Rennes coach Julien Stephan backed Hatem Ben Arfa to deliver a big performance against Arsenal as the former Paris Saint-Germain playmaker prepares to face old boss Unai Emery.
Ben Arfa became an outcast at PSG under the leadership of Emery, marking a one-year anniversary since his previous appearance for the club by posing on social media with a birthday cake.
It was later revealed by the player’s solicitor Jean-Jacques Bertrand that Ben Arfa was seeking a reported €8million in compensation after being frozen out at PSG.
Ben Arfa has bounced back since signing for Rennes, contributing five goals in 18 Ligue 1 appearances for his new club as well as scoring twice in the Europa League.
And ahead of Thursday’s last-16 tie at Roazhon Park, Stephan suggested Ben Arfa will shrug off coming up against Emery for the first time.
“Hatem has a lot of experience, he’ll be able to handle it in a very smart way,” Stephan told reporters.
“We did not need to talk about it together and there are plenty of other topics to talk about before talking about that. It is Rennes against Arsenal in the Europa League, it is not Hatem against Emery.
“Champions are always present in this type of match and I’m sure Hatem will have a big game.”
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 6, 2019
Emery was also asked about the part Ben Arfa will play when he appeared at his pre-match news conference.
“He is a very good player. He is playing with a big performance,” Emery told reporters.
“We know they have good organisation, good players. One is Ben Arfa, we need to control his quality and skills.
“The two matches they played against Real Betis he played very well with a big performance.
“Not only Ben Arfa, they have [Ismaila] Sarr and good defensive players. Mostly Ben Arfa is very important for them.”
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