Köln Preview: One Pun Or Two As Jack’s Back

The headline writers are desperate for a resounding win. How many puns on “Eau dear Cologne” will there be after tonight’s UEFA Cup football Emirates debut this evening with the visit of 1FC Köln. If Joachim Löw were their head coach, would it be “Odour Cologne”?

Arsène is set to ring the changes with seven changes to the matchday squad. Players who featured twice for their countries during the international break are rested while David Ospina returns between the sticks. With that volume of squad rotation, it’s little surprise he’s going to field an experience backline. Holding, Mertesacker and Mustafi will form the central trio, ably supported on the flanks by Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac.

From the midfield onwards, it’s going to be a fresh new look. Or a tired hotch-potch of changes resulted in a weakened side, depending on your viewpoint or the result. One familiar face will be Alexis Sanchez and a cry of “Shenanigans!” erupted with the prospect of the Chilean’s inclusion tonight.

It could simply be that Wenger wants him sharp and ready on Sunday where the Frenchman can cry havoc and unleash the dogs of Alexis. But it wouldn’t be Arsenal if there weren’t some conspiracy theory flying around. With Danny Welbeck rested, Sanchez is being punished for not signing a new deal; we face Chelsea without him. That’s the theory and I’m not arguing with it right now but I don’t think that’s the case.

The remainder of the side is where Wenger’s biggest choices come. Olivier Giroud will lead the attack but the question is whether Theo Walcott or Alex Iwobi will start. I say that’s the question because I’m assuming Jack  Wilshere will partner Elneny in the centre of midfield. To assume will make an ass out of u and me; Iwobi it is at kick-off which creates problems in its’ own right.

Dem Bones, Dem Bones…

We’re down to the bare bones of experienced players so it won’t be a surprise if Elneny’s partner is the position where youth comes into the equation. Ashley Maitland-Niles seems the likeliest to start in these circumstances. It’s surely too much of a risk for Arsène to include Wilshere from the outset? He hasn’t started a game since April and under normal circumstances would expect a substitute appearance or two before making the first XI.

Wilshere’s fitness and future formed a central theme in yesterday’s press conference. Some might argue for Alex Iwobi’s inclusion but Maitland-Niles – or maybe Jeff – strike me as more likely starters / replacements. Wenger told the press that he and Jack regularly talk about his evolution. So far, Arsène has explained how we move from single cell organism to land-mammal. Wilshere is really struggling with the notion that the nearest living descendant of T-Rex is not Rolan Bolan but the humble chicken.

While Wenger’s faith in the midfielder seems to be resurrecting itself, Roy Hodgson’s appointment gave birth to the ‘Jack to the Palace’ rumours. It’s a testing time for the manager with the reality of three creative players leaving next summer. It will certainly test the ‘transfer warchest’, stretching it to its’ limits.

He hasn’t given up hope of retaining Mesut Özil. Talks, he declared, had “slowed down” since the end of last month but certainly hadn’t broken down. Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto…has anyone called the whole thing off? The vultures are circling with Mourinho said to be willing to offer the German a deal next summer. That’s if Bayern haven’t got there before him.

Dem Dry Bones

Which leaves the starting line-up as:

Ospina; Holding, Mertesacker, Mustafi; Bellerin, Elneny, Maitland-Niles/Wilshere, Kolasinac; Iwobi, Alexis; Giroud

The observant will note that there’s no room for Theo and I think this is going to be a recurring theme for Walcott. Injuries, so often cast as the devils in his career, may turn out to be his angels. Normally, I’d expect him to start with Alexis or Welbeck on the bench in the cup games but with Alexis needing match sharpness, tonight the former England man misses out. Which isn’t what Walcott wants to hear. Or read.

However, I’d expect his introduction on or around 65 minutes when Wenger decides Alexis has done enough. That’s if he’s planning on starting him on Sunday. If Sanchez stays on the pitch longer tonight, Welbeck will be in the XI on Sunday, which will please him. And Chelsea.

There’s no reason why we shouldn’t win comfortably tonight; we’re the thoroughbred while the Germans are the nag who are a rank outsider in the Geelong Cup Betting.

Köln are bottom of the Bundesliga with three defeats in their opening three games. Even with the number of changes to the XI, we’re looking at a set of internationals which ought to be able to see off this challenge. There’s the supporters over-confidence for you.

That’s it for today. While you wait for kick-off, pop over to Dad’s Jukebox where 2006 and a lament for Top of the Pops awaits for your audial pleasure.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

235 thoughts on “Köln Preview: One Pun Or Two As Jack’s Back

  1. Giroud played in Theo and Theo played it back to where Giroud should have been for a tap-in but Giroud just stood still. No hunger to score goals and a really disappointing performance.

  2. I wonder how many interceptions Elneny has because it seems like he is covering every blade of grass in the midfield and covering.

  3. Bill,

    I think so too and I have never disagreed with anybody on that but I think he can also play in the CM position and give us more defensive strength in midfield.

  4. Bellerin with the goal!!!!!!!!

    Sead making something happen AGAIN! Theo got the shot off and it was saved but Bellerin follows up and finishes the rebound.

  5. Wavey,

    And because of that he is going to get less match time especially when you consider we are playing with 2 attackers and if Welbeck is scoring goals that makes Giroud battling with Theo for match time

  6. Wilshere getting credit for the dummy as well from the commentators. Got to say it was a smart move.

    Looking much more relaxed now and Wenger will feel there was no problem, but it needed the change being made at half time to get the result. Have credit Wenger for making the change though.

  7. C,

    That’s been my issue with him for some time. He is static in the box. Too easy to mark when we play only one up front because he just doesn’t move. He can pluck a ball out of the air and can show fantastic skill, but he doesn’t move for the ball.

  8. I don’t like Elneny in the box to box role but I think could be a like Arteta only with great hair if he played the deepest midfield position. I said this all last year but I would rather see Elneny as our DM instead of Xhaka.

  9. Wavey,

    Yup and when his touch is off, like it was today it makes you appreciate Welbeck even that much more. The way we play, especially now with Welbeck, Lacazette and even Sanchez, he can’t afford performances like that if he wants more match time. I mean Theo didn’t do much but his movement was at least key to 2 of our goals.

  10. ‘evening all, I didn’t see any of the match and heard no commentary, just the scores. 0 – 1, 1 – 1, 2 – 1, 3 – 1. From that is seems to have been a typical Arsenal game go a goal down and fight back for a draw or win.

    Was it a good performance? Any stand out moments?

  11. I thought the second half was a lot more fun and we were more effective when we stop trying to move everything thru the central midfield and we just get the ball forward as fast as we can. When we do that we don’t really need creative midfield maestro’s which dazzle us with their technical skill and ball possession. It does not take brilliant technical skill or tactical genius to get the ball into the attacking zone before the defense can set up.

  12. We might not lead the league in ball possession or passes completed and we lose the ball sometimes and our pass completion percentage won’t lead the league but I think we will be more effective when he attack quickly.

  13. Orson

    Its not a matter of hoofing and chasing but moving the ball quickly into the attacking zone. We spent the entire first half pinging the ball around midfield 35 – 40 yards from goal and getting no where.

  14. Wengerball was interesting and fun when it was new and exciting and it actually looked like it might work for a while but the defensive teams long ago adapted and it grew stale around 2010. Is there anyone who actually still likes watching our midfielders control the ball possession and endlessly try to probe for openings in front of a packed and organized defense?

  15. I was disappointed that iwobe did not have a good game in central midfield. I still think that is his best long term position and I hope Arsene continues to use him in midfield the league cup games. . We certainly have more then enough depth at the forward positions and I can’t see him getting any high leverage minutes this season unless there is s major injury crisis. Perhaps he can go on loan during the mid season transfer window.

  16. Rob holding is another of why its a risk to count on inexperienced U21 players. How often do we see them have good starts to their career but never replicate their early success.

  17. Credit to Arsene for bringing in Kolasanic st half time. We had all of that sterile ball possession in the first half and we needed someone to come in who could make something happen. Alexis did not really play well if the first half but just like always it looks like he is at least trying to do something that will have a positive impact. He loses the ball sometimes but what is the point of having 75% of the ball possession if we are just pinging tha ball around midfield.

  18. Chambers is another one we had high hopes for but Arsene clearly does not think he is very good or else he is just not ready yet. Arsene chronically over rates players and stocks with players longer then he should. However he almost never under rates players. If Arsene thinks a player like chambers is not good enough then history tells us he has almost always been right.

  19. Bill,

    If Wenger keeps playing Xhaka instead of Elneny, he’s bonkers. Elneny is just as good on the ball, and quicker and far more athletic.

  20. Bill,

    I can’t agree on Chambers. The lad got good reviews in a team that was destined to go down and captained the England kids in the summer. Wenger has given Holding a chance, but completely ignored the ‘its like having a new player’ option on Chambers. Giving Chambers the odd game surely can’t be any worse than playing Holding. Holding could do with some time out of the firing line now because he appears to have morphed his right CB position in the back 3 into some mix of RB and RWB which just isn’t working. If Wenger wants that from his CB then surely Chambers, who has at least played at RB, is better suited.

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