Robert Pires says Arsenal can beat any team at the Emirates Stadium, and he has a good feeling about the second leg match against Stade Rennais FC on Thursday night.
Speaking to Marca this week, Pires gave his thoughts on Unai Emery’s first season, as well as the more immediate task at hand with the Europa League last-16 drawing to a close on Thursday night.
Arsenal lost the first leg 3-1 to Rennes in France, after having Sokratis Papastathopoulos sent off in the first half. However, Pires is confident Emery’s side can turn the tie around in the return fixture, and he believes the players are too.
“I’m confident and positive, like the players. All of the players and Unai Emery know that they played bad against Rennes, but this is football,” Pires said. “We have a second chance at home at the Emirates.
“It’s strange, but maybe after the Manchester United win, I have a good feeling. Anything is possible because when Arsenal play at home they can beat any team.”
Not only that, but the former Gunner believes Arsenal can still go on to win the entire competition. The 45-year-old adds that Emery is doing a good job in his first season following Arsene Wenger.
“I think he is doing well because they’re in the top four and I think they can qualify for next season’s Champions League,” Pires continued. “I think, and I hope, that he can win the Europa League, as he won it three times with Sevilla. So he has a lot of experience and knows there is good quality and a good squad.
“I think he has built a good team and they are now ready to fight for the end of the season.”
Arsenal’s focus for the remainder of the season entirely depends on whether they’re up to the task of a comeback on Thursday night. If they exit the competition at this stage, all their attention (and all the pressure) shifts to Premier League and finishing in the top four. Of course, it also means a trophyless first campaign for the new head coach.
The safest way to return to the Champions League is probably to finish in the top four, particularly with Arsenal’s fixture list from now until May. However, if they really want to make a statement to the fans, the Gunners need to try and lift a trophy at the same time. Let’s hope they can start that run to the final in Baku with victory over Rennes.