Cologne v Arsenal

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Post-Match Report

Cologne 1-0 Arsenal: How it happened

FC Cologne -

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Europa League
Europa League
  FC Cologne
      
              Guirassy (62 pen)
          
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FC Cologne
Guirassy (62 pen)
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  Arsenal
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Arsenal

WHAT HAPPENED

We will definitely finish top of our Europa League group - but our unbeaten record in the competition has gone.

A second-half penalty condemned us to defeat, but Red Star Belgrade’s draw with BATE Borisov means we can’t be caught by them or Cologne.

The German side’s winner was not without controversy as Sehrou Guirassy went down inside the box with Mathieu Debuchy in close attention.

Calum Chambers made his comeback from injury

The referee deemed it worthy of a penalty and Guirassy picked himself up to slam the spot-kick past David Ospina.

It was very much against the run of play. Indeed, one early save apart, Ospina had next to nothing to do.

At the other end we probed for openings, but were denied by dogged defending and flawed final balls on an uneven surface.

Francis Coquelin got as close as he’s ever been to a first Arsenal goal with a shot that thudded off the base of the post, and the Frenchman also forced Timo Horn into a sharp save.

Francis Coquelin struck the post in the first half

Mohamed Elneny and Ainsley Maitland-Niles combined neatly to play in Jack Wilshere. But he was challenged just as he looked to apply the finishing touch.

Guirassy’s penalty gave Cologne something to cling onto and they defended even more gamely after that.

Horn saved Per Mertesacker’s header and Wilshere’s rasping drive, and Arsene Wenger threw on Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah in a bid to save the game.

Nelson almost did the trick after a mazy run through the home side’s defence. But this was Cologne’s night.

HOW IT HAPPENED

See how the match unfolded and get the standout stats with our play-by-play commentary

WHAT IT MEANS

Despite losing in Germany, BATE Borisov's draw with Red Star Belgrade sees us top Group H

This defeat is not a damaging one. We’ve already qualified for the knockout stage of the Europa League and will definitely finish top of Group H. We have 10 points while Cologne and Red Star each have six.

WHAT’S NEXT

Our final game in Group H of the Europa League is at home to BATE Borisov on Thursday, December 7.

But next up it’s Burnley in the Premier League, at Turf Moor on Sunday.

WELBECK WATCH

Danny Welbeck in action in the first half

Danny Welbeck made his first start for us since October 14 - more than five weeks ago. These were his best moments before he made way for Alex Iwobi at half-time.

5 - Welbeck’s pace almost takes him beyond the Cologne back three but a defender sticks out a boot to nick the ball away

19 - Debuchy overlaps and Welbeck peels off at the back post. The cross eludes the Cologne defence but Welbeck can’t get the ball under control

27 - A delicious drag-back takes Welbeck away from his marker but his pass to Wilshere is cut out

33 - So close to a fine goal. Welbeck finds space outside the corner of the box and curls a shot just beyond the far post

35 - Coquelin’s through-ball puts Welbeck through on the left, but Giroud can’t quite reach his cross

Press conference

Why did Danny Welbeck come off at half-time?

Danny Welbeck made his first start in more than five weeks on Thursday night.

The forward lined up against Cologne and looked dangerous in the first half, before making way for Alex Iwobi at half-time.

But fears that Danny may have suffered an injury were soon allayed by Arsene Wenger:

“It was planned before the game that he would only play 45 minutes,” he said.

“He has only just come back from injury, and we have three more games on Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday again. Medically, the risk was a bit too high to play him for longer because he has been out for a while.

“He has no problem. Of course, he was ready to stay on and frustrated to come off, but he’s in good shape.”

Interview

Holding - My view of the penalty decision

Was it a penalty?

That was the big talking point after a contentious call counted against us in Cologne on Thursday.

Rob Holding was close by when Sehrou Guirassy went down under Mathieu Debuchy’s challenge, and he wasn’t sure the referee got it right.

“I was on the right hand-side, so I just saw Per and Debuchy squeeze him out, push him away from the ball and trip over him. I’ll have a look at it and see if it was the right decision, but first thoughts I didn’t think it was.

“I haven’t really spoken to him [Debuchy] about it, I spoke to Per about it and he said he pulled out of [the challenge] because he knew what he [Guirassy] was going to do.

“I think we dominated the possession and had most of the chances and got a questionable penalty decision, but that’s the way it is sometimes. We tried hard to break them down, but just couldn’t get that goal.

“I didn’t know if the results had gone for us, but [they did] and that was the target for us, to finish top. That’s a positive to take into the next round.”

Press conference

‘We lost the game to one shot, basically’

Pretty much all the match stats were in our favour on Thursday night - except the one that really matters.

Cologne’s winner was controversial and very much against the run of play, but we paid the price for not finishing our own chances.

Arsene Wenger gave his take straight after the match:

on how frustrating the result is…
We had a lot of possession. We lost the game to one shot, basically. It was a very nice penalty that we have to take on board. It was honestly not a penalty at all. We missed a little bit of the accuracy in our passing in the final third that is required to score more goals. We had plenty of dangerous situations but we always missed a little something to finish our chances. I must also say that Cologne defended with spirit, with commitment and overall the crowd was absolutely fantastic for them.

on how difficult it is to focus when you have already qualified…
I must say that the attitude was good. It took us some time to inject some pace into the game. In the second half, it was much quicker. The pitch was a little handicapped tonight, and the players were because of it, but I cannot fault the preparation or the concentration of the players.

on what finishing top of the group means to him…
I don’t know. I will tell you after the draw. You feel you have done the job to finish top of the group. We now play our final game at home against BATE Borisov without much at stake, other than the fact that we want to win the game. What does it really mean? I don’t know. It’s what we wanted.

Video

Match video: Cologne v Arsenal

We secured top spot in our Europa League group, despite losing 1-0 to Cologne on Thursday evening.

Sehrou Guirassy scored the winner from the spot, after he had gone down under pressure from Mathieu Debuchy, but Red Star Belgrade’s goalless draw at BATE Borisov meant we still finished top of Group H with one game to play.

Press conference

Honour in defeat… the men who shone in Cologne

A defeat is a defeat, but Thursday night’s one in Cologne was less damaging than most.

We still secured top spot in our Europa League group despite falling to a second-half penalty. And although we weren’t close to our free-flowing best, there were some bright performances.

Arsene Wenger picked out a few of them after the game:

“I felt that Ainsley Maitland-Niles was very good, in the first half especially,” he said. “When we had problems to create dangerous situations, he did very well.

“Reiss Nelson came on and looked really tricky, dangerous going forward every time. The really young players did well on that front. Guys like Rob Holding were good too, but the young players did very well.

“Jack Wilshere was like everybody else - he created dangerous situations and was close to scoring. Him, Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud all looked dangerous but we were always missing something in the finishing.”