Arsenal got their Europa League campaign off to a winning start last night, as they beat Cologne 3-1 at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger made 9 changes to the side that played against Bournemouth at the weekend, with only Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal keeping their places. Alexis Sanchez played the 90 minutes as Wenger tries to get minutes under his belt. Arsenal weren’t great in the first half and trailed 1-0 at the break, but Wenger shifted his formation to a back 4 and Arsenal looked much better for it. Sead Kolasinac drew Arsenal level only 4 minutes after being introduced as a half-time sub, smashing the ball into the goal with a left-footed volley. Alexis Sanchez put Arsenal ahead after he cut inside after having the ball out wide, and he placed the ball brilliantly into the top corner from just outside the box. Hector Bellerin made the game safe when he pounced on Theo Walcott’s saved effort when the ball was loose in the box.
Speaking about Sanchez, Wenger said:
In the second half he came alive. He is still running to come back to his best physically. But Sánchez is Sánchez and he is an exceptional football player. He can deliver at any moment a final ball or goal. He can create something special.
The game was in doubt for a little while when as many as 20,000 Cologne fans turned up to the stadium, but they had only been given 3,000 tickets. They tried to storm the gates to gain entry to the stadium, but they were unsuccessful and ended up fighting amongst themselves in the streets. The game went ahead one hour later than expected, kicking off at 9.05pm. There were a lot of Cologne fans in the stadium, and it sounds like a lot of them bought tickets from touts. The worrying thing for Arsenal is that it seems a lot of Cologne fans were able to sign up for a red membership with Arsenal and buy tickets to the home end. Many of them bought Arsenal jerseys and scarves so they wouldn’t look suspicious going into the stadium, and once in there they all went down to the away end. Arsenal have said that there will be an investigation opened. Surely somebody noticed that thousands of Germans signed up for membership with Arsenal and bought tickets, did they just not care and decide to take the money? It’s an interesting one and an incident that will definitely have to be looked at. While there were some reports of Cologne fans making a nuisance of themselves in the street, things could have ended a lot worse. There were 5 arrests in total, but the Cologne fans didn’t seem to cause much trouble once they were inside the stadium. If that happened with another team, things could have turned really ugly inside the Emirates, so hats off to the fans for that I suppose.
Wenger spoke about the number of Cologne fans at the game, and said:
Only they know the facts to analyse what happened. They should certainly make an inquiry to find out what happened, for sure. There were certainly more people here than had tickets. We left that to the police. I don’t know how they managed to infiltrate our fans. Did they go through membership or the internet? I don’t know but they did it very well.
When I saw the pictures I thought we cannot take the gamble to play the game. At some stage I thought we will not play because I can’t see the police taking any risks. We live in society of 100% security. Our supporters dealt with the situation well.
Onto Everton, and they left Italy with a 3-0 loss to Atalanta. I only saw the highlights, but from what I hear Everton were really, really poor. Atalanta hit the crossbar too when they were 3-0 up, so it could have been worse for the Toffees. There is a lot of criticism aimed towards them at the moment, and Ronald Koeman will have to be worried about his job. Everton spent a lot of money in the summer, and people were tipping them to be dark horses for the title (I was never sure about that one, but how and ever). Everton haven’t won since the opening day of the season, but with their 3 Premier League games since then coming against Man City, Chelsea and Spurs, you could cut them a bit of slack on that one. They have Man Utd away on Sunday, so things don’t get easier for Koeman, but you’d just have to hope the powers that be at Everton will understand that they have played the best sides so far, and they should start to pick things up when they start playing teams not in the top 6. I think the problem is that they wanted to compete with the top 6 this season, but it doesn’t look like they will at the moment. I’m sure they’ll turn things around, but they’d want to get their act together sooner rather than later.
After the game, Ronald Koeman said:
A lot went wrong. Except maybe after a difficult start maybe 10 minutes, that we had the ball a bit better. But OK, ball possession was poor, but the most painful was in the first half. They showed more aggression, they showed more passion. And that’s really painful, because in my opinion it starts with that and they you need qualities on the ball. I asked myself what I’m doing wrong, about the second half against Tottenham and the first half here. It’s not the way I like to see my team. The commitment, the passion, what they showed in the first half was much bigger than we showed.
Of course we need to have a little bit more patience. But on the other side, everybody can do their maximum for a good result. But once again, it’s not the time and not the place to criticise the players. I need to criticise myself, because the team was not prepared for this tonight. We showed eight times clips of the play of Gomez, he’s right-footed from the left, and he still got a free shot. That’s the individual quality from one player. The whole team of Atalanta was much better prepared than us today, and once again, that’s the manager.
We knew. We knew from the beginning of July that the start of the season was really tough. OK, we need to accept it. That’s not the problem. The problem is what we showed in the first half.
Bournemouth play host to Brighton tonight, as Eddie Howe looks for his side to get their first points of the season. I’ll try to get a quick preview of the game up later, but if I don’t get a chance, the team news and all the rest will be on Twitter. Have a good Friday, and I’ll be back in the morning with build-up to all of Saturday’s games.