Arsene Wenger’s half time adjustment proved the difference as a stuttering Arsenal overturned a first half deficit en route to a 3-1 win over a Cologne team who were lacking the enthusiasm of their supporters.
It’s not possible to talk about Thursday night’s performance without providing context of the evening.
Due to the well-publicised events off the pitch in and around the ground, kick-off was delayed by an hour. At the time of the announcement, players weren’t aware whether the game would be taking place at the re-arranged time, or whether it would take place the next day, next week, or at all. Given how everything in Modern Football is controlled to the nth degree, this uncertainty will have thrown them off.
Understandably, all 22 players were off their game and the first half was a strange, disjointed affair. Everyone in the stadium except the travelling Cologne fans looked unsure of themselves and almost like they’d rather be someone else. The Arsenal fans, the Arsenal players, the Cologne players, and even the referee who couldn’t bring himself to pull a card out of his pocket to book a struggling Rob Holding on two separate occasions.
Singling out Holding would be unfair. Like at Anfield, the youngster had been thrust into a new, imbalanced starting XI, with a number of players playing in unfamiliar positions. There was minimal chemistry in the starting XI and it was no surprise that Arsenal’s play lacked cohesion and rhythm, giving the illusion that there was no plan.
Next, Maitland-Niles – not a wingback