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“Believe” was the word stamped across the cover of the Arsenal programme in bold white letters. Belief has come and gone among Arsenal fans this season, though it has long been a mercurial quality at the Emirates. When Unai Emery masterminded a 22-game unbeaten run in the autumn and it felt as if the team were breaking out of the brittle cocoon of the late Wenger era, belief flitted lightly across the stadium rafters like a fresh and fragile butterfly. When they lost 3-1 to Rennes last Thursday, it was vapourised like a bluebottle which had dozed idly into the pale glow of a kebab shop fly zapper and been viciously electrocuted.

Just as hope dies, so it is reborn, as it was with a win against Manchester United at the weekend. Just as hope is reborn, so it takes flight, as it did after five minutes of the second leg against Rennes when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put the simplest of finishes on a neat ball across the box from Aaron Ramsey. With half a dozen incandescent flares bursting into life in the away end at kick off and belching out plumes of red smoke like a fiery volcano, all that could be seen at one end of the field was the vague outline of Petr Cech; an ominous helmeted figure in the fog. Rennes fans may wish the teams had started at opposite ends, though Aubameyang could probably have finished the chance in zero visibility conditions.

Arsenal had the aggregate

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