Arsenal began their Europa League campaign under the management of Arsene Wenger and got off to a winning start as they came from behind to beat Bundesliga side FC Koln 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
Most people will remember this game for the chaotic scenes outside the stadium, but there are still plenty of lessons to be learned from this match in regards to the football. FC Koln manager Peter Stöger will have been pleased with his side’s performance considering it was their first game in Europe for a significant amount of time.
Arsenal remain focused despite off-the-field distractions
Wenger’s side are often criticised for their lack of focus, desire and character in matches, but this is something that they could not be criticised for in this game. The match was delayed by an hour due to the off-the-field issues regarding FC Koln fans, but the Gunners did not let this affect them, and they went on to secure a vital three points to kick-off their Europa League campaign in positive fashion.
The most encouraging thing for Wenger will be that his side actually came back from 1-0 down to secure the win. Jhon Cordoba gave the away side the lead in spectacular fashion by lobbing David Ospina from 40 yards out. Arsenal have often crumbled in this sort of situation and gone on to lose the game, but they showed their character by coming back to win in a convincing fashion which can only be a positive sign.
Sead Kolasinac is a superb signing
The 24-year-old full-back joined the club from Bundesliga side Schalke this summer on a free transfer, and this already looks like an excellent piece of business. He immediately made an impact by scoring the equaliser against Chelsea in The Community Shield in August and has continued to impress since.
If it was not for his equaliser shortly after half-time in yesterday’s match, Arsenal might have struggled to get back into the game and might have even gone on to lose. This goal means that Kolasinac has now played a part in four goals in his five appearances for Arsenal so far, picking up two goals and two assists. This is not a bad start and it would be no surprise to see his performances improve further as the season progresses.
Alexis Sanchez looks fully committed to Arsenal
One of the biggest transfer sagas of the summer did involve the 28-year-old forward as he was strongly linked with Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea. However, a move to Pep Guardiola’s side never materialised on Deadline Day meaning that the Chilean remains at the Emirates Stadium to see out the final year of his contract. There were many questions raised about how he would perform following the collapse of this move but those questions were answered last night.
He scored a stunning goal 20 minutes from time to put his side 2-1 up as he curled a shot into the top corner from outside the area. He was not at his best in yesterday’s game, but his ability to produce this sort of goal out of nothing is why he is a world-class player. Arsenal supporters will be hoping he can continue to produce this sort of quality throughout the season, starting with the visit to Chelsea this weekend.
Could Jack Wilshere be back in the frame?
The 25-year-old midfielder was another Arsenal player who was strongly linked with a move away from the club this summer. However, a move away did not materialise, and last night he made his first appearance for the club in over a year. He replaced Alex Iwobi with 20 minutes to go and actually played a key role in Arsenal’s third goal scored by Hector Bellerin. He spent time on loan at AFC Bournemouth last season, and he looked set to go on loan again this season, but Wenger was unsure what was best for him. If he can get Wilshere back playing at his best, then he can be a useful player for the Gunners this season.
FC Koln have a huge fanbase
The main talking point from yesterday’s game was in regards to the behaviour of the FC Koln. Around 20,000 supporters reportedly travelled to London despite only 2,900 tickets being allocated. This resulted in a large number ending up in the home end which did raise security concerns and resulted in kick-off being delayed by an hour. However, despite the criticism, one thing that cannot be argued is that the German side have a very passionate fanbase and they supported their team superbly throughout the match.