Charlie Nicholas reckons that Arsenal will beat FC Cologne on Thursday evening… but only just.
Arsenal have already qualified for the next round of the Europa League and, as a result, Nicholas reckons that Arsene Wenger’s young side will be happy with a draw on Thursday night. Although they’ll probably win.
“It’s another opportunity to play the younger players, such as Rob Holding, Eddie Nketiah and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, with two games to secure the one point which will guarantee top spot,” the former Gunner told Sky Sports.
“We’ve not really got to know the youngsters as much as we’d like and the one who has disappointed a bit is Jeff Reine-Adelaide as it was him and Maitland-Niles who I was told were the future.
“Theo Walcott will get a chance to show what he can do as a striker as Olivier Giroud has only just returned to training so I doubt he’ll be risked, then we’ll have the young and energetic players in behind.
“Cologne are a fairly average side. The only thing that really stands out from them was their fans marching through London ahead of the game at the Emirates.
“There’s a fair bit of momentum with Arsenal now and I think they’d be content with a draw, but I think this confidence will see them through.”
Although Nicholas has tipped Theo Walcott to start over Olivier Giroud, who missed the North London Derby through injury, it should be noted that Theo didn’t train after succumbing to an illness over the weekend, whereas Giroud did.
Also, Nicholas claims he’s disappointed not to have seen more of Jeff Reine-Adelaine, who’s actually only just returned from full training after being sidelined for most of the season through injury. That’s why we haven’t see him play for the first team this term.
These points aside, I think Nicholas is pretty bang-on in his overall prediction of the outcome of the match against FC Cologne. We beat them 3-1 at home and should have enough quality to overcome them on their turf as well. However, I don’t see Wenger stretching the team to get the three points when we’ve already qualified. It’s more important to keep players fit at this point, especially the likes of Giroud and Theo, who could be useful in the Gunners’ trip to Burnley on Sunday.