Second-string Arsenal fall to FC Koln defeat
Europa League, Group H, RheinEnergieStadion - FC Koln 1 (Guirassy 62' P.) Arsenal 0
Arsenal are through to the knockout stages of the Europa League as group winners, no thanks to a miserable second-half effort in which they barely mustered a chance. For their part, Koln must now beat Red Star to qualify as runners-up.
Arsene Wenger made 11 changes to the team which beat Spurs last weekend, most notably selecting Danny Welbeck who had not played since getting injured on October 14. Arsenal didn't play too badly in the first half - at least relatively speaking - dominating possession and territory. And they really ought to have taken the lead on the half-hour, when Francis Coquelin, of all people, drove against the base of the post from close range.
But Koln improved slightly after the break, pressing forward, at least to an extent, and just past the hour, Mathieu Debuchy was adjudged to have brought down Sehrou Guirassy, who converted the penalty competently.
Arsenal struggled to create much thereafter, though Reiss Nelson, a late substitute, forced a late save from Timo Horn after beating three men on his way into the box. But it did not matter; events in Barysaw meant that Arsenal were safe, and they must now decide whether or not they are bothered about winning the competition.
Should Arsenal go for it? Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs are all likely to finish above Arsenal in the league, leaving them to contest the final Champions League spot with Liverpool and Chelsea. On the other hand, there is a place available to the winners of the Europa League, as well as a shiny vase and some great memories. Arsene Wenger has no excuse not to take the competition as seriously, if not more seriously, than the others in which his team are engaged.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Milos Jojic (Koln) Solid and tidy in midfield which, in the circumstances, is all it took.
Köln - ArsenalGetty Images
2’ - Excellent start from Arsenal, Welbeck initiating an incursion coming in off the left and finding Wilshere, who slides a lovely ball into the path of Maitland-Niles, sprinting into the box. But Horn is out sharply to smother his shot behind.
30’ - Arsenal knock the ball along the back four, looking to pick a hole in the Koln defence ... and they do! One pass is all it takes, Giroud pulling left - he really is the complete centre-forward - and curling a ball into the path of the marauding Francis Coquelin! He really should score, with a clear sight of goal just outside the width of the posts, but his body-shape is all wrong, though he gets his knee over the shot to lace against the base of the near post.
61’ - PENALTY KOLN! Guirassy stretches onto a return pass on the left of the box and Debuchy, unable to keep pace, is adjudged to have brought him down! ! I'd say that was probably a dive.
63’ - GOAL! Koln 1-0 Arsenal (Guirassy, pen) Ospina dives left and Guirassy curls high down the middle.
89’ - Magical from Nelson, picking the ball up outside the box, left of centre, to sway, dummy and weave past three challenges. But with just thek eeper to beat, the ball is on his right foot and he can only stab his shot straight at Horn. Lovely skill though.