The Emirates will give the Gunners a vital edge on Thursday as they look to keep their Europa League campaign alive against Rennes
What do Arsenal, Barcelona and Bayern Munich all have in common? All three have lost just one league game at home this season.
The Gunners may find themselves on the back-foot heading into the second leg of their Europa League Round of 16 clash against Rennes on Thursday but a 3-1 away deficit is a mountain Unai Emery’s side are more than capable of scaling in their own backyard.
The Emirates has become a formidable fortress for Arsenal this season, with only Manchester City and Liverpool boasting better home records in the Premier League.
Under Emery, Arsenal have picked up an impressive 41 points from their 16 home league games so far – their joint-third best return.
It’s a haul that also puts them among the elite in Europe, with their average of 2.56 points per home game the sixth best of any club across the top five leagues.
Both Barcelona (2.36) and Bayern Munich (2.25) are among those that have averaged less league points at home this season than Arsenal.
While the Gunners have looked defensively shaky at the best of times, the Emirates has helped them find their footing under Emery.
Arsenal have conceded just 12 goals across their 16 home league games – quite the contrast with the 27 they’ve let in during their 14 away matches.
*Arsenal’s past five home matches in the Premier League
The Gunners picked up their ninth straight home league win against Manchester United on Sunday, with Emery ensuring his team made the most of home-ground advantage against one of their top-four rivals.
Having now played each of the other five ‘big’ teams at the Emirates this season, Arsenal have picked up a total of 10 points – more than they’ve accrued across any of their past 10 seasons and double what Arsene Wenger managed in 2017-18.
The Gunners’ improved home form may well have something to do with the Frenchman’s departure, with fans returning to the Emirates in marginally higher numbers and without those pesky ‘Wenger Out’ posters.
In the Premier League this season, Arsenal boast the second largest average crowd attendance at 59,894 – 571 more fans than they were attracting on average last campaign.
The vibe around the Emirates is also a lot healthier, with ex-Manchester United stalwart Gary Neville conceding the Gunners were given a clear edge on Sunday against the Red Devils as a result.
“The atmosphere, and I alluded to it on commentary, we saw it earlier in the season against Tottenham when we were here and it was brilliant,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“Today, particularly after that second goal, when Arsenal knew that they had just pulled clear in the game, they responded enormously.
“There has been that debate with Arsenal over the last few months about whether or not Unai Emery is taking this club forwards.
“Every time they have a bad result or something doesn’t go their way, people will say that this isn’t any different. But it is different. The atmosphere is different.”
Emery has played a large part in that, calling on fans directly in late February to get behind his time ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.
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“We need our supporters,” Emery said. “I hope the supporters help the players and create a big atmosphere at home. Create a positive energy to make us stronger.”
In the two games after that rallying cry, Arsenal smashed Bournemouth 5-1 before seeing off United 2-0 to climb back up to fourth and within one point of third-placed Tottenham.
Having urged the fans to get behind his team, Emery was also quick to praise them after handing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his first Premier League defeat as United boss.
“Above all, I am very proud of our supporters,” he told Sky Sports post-match.
“They pushed us a lot and helped us a lot. This atmosphere is a big atmosphere that helped to create a big performance for our players.”
Though an almighty arm wrestle for the top four awaits the Gunners in the Premier League, they must now turn their attention to the Europa League on Thursday.
Rennes claimed a 3-1 home win in the first leg after Sokratis Papastathopoulos got sent off in the first half, meaning Arsenal at the very least need a 2-0 win to progress.
A three-time Europa League winner with Sevilla, Emery will be desperate to avoid a premature exit from a competition that has been so good to him and will be banking on a return to the Emirates to once again inspire his side.
Arsenal are yet to lose at home in the competition this campaign and overturned a 1-0 away deficit against BATE Borisov in the Round of 32.
With a vocal crowd of 60,000 expected at the Emirates on Thursday, Rennes will have their work cut out to deny Emery progression in a competition he’s made his own and at a ground he’s quickly transformed into an imposing arena for visiting teams.