Arsenal opened their Europa League campaign with a 3-1 win over FC Cologne last night.
Thursday night must have been one of the most bizarre Arsenal night’s in recent memory. As 20,000 travelling Cologne fans swarmed the Emirates and pushed kick-off back to a very Spanish 21:05, I wondered if I hadn’t dozed off and was having some weird fever dream.
The Clock End had been occupied entirely by Cologne fans and while that section bounced and boomed all game, the rest of the ground was spotty with glum Arsenal fans. Ospina cocked up in goal and was lobbed by a man name named Jhon (yes, it is spelled that way), Arsenal spent much of the game passing between their three centre backs and our play was generally as shocking as the pink on Arsene Wenger’s coat. The boos at half-time were drowned out by the delighted travelling support.
A switch of formation and some keen substitutions turned things around in the second half. Two cracking goals from Kolasinac and Alexis put us ahead before Bellerin made the points safe.
A weird night all round, but a win is a win, and here’s how the players got on.
David Ospina 2
I almost gave Ospina a one, but on reflection I decided the Cordaba goal wasn’t entirely his fault. Ospina had to fly off his line as the backline was caught high. Nonetheless, Ospina’s clearance was dreadful and left him stranded.
Rob Holding 2
Poor Robbie. He looked every bit a £2m player from a relegated Championship team, unable to complete a defensive action without giving away a foul and losing the ball. Every time he ventured into the Cologne half he would stop, look and pass the ball backwards thanks to a combination of indecision and poor movement ahead of him. On one occasion he decided to charge through the middle of Cologne’s team, only to be stopped easily on the edge of their box. Hooked at half-time. All in all, a tough night.
Per Mertesacker 5
A titan in the FA Cup final, but a player on the verge of retiring in this game. He was simply unable to cover the vast amounts of space left by the Arsenal defence, and was happiest challenging Cologne’s small forwards in the air. Looked far more comfortable when Arsenal changed to a back four in the second half.
Nacho Monreal 5
He didn’t have much to do in the first half, and got through the second half with minimal fuss after the change in formation.