fortune as he appeared to be offside when Ramsey’s threaded pass was kept in on the byeline but with no video assistant referee, Maitland-Niles finished off the move with a thumping header in the centre. Aubameyang continued to play with confidence – trying an audacious overhead kick in the first half, before poking in Arsenal’s third goal after 72 minutes.