Arsenal will be punished for another slow start, warns Kolasinac

Sead Kolasinac insists Arsenal must end their run of first-leg defeats to stand any chance of progressing beyond their Europa League quarter-final clash with Napoli.

The Gunners overturned a 3-1 first-leg defeat at Rennes to beat the Ligue 1 side 3-0 on Thursday night and advance to the last eight.

The 4-3 aggregate win came on the back of a similar scenario in the round of 32 – where a surprise defeat at BATE Borisov had to be reversed at the Emirates Stadium last month.

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A Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brace and just a second Arsenal goal for Ainsley Maitland-Niles sent Unai Emery’s side through.

They will now meet Napoli in the quarter-finals as Emery targets Europa League success and a return to the Champions League in his maiden season as Arsenal head coach.

But Kolasinac has warned that slow starts over the first 90 minutes need to be avoided now the competition is hotting up.

“It’s really important, obviously it’s always very difficult when you lose the first game,” he replied when asked how key a positive result will be in the first leg next time round.

“We are aware of that, it’s not something we want to do of course. It is something we are going to work on in the next round. Of course the key will be to start better than we have in these last two ties.

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“We didn’t put ourselves in a good position at the end of that first leg. Having said that, I think that away goal was crucial for us.

“It was difficult for us because we had to play with 10 men for about 50 minutes of that first game as well. We made it difficult, but we knew how strong we are at home and we deservedly went through tonight.”

The win for Arsenal confirmed that six English teams will compete in the quarter-finals across the Europa League and Champions League.

London rivals Chelsea will face Slavia Prague as Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United all aim to reach the last four of the Champions League.

Kolasinac believes such a collective achievement only proves that the Premier League is one of the best in the world.

“I think it characterises us and it characterises this league at the moment as well that all six teams have got through to the quarter-finals,” he added.

“It proves that when people say the Premier League is the best league around, they are not saying it for free. I think it makes the Premier League very interesting and we’re of course proud to have progressed in the Europa League.”

Alexandre Lacazette was cleared to play against Rennes

Alexandre Lacazette was cleared to play against Rennes (Nick Potts/PA)

Alexandre Lacazette was able to take his place in a strong Arsenal side against Rennes after his three-match ban for a sending-off in Borisov was reduced to two on appeal.

Having sat out those two matches already, the France striker was free to play and after helping to get the result he echoed the sentiments of Kolasinac when it came to making more of an impact in the first leg.

“I was really happy (when I heard I could play),” he said, having missed the defeat in Rennes.

“I was in the club and a guy from the club came to tell me I could play, so I was really happy to play and help my team.

“We knew we had to be better in the first leg. But we know for the next game we have to be better in both games.

“We were confident. We knew after the first leg even if we lost, if we played our game we could win and go to the next round.”

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