It’s finally here, the day we’ve been dreading since the final day of last season, match day 1 of the Europa League. Our first European fixture on a Thursday night will see us play German side Cologne, who would probably ring a few bells with most of us seeing as that’s where we got Lukas Podolski from.
Even though the circumstances of tonight’s game aren’t what we’d like as Arsenal fans it could be quite productive. With the big test of Chelsea coming up on Sunday, this game is a good opportunity to rest players and give some minutes to players returning to the first team as well as youngsters like Jack Wilshere and Reiss Nelson.
On Wilshere, Arsene Wenger said:
“In training he’s getting stronger and stronger everyday”
“Every game is an opportunity for him and this season is a good opportunity for him.”
So even if we don’t want to be in this competition it could give players a chance to rebuild their form and fitness competitively before including them in Premier League games on the weekend.
One player this could be the case for tonight is Olivier Giroud. Since last season he has spent most of his time on the pitch after being introduced from the bench and to great effect, which we saw again on the opening day against Leicester. But tonight it’s more likely he will start and a possibility that he will bag his 100th Arsenal goal.
Doubts for tomorrow’s game look to be Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil having played both games on international duty as well as Francis Coquelin who will be out for three weeks after coming off injured on the weekend.
Other than that our return after the international break was positive with the 3-0 win over Bournemouth and this game could help keep our confidence high going into the Chelsea game.
With the two team’s only meeting twice in competition in the 1970/71 season and both sides taking wins at home, it’d be quite difficult to gauge what result to expect based on history, however, a look at their recent form is more telling.
In the Bundesliga, Cologne have failed to win all three of their matches, only scoring once in a home loss to Hamburg.
So, with them sitting bottom of the Bundesliga, our first Europa League game shouldn’t be too testing but you’d hope we do the basics right first in order for us to take control of the game and go on to the win as we’re expected to.