All through the years supporting the Arsenal, I’ve never seen the team play in the Europa League until last night, which gave me a bittersweet feel to it. It only sunk in during kick-off that I’d have to watch the team play on a Thursday; nonetheless, I still support the team in their endeavors.
The fixture between Arsenal against FC Koln got heated even before kick-off and got moved an hour later than the supposed time of kick-off due to the chaos outside of the Emirates, caused by fans of the visitors as security and stewards tried to control the crowd.
Arsene rested a handful of players for the weekend League fixture against Chelsea; David Ospina, Rob Holding, Per Mertesacker, Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin, Alex Iwobi, Mohammed Elneny, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, were all in the starting line-up to face their opponent in this new adventure for the club in recent years.
Things didn’t get on a good start for the Gunners, and in the 9th minute would find themselves trailing by a goal down. A poor clearance from Ospina, who ran out of his commanding area to make it, found Koln’s Jonas Hector who played a pass to teammate Cordoba; who caught Ospina running back to his goal post and played the ball from 30 meters only to dip into an empty net.
Very few chances in the first half from the home side, as the only real chance for the Gunners, was a long range Giroud header. The 3-4-3 formation wasn’t effective against their opponent who was playing a 4-5-1 formation. No creativity in the middle for the Gunners, Iwobi played as a CM and Elneny as a DM, thus lacking the technicality the Gunners are known for; as Iwobi is better suited on the wings and Elneny is just a possession retainer. Holding was caught out a couple of time by the opposition players and was replaced at the start of the second half with Kolasinac.
The introduction of Kolasinac in the second half brought stability to the Gunners, Arsene switched to his familiar 4-3-3 formation and it only took three minutes into the second half to see the reward. A deflected cross from Walcott was Kolasinac-bound; who had eyes on the ball and sent in a thunderbolt as it was dropping. Thus far, he has looked like the best bargain of the transfer window.
Alexis produced his traditional display, though his facial expressions didn’t look like how it’s always been. A non-accurate from Iwobi would have Sanchez chase the ball in the 67th minute, who danced around a couple of the opposition players with the ball at his feet and curled in an audacious strike from the edge of the opposition penalty area.
Jack Wilshere featured in this match and brought stability to the midfield, linking well with Elneny who did his job well at sitting in front of the defence after the introduction of Wilshere, prior to that, Elneny ran across the midfield, as he didn’t get he deserved from his pairing partner Iwobi.
The Gunners weren’t done with their scoring and in the 82nd minute of the match, the Gunners increased their lead. Sanchez and Kolasinac linking well on the left, with the latter playing a square pass to Jack Wilshere who played a dummy to Walcott – shooting the ball towards goal but wasn’t saved properly by the keeper, leaving Hector Bellerin to poke it in the net.
Teenage sensation Reiss Nelson came on during the closing stages of the game and showed us a teaser of what to expect from him.