Tag Archives: koln

The Europa League – Arsenal In It To Win It?

For many, it was fair game for years. A laugh-inducing tool of procrastination, poking fun at our neighbours whilst looking down our noses from the highest of perches – the Champions League.

‘Thursday is Spursday’ was a typical favourite, and we all took part in dishing out digs, whilst we engaged in brandy and cigars with the power people in rooms behind closed doors. The Champions League is the desire of all teams who aspire to glory, and it was hilarious that tottenham continually missed out.


Eventually though, our grip loosened. The membership card we had for this exclusive soiree expired. We looked on at the entrance as the former butt of our jokes flashed a smug grin and was welcomed in.


The roles have been reversed, and the only door that is open for us is the Europa League – the very destination that generated hilarious memes and jokes aimed squarely at spurs.


Should we take this tournament a little more seriously however?










The Europa League’s stock has risen in recent years, through many different factors. Firstly, the number of Champions League-worthy teams has risen as money has poured into European football. A plethora of rivals in every domestic competition – none more so than the Premier League – means it is harder than ever to force our way into Europe’s premiere competition.


It has also helped that UEFA has decided to grant the winner of the Europa League a spot in the Champions League.


It has resulted in this 2nd class tournament elevating itself in its standing. Plus, with recent winners being Chelsea and Manchester United, if it is good enough for them, why can’t it be good enough for us to at least take seriously?


Whilst we see our team amongst the hierarchy in terms of European clubs, in terms of honours, we flag behind our esteemed brethren.


If we gauge in terms of European honours, then our Fairs Cup win in 1970 and our Cup Winners Cup triumph in 1994 are our sole baubles, on a tree that is sorely lacking in decorations.


Of course, it could have been so different if Paris had gone a little different, or even Copenhagen in 2000. Alas, it wasn’t to be, but what is clear is that our club needs to add to our accolades, especially in European competition.


The Champions League has been the table we have dined at for decades, and yet can we say it has been an enjoyable experience in the last ten years? Entering a place where you know you have a strict time limit before you are unceremoniously dumped out the door?


No, it hasn’t been fun at all. Thumpings at the hands of the clubs we claim to want to stand toe-to-toe with, which only serve to highlight the gulf in between us.


The Europa League gives us a chance to be the big fish for once, rather than swimming in a pond, fearful of being eaten with every movement.


The competition is more hotly contested than ever, but we should  be able to progress to the latter stages whilst simultaneously rotating our squad to deal with the more important Premier League fixtures. Let us not get twisted here, the Premiership should be our main focus, but there is no reason why we cannot fight on two fronts.


There will be difficulties of course. The fixture scheduling will take some getting used to, playing on a Thursday and then the following Sunday/Monday will be a task that requires all the skills of the myriad of backroom staff we currently employ. We have the squad to do it though.


Our group stage consists of BATE Borisov, FC Koln and Red Star Belgrade. Two difficult away trips, but there should be nothing there that should outwit us. Players such as Jack Wilshere, Reiss Nelson, David Ospina, Per Mertesacker, Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud have all been used sparingly this season, and they have more than enough in their locker to match and surpass these teams.


We currently do not have enough in our trophy cabinet to snub this competition. The Europa League, if we won it, would be one of the finest triumphs in our history. We have some amazing memories, but in terms of European honours, we could really do with this trophy in our cabinet.


If we were lucky enough to do so, then the European Super Cup beckons, and also, the Champions League again.


There could be some glittering memories made under the floodlights in The Emirates during a successful run to the final.

Our stadium sorely needs things like this, as the shadow of Highbury still looms over it. 

Arsenal 3-1 FC Koln – Away Fans, Howlers and Alexis is Back

An hours delay is not the best start to a game in a competition most deride as superfluous. 

Someone said that to David Ospina, and the Colombian decided he would try and beat it.

Thanks to masses of Koln fans making the trip to London without a ticket and trying to cram into the Clock End – and succeeding to a degree – it meant that safety was compromised and kickoff could not take place until 2105hrs – over an hour after it was designated.

Still, when our fans did all manage to take their seats, they were treated to the sight of our goalkeeper going a little unhinged and allowing the equally crazed Koln fans the opportunity to make more noise and set off more flares.

Our Cup Keeper raced out of his box to snaffle up a ball over the top of our defence. The problem wans’t that he didn’t get to it first. Oh no, Ospina was the proverbial greyhound. No, the problem was what he did when he got the ball.

The South American goalkeeper booted it flatly and straight to the opposition, and Ospina’s fellow countryman Cordoba lifted it over our keeper who was in No Man”s Land from all of 40 yards. 

1-0, and the first half was now a chase.

We did make chances when we were not busy wasting the opportunity for a final ball, but Koln’s Timo Horn was equal to Olivier Giroud’s header, and Theo Walcott wasted a good chance when found in a good position.

The first half was frustrating, and the boos that followed our players trudging off the pitch were born from a performance that was quite flat at times.

The second half was different though. With a much changed side, we began to find our verve, and it took five minutes to get the equaliser. 

Theo Walcott was at the centre of the action, and his finishing may have been wayward, but his positioning and running could not be faulted. He was found with a superb ball from Mohamed Elneny, and his touch took him wide. His cross was deflected upwards, and the rampaging bull that is Sead Kolasinac took just one touch to lash a volley past the Koln keeper Timo Horn.

From there, it was all Arsenal, and we were looking fully intent on getting the win, as opposed to the first half when there was just vague interest. 

Then, there was a sight to behold for all Gooners to rejoice in. Something that has the potential to change our season dramatically.

It wasn’t Jack Wilshere making an appearance, although he could make a huge dent.

It was the return of Alexis.

Sure, he has made appearances this season, but the goal he scored in this game was pure Chilean spice.

Taking the ball from out wide, he drifted inside, beat two players and from 25 yards, curled an exquisite effort into the top corner, where no goalkeeper’s fingers dare to tread. It was beautiful, it was Alexis.

Whilst he may still want to leave, my love for him will be compromised. However, I say we play him until his legs fall off. Make use of him in the short space of time we have him. 

There was time for one more goal, and it was Hector Bellerin who scored it. Theo Walcott was again involved. Alexis and Big Sead interchanged well, and the Bosnian crossed in. Jack Wilshere dummied it and left it for Theo who took a shot which Horn saved well. The rebound though, fell for the onrushing Bellerin who did manage to beat the German.

A job well done, and the Europa League has been started well. We can really make a go of this competition and it was a big plus that we fought back against a team who were better than their domestic form suggested.

Not only that, our team was massively different than the one we saw last weekend – and very different to the one that will line up against Chelsea this Sunday. 

The way we deal with the short recovery time will be crucial, but we have good form against the Blues recently. Time to convert that to a performance away from home for once. 

Arsenal Vs FC Koln – Europa League Preview

Our first step into the Europa League feels a little like the League Cup, but with a little extra spice.

Every year, the Coca-Cola/Rumbelows/Milk/Carling/Carabao Cup represents the opportunity for fans to see the next generation of our team, at a reasonable price for once.


For many seasons we have seen some incredible things performed by kids who dream of making it onto the biggest level, and us dipping our toes into europe’s second-tier competition means another chance for these kids to shine a little brighter.









The first game in our group stage sees us welcome FC Koln to The Emirates. The German club had a great season last year, but this year sees the Cologne team struggling badly. After three games, they currently sit bottom of the Bundesliga, with no points and just one goal scored.


Former fan favourite Lukas Podolski hails from the club, and the tattoo he sports of the Koln club crest shows his allegiance. The man with the hammer for a shot brings back happy memories for most, but he will not be torn in this match as a fan.


Does their poor form mean we can take the foot off the gas a little? We all know what our team plays like when we do that. For Arsenal, there is no middle ground. We either play awfully or we play teams off the park, so we must go into this game intent on three points. The Europa League may not be our desired level of competition, but we should be looking to win it, especially after years of pain in Europe.


We also have the chance to blood our kids more than in previous years. Usually, when we get dumped out of the League Cup it means our kids must bide their time until next season, but this group stage and the fixture congestion that comes with it means that our kids may well have to come of age if we are to progress and also keep our Premier League aims firmly in focus.


Reiss Nelson and Jack Wilshere are two names that should go straight into the lineup, but for varying reasons.


For Nelson, the youngster has been banging on the door for selection ever since our summer friendly games, and he has begun this term in the Under-23’s in blistering form – winning the August Player of the Month award. His trickery, ball control and eye for goal means he must be given a shot in the Europa League to gauge whether this is either where he belongs or if he needs more nurturing.


Jack is a conundrum. He hardly set the world alight after opting to join Bournemouth on loan last season, and since returning from the Vitality stadium inevitably injured, he has been fighting to get fit again. Now only match sharpness is needed, and what better way to attain this than the Europa League? Plus, our central midfield is hardly setting the world alight right now – a fit and firing Wilshere could make a huge difference to our team. This is a huge gamble though. For now, let us just see if he can stay fit for a few weeks.


The team should have a sprinkling of youth mingled with fringe players who have seen precious little gametime this season. Eddie Nketiah, Jo Willock and Ainslie Maitland-Niles can expect some minutes, as well as Calum Chambers, Theo Walcott, David Ospina and Alex Iwobi.


What of Alexis though?


The Chilean has recovered from his abdominal injury, but now seeks the last 5% he needs to be fully firing. Alexis may well play in this game, and instead of being swapped out for the following game at Chelsea on Sunday like the rest of the team probably will, Sanchez could stay in the team. It makes sense to get him flying as quickly as possible, and then play him as much as possible with an exit looking nailed on. Let us make the most of him whilst he is here.


FC Koln will be looking to play it tight and sneak away with a point most likely, especially with their season being worse than ours right now. No form means they need something, anything, to latch onto. They have some good players and last season showed they merit inclusion in Europe, but we must hurt them as they lay prone on the floor. We cannot afford to give anyone a second of recovery, we simply aren’t playing well enough.


Hopefully the players Arsene Wenger picks will go hell for leather to prove they are worthy of more minutes. that is the benefit of a packed squad, and this game is the stage in which they can show what they are made of.


So, for the first time, Thursday will see the The Emirates lit up for the Europa League. Let us all hope we have a fairly decent crowd and that our players put in a performance which is worthy of the badge.


Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Holding, Mertesacker, Chambers, Debuchy, Wilshere, Elneny, Nelson, Iwobi, Walcott, Alexis


Predicted Scoreline – Fingers crossed, 3-0 to The Arsenal.