Hatem Ben Arfa admits the sight of seeing former boss Unai Emery lose his cool made him laugh as Rennes secured a shock 3-1 Europa League win over Arsenal on his birthday.
The 32-year-old forward played under Emery at Paris Saint-Germain for two seasons, but struggled to gain favour under the Spaniard.
Despite featuring in 23 of PSG’s games during his debut campaign, Ben Arfa found himself completely frozen out of the squad last season by failing to make even a single appearance.
After being released last summer, the Frenchman signed for Rennes and got his revenge against Emery on Thursday by helping his new club claim a 3-1 first-leg win over Arsenal in their last-16 tie on his 32nd birthday.
“My motivation was to play a solid match, to win and get ourselves into a good position to go through,” said Ben Arfa, according to Sky Sports.
“That’s what was in my head. But I did see the same Emery, as agitated as ever. I looked over at him a few times and that made me laugh a little. He hasn’t changed.
“I told some friends before the match that my prediction was that we would win 3-1 or 4-1. We didn’t manage to get the fourth but my prediction was right.”
Benjamin Bourigeaud and Ismaila Sarr both scored for Rennes with Nacho Monreal scoring an own goal for 10-man Arsenal, who had taken the lead through Alex Iwobi.
Despite their 3-1 aggregate lead, however, Ben Arfa is refusing to get carried away ahead of Thursday’s return leg at the Emirates Stadium.
“Arsenal are still the favourites,” admitted the former Newcastle player.
“We will have to score at least one, maybe two goals.
“To be the first team to beat Arsenal in France [means] we are making our own history. I’m happy and proud to make people happy [but there] is a return match.”
Ben Arfa has managed seven goals and five assists in 30 appearances across all competitions for Rennes this season.
Hatem Ben Arfa's game by numbers vs. Arsenal
83% passing accuracy
7 take-ons won
4 fouls won
4 accurate through balls
3 shots on target
3 chances created
Running rings around the Arsenal defence. 💍 pic.twitter.com/SiDsDVbYh0
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 7, 2019