Arsenal manager Unai Emery believes Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ dismissal changed the tide of the game in their 3-1 Europa League defeat to Rennes.
The Gunners took the lead in France on Thursday evening through Alex Iwobi’s early goal, but soon lost control when Sokratis was handed two yellow cards in just seven minutes before the break.
Almost immediately after the Greek defender’s sending-off, Benjamin Bourigeaud equalised for Rennes. Nacho Monreal’s own goal and Ismaila Sarr’s header then sealed the hosts an unexpected victory.
Speaking to reporters after their first-leg defeat, Emery conceded that Sokratis’ red card was a turning point in the game.
But the Spaniard remained optimistic over Arsenal’s chances of progressing from their last-16 tie given the performance of his team in the opening 40 minutes.
“The first 40 minutes I think we controlled, we scored and we didn’t concede good chances to them. But after this red card, it’s different,” said Emery on Arsenal.com.
“It’s more than we wanted and I think we can do better. But the result is for the first match and for the first 90 minutes.
“3-1 is hard for us, but we are going to start the next match, next week with 11 against 11 and with the same respect we have had in the first half, the first 40 minutes. We are going to do that at home against them.
“But we need to also change our performance and I have the confidence with our players, with our supporters helping us to create one big atmosphere to give us a good spirit against them to comeback.
Sokratis is the third player to be sent off for Arsenal in the space of six games following Lucas Torreira’s dismissal against Tottenham and Alexandre Lacazette’s red card at BATE Borisov.
When asked if his Arsenal team are struggling with discipline, Emery replied: “No. I think it’s not discipline.”
“We can analyse individually these three red cards.”
Arsenal will next host Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in a Premier League match on Sunday before Rennes visit next Thursday for the return leg of their Europa League last-16 clash.