Arsenal v Cologne

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Interview

'Kolasinac is a nightmare to play against!'

Just in case you were in any doubt, we can confirm that Sead Kolasinac is “a nightmare” to play against. 

Ainsley Maitland-Niles confirmed what the likes of Chelsea, Bournemouth and Cologne already know after another powerhouse display from the big Bosnian transformed our opening Europa League group game.

Kolasinac came off the bench at half-time and volleyed us level within four minutes of the restart. Not only that, Kolasinac’s presence allowed Alexis to get on the ball in more dangerous areas and score the decisive goal against the German side.

“Sead’s been like that since he came in, in the first day in training and every session, he works hard - 100 per cent,” Maitland-Niles told Arsenal Player.

“He’s a nightmare to play against! He’s so strong physically, he’s very clever and he reads the game very well. He’s hard to play against but it makes you a better player, playing against him.”

Maitland-Niles spent the first half on the left flank but shifted into more familiar territory after the break, and we looked solid with the youngster alongside Mohamed Elneny in central midfield.

“It’s more of a natural position for me,” he said. “I just felt more comfortable in the middle of the park and I just tried to do what I do best.

“I think we just started to move the ball a bit slowly in the first half. So a slow start and of course they scored which wasn’t a great thing and we just had to reply to it in the second half.

“The boss just said to keep trying. Everyone knows each other’s abilities and we know we’re good enough to bring the game back so just keep trying, move the ball quicker and that’s what we did.”

Europa League

Watch the goals from the Cologne game

We kicked off our Europa League campaign with a 3-1 victory over Cologne on Thursday night.

Jhon Cordoba gave the visitors the lead with a long-range lob but we rallied after the break, with Sead Kolasinac coming off the bench to bring us level early in the second half. 

Alexis curled home a sumptuous second before Hector Bellerin sealed the win late on.

You can watch highlights from our win by pressing the 'play' button above.

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Interview

‘It was a difficult situation to handle’

While our players were shielded from the issues outside Emirates Stadium ahead of kick-off against Cologne, they still were worried about what was happening. 

Captain Per Mertesacker says the squad were in the dark about the situation, but felt that playing the game was the right decision.

“It was difficult to handle because we were already in the dressing room and then we found out that the kick-off was delayed by an hour,” he said. “It is frustrating, and you want to find out if you are actually going to play or not. That was in doubt. 

“We wanted desperately to play - but of course the safety of all supporters is the most important thing. 

“I just wanted to make sure my family was OK, which they were. Because some people said to tell them to just stay at home, because there were so many people outside the stadium. But in the end we were happy to play and finish the game.

“The atmosphere [once the match started] was actually quite positive because the fans inside the stadium were quite enthusiastic and it was quite fun to play in front of two crowds battling each other. It felt good to be part of that.”

Our next match, away to Chelsea on Sunday, will be another big test for the team but Mertesacker says we should draw confidence from a recent record of three wins from our last four matches against the Blues.

“[We can take] a lot from the FA Cup final, but it is different at Stamford Bridge,” he said. “It is a completely different pitch and it is going to be a different game. 

“They have habits that we have to read well, that is what we did well twice at Wembley. I think they will change a little bit because those two defeats hurt them. But we have to be confident going into that game. That needs more discipline than we showed against Liverpool.

“They beat us on the break and Chelsea will try to do the same on Sunday. The way we got defeated there last year, we have to look very deep into that game to find our rhythm. We have found our rhythm against Chelsea at Wembley but that is different circumstances than at Stamford Bridge. We have to take that rhythm from Wembley and the way we played and the way we prepared those games. It is down to us.”

Club statement

Arsenal v Cologne - Update

We have had further time to reflect on Thursday night’s match and we are now undertaking a full review to assess the events which occurred inside and outside our stadium.

 
The safety of everyone in and around Emirates Stadium is always our paramount consideration. We have a sophisticated control room at the stadium, in which our matchday security team work closely with colleagues from the Metropolitan Police, London Fire Service and the London Ambulance Service.
 
We are satisfied that the joint decision to delay the match by one hour and play with a 9.05pm kick off was the best and safest option. This was the first time in 20 years of European competition we have had to take such an action. Ultimately the match passed off safely.
 
Unfortunately there were clearly many Cologne supporters in Arsenal sections of the stadium. They obtained their tickets illegally, most likely via ticket touts. We continue to work hard to try to eradicate ticket touts and would urge all supporters not to sell or buy tickets from touts. Any tickets found that have been sold or purchased illegally will be traced back to the original purchaser who will have their membership cancelled and the appropriate action taken.
 
On a specific point, we can confirm that no new Arsenal members who joined after the UEFA Europa League draw were eligible to purchase tickets for the match on Thursday night through our box office or ticket exchange service.
 
Finally we would like to take this opportunity to thank our supporters for their patience and conduct during what was a very difficult night for us all. We know that many supporters experienced significant disruption getting to the match and also inside the stadium during the match. We thank everyone for their understanding.

Interview

'I was offside too much but I will improve'

No one tried harder to get in behind Cologne on Thursday night than Theo Walcott.

The England forward’s natural game is to make runs beyond the last defender and his average position was way ahead of Alexis and Olivier Giroud - especially in the first half. Theo caused Cologne plenty of problems but he admits that his timing needs a bit of fine tuning.

“I was offside too many times to be honest,” Theo told Arsenal Player. “I was disappointed with that. 

“I won’t dwell on that too long. It’s just about me timing my runs slightly better, but I say the players are playing it too late, that’s my excuse anyway! I like to make the runs and I’ll definitely be feeling it tomorrow morning.”

Theo was heavily involved in his first start of the season and he put our 3-1 win down to a half-time tactical switch that got himself and Alexis into more dangerous positions.

“We went back to the 4-3-3,” he said. “I like to make the runs to create space for other players and to stretch teams and it seemed to work in the second half especially. 

“First half it was always difficult to get involved for the whole team really. They closed us down very well, they were very strong from the back. But in the end we got the result which we really deserved, I think. It was a nervous start but it was good to end on a positive result.”

Press conference

Wenger on Cologne fans and kick-off delay

Arsene Wenger says that he and our players “waited patiently” in the dressing room after our opening Europa League game was delayed by crowd safety issues.

We eventually got underway at 9.05pm (UK time) - an hour later than scheduled - and this was the manager’s take on it:

on how difficult the delayed kick-off was…
We waited patiently in our dressing room but what was difficult was for me was I had all kind of plans to think about at some stage. I had to think if we play tomorrow at what time do we want to play, do we play next week… but they have the Bundesliga again in midweek, and we had a League Cup game midweek as well. Do we move it to Tuesday and play Thursday? It was all kind of speculations you know that we had to analyse and see how we can deal with the situation. But in the end at some stage I thought they would not play the game, because I can’t see the police taking any risk. We live in a society of 100 per cent security and I thought they would never take a gamble to play this game when I saw the images around the stadium. But I must say our supporters as well dealt well with the situation as well and there was no aggravation. I hope everything goes well after the game.

on whether it was the right decision to play the game…
If nothing happens after the game, yes.

on if he thinks the delay is why we had a slow start…
It’s difficult to say. It was similar for Cologne but we had some problems to get off, to start, yes. I don’t know, was it mental? Was it the fact that they scored the goal and we didn’t know how to deal with it? But our game was a bit too slow.

on number of Cologne fans being a surprise…
They were very clever. I don’t know how they managed to infiltrate our fans and get everywhere but they did that very well.

on if it affected our game…
No, I don’t think so. I felt that we were playing too deep, all of us, and didn’t put enough pressure on them.

on how disturbing it is that so many Cologne fans got in…
Look, I’ve followed German football for a long time and I thought Cologne had not played in Europe for 25 years. On the first night they go out [to play], they spoil their night. I couldn’t understand that. Were the problems created by people who had no tickets? I don’t know. But certainly they had more people here than tickets so that was certainly the cause. We left that to the police - I’m not better informed than you. I just had to speculate on if the game was not played, what would we do.

on if Uefa should take action against Cologne…
They are the only master to analyse the facts, what happened. They will certainly make an inquiry to see what happened, for sure.

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Post-Match Report

Arsenal v Cologne: How it happened

WHAT HAPPENED

Sead Kolasinac and Alexis hit stunning second-half strikes to win us a game that was delayed for an hour by crowd safety issues.

It hardly seemed worth the wait when a piece of individual brilliance from Jhon Cordoba caught us out in the 10th minute.

David Ospina rushed out to clear from outside his box and, when the ball was knocked back into Cordoba’s feet, he had the presence of mind to spin and launch a shot from 40 yards that sailed over the retreating goalkeeper and into the net.

That setback - and the noise being generated by the Cologne fans - made this feel like an away match at times. But having carved out half-chances in the first half - mostly through Olivier Giroud headers - we turned the screw after the break.

Kolasinac’s half-time introduction and a switch to 4-2-3-1 paid immediate dividends when the Bosnian lashed home a volley after Theo Walcott’s attempted cross had flicked up off a defender. 

History maker: Sead Kolasinac's equaliser will go into the history books

Cologne, having looked neat and tidy early on, were now retreating. And Alexis, too deep to do damage in the first half, increasingly found himself in dangerous positions.

He made it count. Chasing the ball down on the left touchline, Alexis dribbled inside, evaded two defenders and worked himself just enough space to curl a sumptuous shot inside the far post. The keeper barely moved.

Jack Wilshere came on seconds later - a year and 14 days after his last first-team appearance - and received one of the biggest cheers of the night. 

Hector Bellerin added some gloss to the win, showing desire to reach a rebound first and fire past Timo Horn after Walcott’s shot had been saved.

A delayed start, then a false start… but a happy ending to our Europa League debut.


AS IT HAPPENED

See how the game unfolded through our play-by-play coverage of the match.

WHAT IT MEANS

A 1-1 draw between Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov means we top Group H by two points after one game. Our next Europa League fixture is in Belarus against BATE Borisov on September 28.

As it stands: Group H following the first round of fixtures (courtesy of UEFA.com)


WHAT’S NEXT

We travel to Chelsea on Sunday for our fourth game against the Blues in four months. We beat them twice at Wembley - in the Emirates FA Cup final and Community Shield - and lost in China in pre-season. 

Our next visitors to Emirates Stadium are Doncaster Rovers in the Carabao Cup on September 20.

CHASING A CENTURY

Giroud went into the game on 99 goals for the club… and ended it on 99.

Nonetheless, the France striker was our most dangerous player in the first half, going close a number of times:

10 - Alexis clips in a free-kick and Giroud climbs well to power a header towards the top corner. The keeper claws it away; the flag is up anyway.

13 - Ainsley Maitland-Niles delivers a cross and Giroud mades a trademark near-post run… but he’s blocked off.

20 - A flowing move sees Alexis pick out Walcott, who leaves the ball to run to Bellerin. He swings in a cross from deep and Giroud gets up to generate plenty of power in a header that Horn saves.

25 - Alexis curves a ball into Giroud’s path and he tries a flick to take it past his marker. It doesn’t quite come off.

39 - Another cross, this time from Alexis, prompts another good leap from Giroud. This time he heads wide under pressure.

Closing in: Stats from Olivier Giroud's impressive first half

Interview

'The kick-off delay didn't affect us at all'

Mohamed Elneny played the full 90 minutes as we came from behind to beat Cologne on the opening night of the Europa League group stage.

The Egypt international helped us turn the tide after a slow start, and he spoke to the media afterwards:

on the game…
It was such a difficult game against a tough German opponent. We played well and performed in such a great way on the field because we want to win the group and qualify to the next round.

on whether the delay affected the team…
No, that didn't affect us at all. We had to put all our heads into the game as we wanted to play well and apply pressure on all areas of the field, especially in the second half. That’s what we did where we pushed more up the field to win the game.

on the Europa League…
We always have different talks together as a team about this. One goal on our mind is to win the trophy which will be great for the club. What we want is to continue fighting for the [trophy], today was a brilliant start and we wanted to prove ourselves and that what we did.

on facing Chelsea…
Starting tomorrow, we will put our heads on the Chelsea game - it’s a tough opponent and tough match. We want to give it all in the game to make our fans happy.

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Press conference

'Kolasinac gave us a lot and he pushed Alexis'

Arsene Wenger had a good look at what we produced in the first half against Cologne on Thursday - and promptly made some big changes.

On came Sead Kolasinac, we switched to a 4-2-3-1 and we started to tick. Goals from Kolasinac, Alexis and Hector Bellerin did the rest.

Here’s what the boss made of our fightback:

on the game…
I believe we had a little bit of a slow start and our combinations were too slow. On top of that we were shocked by the stunner that they scored. Overall from then on it was important not to panic and to keep control of the game and in the second half I believe our team was better balanced and better equipped going forward. I changed it at half-time and in the second half it was just a question of time. Overall, I believe we won in a convincing way.

on how crucial the introduction of Kolasinac was…
I moved to a four [at the back] in the second half and Kolasinac gave us a lot going forward, but as well he pushed Sanchez more forward. Sanchez played very deep in the first half and when he had more support on the flanks from Kolasinac he became more dangerous.

on if we will enjoy the Europa League…
Football is football. Once you are on the football pitch, if you love football, you play. You don’t wonder what kind of cup it is when you sit in the dressing room. You want to play football and we played against a good team tonight. A Bundesliga team is always difficult to beat.

on Alexis’ goal and his performance…
I think in the second half he became alive. He’s still running, fighting to come back to his best physically. But Alexis is Alexis - he’s an exceptional player and even if he’s not completely back today. physically, he is an exceptional football player and he can deliver a decisive pass or a goal at any moment. For us, tonight he gave some great balls and in the second half of course he scored. He can always create something special.

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Interview

'We think we're one of the best teams in it'

Hector Bellerin showed bags of desire late in the game on Thursday night to beat Cologne’s defence to a rebound and slot the ball beyond Timo Horn for our third and final goal.

The Spaniard’s first goal of the season rounded off a fine comeback that started when Sead Kolasinac came off the bench to rifle in a volley.

Here’s Hector’s take on a dramatic night - on and off the pitch.

on an important win…
Definitely. It’s a new competition for us and we knew we needed to set the tone. We think we’re one of the best teams in the competition, so we have to show that on the pitch. After not a very good start, the coach decided to change the tactics and it worked for us with Sead coming on, scoring and helping us to get a boost in the second half. I’m very happy.

on a strange pre-match…
Obviously with the nutrition we were ready to play at 8pm, but things happened and it meant we had to play an hour late. We had to be ready - these things happen sometimes, not often, but we have to be ready as players. We started a bit with cold feet but then after it just worked.

on confidence going into the Chelsea game…
I think the win against Bournemouth in the league gave us a lot of confidence and today the win and coming back from [being behind] always gives you that boost. We’re going to train hard in these two days coming and then we’re going to be ready for Chelsea at the weekend.

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