Arsenal suffered their first defeat in Europe this season on Thursday as 1. FC Koln earned a hard-fought 1-0 win at RheinEnergieStadion
The Gunners started the game the brighter of the two sides, coming close through Ainsley Maitland-Niles before Francis Coquelin drove a wild shot just wide. The hosts tested David Ospina too, as Jhon Cordoba’s shot was tipped away by the Colombian shot stopper.
In the second half, the visitors had a number of chances, with Per Mertesacker, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah, while Jack Wilshere had a late effort saved by Timo Horn. But, they ultimately ended on the wrong side of the result as Sehrou Guirassy won a contentious penalty.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 23, 2017
The 21-year-old converted from the spot in the 62nd minute to hand Koln all three points and remain in contention to finish runners up in Group H. Arsenal, on the other hand, clinched top spot despite the loss, and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Arsene Wenger’s men.
David Ospina: 6.5/10
A quiet night for Ospina, who had more work to do with his feet than with his gloves, apart from a fine save early on from Jhon Cordoba. While he did conceded a goal in the second half, one can’t really blame a goalkeeper for letting the ball in from a penalty.
Mathieu Debuchy: 6/10
A solid game on the whole for the Frenchman who has been on a fine comeback trail of sorts this season. At the hour mark though, he was penalised for his contact on Sehrou Guirassy, perhaps harshly so. Apart from that moment, it was another strong outing for Debuchy, who looks at home in a back-three.
Per Mertesacker: 7.5/10
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 23, 2017
Coming back into the side after losing his place in the Premier League once again, Mertesacker was a leader for the Gunners, keeping things tight at the back while marshalling his troops smartly. In addition to his superb reading of the game, the German was also commanding in the air, in what was a fine performance.
Rob Holding: 7/10
While he was shaky at times, Holding was solid and assured for the most part, dealing with the threat posed by the Koln attack well. The youngster saw a lot of the ball, completing a remarkable 99 passes, and it was another performance that would have given him a lot of confidence going forward.
Calum Chambers: 6/10
Deployed in a rather unfamiliar right wing-back slot, Chambers struggled to an extent in the alien position. While he covered the defensive aspect of the game well, his impact in the final third was minimal, and even though he distributed the ball well, the Englishman is a much better fit in the back-three.
Mohamed Elneny: 5/10
As always, Elneny did what was asked of him well, rotating the ball well to keep things ticking in the middle. But, alongside Francis Coquelin at the centre of the park, he provides little attacking impetus, with most of passes going sideways as well. Joe Willock would have been a better choice with his driving runs.
Francis Coquelin: 6/10
Like Elneny, Coquelin posed little attacking impetus, although he did provide a threat in the final third with two of his shots in the first half. But while his midfield partner brings little to the table, the Frenchman provides a lot more solidity in front of the back-three while also posing a slight threat in the final third.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 6.5/10
Maitland-Niles vs FC Köln:
95% pass accuracy
3 chances created
5 take ons completed
2 tackles won
100% aerial duels won
2 shots pic.twitter.com/M3io49soda
— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) November 24, 2017
While Chambers struggled on the opposite flank, Maitland-Niles has shown remarkable improvement with each passing game in what was an unfamiliar role for him at the start of the season.
In particular, he provides a useful outlet on his forward runs, although he still needs to make a lot of improvement when it comes to his decision making. As he continues to develop well, he could soon be an option for Premier League games as well, should Arsene Wenger choose to rest Sead Kolasinac.
Danny Welbeck: 6/10
Only lasted 45 minutes on his return to action on Thursday, although he did provide a good outlet behind Olivier Giroud during his stint on the pitch. Welbeck came close to scoring as well, lashing a shot just wide, and will soon be a useful option for Wenger, provided he remains fit.
Jack Wilshere: 6/10
An underwhelming game considering the kind of standards that Wilshere has set for himself so far this season. While he was still the most creative player for his side, he Englishman was too sloppy for his own good. So, just when it was looking like he would be challenging for a bigger role, Thursday’s outing might have pegged him back a little.
Olivier Giroud: 6/10
Another player returning from an injury layoff, Giroud was rather ineffective at a stage where he has thrived so far this season. But while he himself threatened rarely, the Frenchman would also have been left aggrieved by a lack of proper service for him.
Alex Iwobi: 5.5/10
Replaced Welbeck at half-time, Iwobi posed some threat to begin with through his menacing runs. But, he failed to deliver when it mattered in another game without an end product.
Reiss Nelson: 6/10
— Urban Arsenal (@ArsenalUrban) November 23, 2017
Replacing Chambers in the right wing-back slot, Nelson showed exactly what Arsenal had been missing going forward from the position. A late effort almost yielded a point as well, and he is likely to get his place back for the game against BATE Borisov.
Eddie Nketiah: N/A
Came on with five minutes to go, and was another player who came close in the dying moments. But, there was little time for him to make an impact.