1FC Köln Preview: Stars in their Eyes

It’s almost like Roy Walker gave the press conference yesterday. “Say what you see,” and Arsène got it right first time with his answer of “an experienced team”.

Of course, we fielded “an experienced team” at Anfield but that didn’t turn out anywhere near as well as the “experienced team” which slam-dunked Tottenham last weekend.

This is the Europa League and tonight’s experienced team is charged with one task: securing top place in the group. A point is good enough to do that in Cologne with the hosts locked in rotten form. Rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga, their only win in this season’s Europa League came against BATE in the last match.

Finishing first gives us favoured seeded status although currently, the four teams we could face from the Champions League groups are Atletico Madrid, Celtic, Dortmund, or, Napoli. I’m just putting that out there because you know we’re going to win the Europa League the hard way.

So to the Arsenal side this evening. Most of the walking wounded are now just walking; David Ospina and Calum Chambers returned to training in good time for the match, Danny Welbeck’s there as well. Not Theo though; his mum wrote a note and he’s not well enough to play.

It leaves the starting XI as:

Ospina; Chambers, Mertesacker, Holding; Debuchy, Coquelin, Elneny, Maitland-Niles; Wilshere, Giroud, Welbeck

Not much room at the inn for the likes of Nelson and Nketiah, both of whom I’d expect to see in the latter stages of tonight’s game if we’ve built up a comfortable lead.

Some might say that this is the perfect opportunity for them to gain experience. It’s a fair point but there’s a job to be done tonight; achieve that aim and the kids can play against BATE at the Emirates.

Great.

Which is nice; all of it. The win over Tottenham boosted the mood around the club with the hope that it carries over to this evening.

Co-mingling the cup and league XI’s helps to build that bond because if we draw either of the four teams I mentioned above, you can guarantee that most of the cup team will fall by the wayside for those two legs. Which is where the manager’s quandary that we talked about yesterday falls in; he can’t put eggs in one basket by throwing the other basket away.

As nice as the FA Cup wins have been – and they have been a bright ray of sunshine in otherwise stormy weather – it is very much third priority behind finishing in the top four and winning the Europa League; both of them are joint first with neither more important than the other in the club’s desire to return to the Champions League.

Anyway, that’s all up in the ether; tonight is about ninety minutes on the pitch. You’d be hard-pressed to think of a duller ninety minutes than those served up against Red Star in the last match. Tonight will hopefully be better than that. The first meeting between the two sides was entertaining enough, even if Comedy Dave’s initial contribution was something we need to ‘forget’.

September seems a long time ago; the Arsenal rollercoaster trundled up and down the tracks of the season since then. One man hopping on again is Danny Welbeck.

Arsène’s convinced ‘dat man’ is heading to Russia next summer with England; I doubt Welbz is looking beyond the end of next week as far as his footballing career is concerned. The disruption caused by a litany of injuries must bring a certain short-termism to the fore of the mind.

Everyone’s a Smart Arse.

Wenger compared him to Emmanuel Petit but there is a genuine sense that Welbeck is more Walcott. Theo is toast as far as England are concerned; he’s got to leave Arsenal to resume his place in the England team. Welbeck is, on paper at least, the main beneficiary of Alexis leaving. It’s why the stories in the gossip columns focus more on Goretzka or Lemar being a ‘Özil replacement’ than anything else.

The question is whether Danny’s  Dancing Feet can produce the form in front of goal. Three goals in six games puts him on course to not just beat his best season for the club but to take his record into the alley and give it a good kicking. It doesn’t fill me with a great hope that he is the answer to the Alexis problem.

That said, his contribution with Lacazette in the middle will be interesting, if the pair ever play together. The French international opens more space up for players, dragging his defenders around the last third. Maybe Welbz can benefit from that. He certainly needs to get more confidence in front of goal and the Europa League provides that opportunity. A hatful tonight, a sense of making up for lost time; positives and inspiring for the player.

This evening is the match where I think he will make the difference for Arsenal. Attention focuses on Olivier Giroud finishing but Welbeck is the one who needs to step out of the shadows.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

40 thoughts on “1FC Köln Preview: Stars in their Eyes

  1. Good morning all, Yogi you sound as if you think we only need to turn up tonight in order to cement top of the group. I sure hope that’s not the team’s attitude.

  2. Orse

    My job as a supporter when we’re playing anyone but the top four or Europe’s elite, is to be a professional braggart. It’s the squad’s job to be professional. Subtle difference.

  3. HEADING is an important part of a player’s skill set but there’s some kind of tourette’s tic going on in this article, unless it’s designed to subliminally instruct Welbz on how to score

  4. Mr Wenger said in an interview that the team tonight would be a blend of youth and experience – so I would expect to see pretty much the same squad tonight as played against Crvena Zvezda Beogra. 🙂

  5. – And if we play the same way (that is to say, if the ‘experienced’ players play as poorly) the kids may not be able to save us this time.

    Fact is – if I had my way – I would ‘rest’ all the “B” team experienced players and field a full kids side.

    Bound to be entertaining that way, and might give the season a proper impetus with some of the kids pushing harder for first team roles – from the bench at least.

  6. I expect Bill and C will be enjoying a day off for Thanksgiving today, so not sure they will be on the blog today – and probably haven’t even got up yet – sleepy heads —- so, laters.

  7. I think tonight needs to be a run-out for the walking wounded, now walking ghosts of the first team. It is a good opportunity for them, to get competitive minutes under their belts.

  8. lari03,

    There is a certain contradiction in saying “a run-out for the walking wounded” and “walking ghosts” – surely ghosts are just spooky and normally are from dead people.

    What are you trying to say? that the walking wounded go for a run – die – and then become ghosts, who are nebulous images to the watching, living Gooners?

    Are you the President of the Arsenal Spooks Supporters Association? 😀

    Well it’s a quiet afternoon, I guess.

    Better to play the kids and avoid all these

  9. Arsenal Team:

    Ospina; Chambers, Mertesacker, Holding; Debuchy, Coquelin, Elneny, Maitland-Niles; Wilshere, Welbeck, Giroud

    Subs: Macey, Sheaf, Nelson, Willock, Iwobi, Akpom, Nketiah

    Personally, I would prefer the subs bench players to play from the outset.

  10. Not sure I will be sticking around as I have just put my last dish in the oven and family is et to come over in about 1.5 hrs for Thanksgiving dinner.

    I will probably watch the game on my phone so enjoy your day and tha

  11. Hi C,

    Enjoy the family Thanksgiving dinner. 😀

    The game is bout to kick off — early start in Germany tonight.

    See you tomorrow.

  12. That must be the closest Le Coq has ever coming to scoring. Thumping kick, missed the post by a whisker…
    We’re getting some moves together at last.

  13. Hope things get better – we seem to be slow getting to grips with the pace of the game — and passing is poor.

    Mind – I hope they were all introduced to each other before the game – probably never played together in this team format because of injuries etc.

  14. HenryB,

    That’s an interesting team. I like what Im seeing, Elneny in midfield, Ainsley Mailand, Jacks back and Wellbeck getting a run out. What’s there not to like☺.

  15. We’re starting to pick the lock in their final third. All the good stuff is going down the left via Ainsley, who’s constantly inventive.

  16. Hm, no goals but I think we are decent. Elneny is great in running the game, give the backline an outlet and generally being the oil in the engine room.

    Sure, we could be more fluid. But we look ok, even though its a somewhat rag tag team.

  17. Hi Welsh Cardie,

    I’m a hard man to please — I know these guys are the Arsenal B team, but after the incredible stuff I saw last Saturday I want Arsenal to always play that way!! 😀

  18. We have some hustlers in this team: Coq, Ainsley, Iwobi, Jack. All looking to make something happen.
    Per sense to have got the back three organised and the one thing the B team has carried through from.the A team is the aggressive pressing. Paying dividends.
    Only Chambers seems well below par.

  19. HenryB,

    Yes, that was something else and I can well understand you. A very nice bar going forward and I’d love to see it as our new standard (However daft that thought might be).

    This is more like the leftovers. But sitting in a bar in the south of Portugal I find it very enjoyable. Its like a family dinner but without all the tension🙂.

  20. Against the run of play. Mental strength time. Koln were defending deep anyway. Now the bus is properly parked.
    Aaahhh…Chambers off – Nelson on! A proper young bus thief.

  21. We’re lively in attack and Koln are resolute and organised in defense. Nearly a fine chance for Giroud. Can we grab a point?

  22. Evening,

    Listened to the first half on the radio on my commute home and only been in 5 mins to watch. Our attack just doesn’t look interested. Why is there only ever one man in the box? Why are we playing two holding midfielders? Why are we playing with so many attacking players who just aren’t clinical? Why are our players wandering around like it’s a pre-season game? Why do we follow a great performance with another half-hearted effort? Why does Giroud dance around the pitch as if he hasn’t a care in the world?
    It’s really disappointing, but so typical of Arsenal.

  23. The player providing most of the creative stuff is Maitland-Niles and the best chance fell to Coquelin. That’s with Giroud, Welbeck and Wilshere on the pitch plus Iwobi coming on as a sub with the number of first team games he has had. I feel very sorry for the away fans who spend all that money to follow the team. It may make little difference to the group standings for us, but the fans deserve to see tge team making the effort.

  24. I’m sure Arsene will be pleased with the possession stats though – 69%. Well done lads. Pat yourselves on the back.

  25. Wavey,

    I saw a different match. The guys turned up and played good football, attacking for large parts of the game. If I was a Koln supporter I’d be very happy with my team’s defensive performance. Yes Giroud is Giroud and Chambers and Debuchy didn’t contribute at the required level. Our crossing was weak. But on another night – and with more of our young hustlers up front – we would have capped all our possession with a couple of goals.
    I enjoyed much of our play, and seeing the youngsters get stuck in – just not the result. And having just rewatched the penalty, their lanky striker bought it… and yes, Debuchy was slow not to see it coming.
    Given that we are sure of top spot now, I’m not despondent about the performance of our B Team. This was not the Belgrade nonsense.

  26. Wavey,

    Evening, we were actually quite decent until that rather soft pen.

    Think its a little harsh on them losing the game. But then again Im drinking and maybe feeling a bit more generous and positive than I should be🙂.

  27. welsh corgi cardigan,

    I got in just after the penalty and thought we looked pretty average in the final third. I listened to Perry Groves bemoaning the lack of ambition up front in the first half on Talksport. I quite like Perry Groves and it sounded like a fairly honest assessment. Listening to the game it sounded like Maitland-Niles was the one providing most of the creative stuff. Where were our experienced players who should be providing the quality?
    Let’s not forget that Koln are rock bottom of both the Europa League group and their domestic league.

  28. welsh corgi cardigan,

    I agree that losing was a bit harsh, but it didn’t seem that we made much of an effort to win. A typical Arsenal game to end up losing when all the stats say it was unfair on us. I’ve given up forgiving the team for losing a game against a spirited team. Koln were scared of us in the first half and we let them off the hook. There was enough experience on the pitch to win the game. Perry said at the end of the first half that the team were in third gear and from what I heard he wasn’t wrong.

  29. Wavey,

    Yepp, that’s true. We could have done more, much more and before their goal. A bit arsenal to play great and then just fold and lose.

    Though I liked what I saw. We were playing out from the back in a nicely manner with Elneny being there to show for Mert and generally being the grease in the engine room. Our midfield were functioning quite nicely.

    Yea, that sort of validates your point. I retract and bow my head (I really should read before I write).

  30. welsh corgi cardigan,

    Watched DT’s vlog first thing and it sounded like a compact performance with no bite. Nice for the stats and doing things generally right, but with no real ambition to take the game to them. Koln were there for the taking and hadn’t won a game all season. Performances like this are particularly disappointing when they follow a game where we really got at the team. We won the group though, so it goes down as another game where it didn’t really matter. It sounds like Wenger was fairly sanguine after the match. Apparently we haven’t scored a duck in two consecutive European games since 2013-14 , but those were against Napoli and Bayern.

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