Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Brighton & Hove Albion

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, October 1
7:00 a.m. EDT, 12:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Kevin Friend
    • Assistants: Stuart Burt and Ian Hussin
    • 4th Official: Roger East
  • This Match, Last Time: Arsenal 3 - 1 Brighton (February 5, 1983)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 11 Arsenal wins, 2 Brighton wins, 2 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-L-W-D-W
  • Brighton's League Form: L-L-D-W-L-W
Arsenal slide into the international break with a tricky home fixture against Brighton, tricky in that they will have just sent 18 players to Belarus three days prior. Of course, many first team regulars were left behind in London, so Arsenal will hope that they can pick up full points despite the club's travels and enter the oncoming break by extending their winning streak to four and their unbeaten run to seven, across all competitions.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Iwobi (thigh,) Chambers (hip,) Welbeck (groin,) Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)

  • It's "as you were" with the injury list, though without rotation for this match, there's even less to talk about now as there was on Thursday.
  • Arsenal made nine changes to the side that beat West Brom before the trip to Belarus, retaining only Shkodran Mustafi and Mohamed Elneny.
  • Mesut Özil has not started a match since the Bournemouth victory due to injury. If he comes back to the XI here, then Aaron Ramsey will slide back in the formation and Elneny most likely drops.
Predicted XI: Čech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Brighton Squad News

Out: Kayal (leg,) Baldock (calf,) Sidwell (back)
Doubts: Murray (ankle)
Suspended: Hemed (first of three, violent conduct)

  • Glenn Murray has returned to first team training after an ankle ligament injury.
  • However, Tomer Hemed will serve the first match of a three-match ban after he was seen on video review to stomp on DeAndre Yedlin. Match officials missed the incident at the time. Hemed had the only goal in Brighton's 1-0 win.
  • Beram Kayal, out with a leg injury, is hopeful of getting a run out with the Under-23's soon, but he's short of fitness for this one. Kayal suffered a leg break in Brighton's final pre-season friendly.
  • Steve Sidwell (remember him?) is out until possibly November with a lower back injury.
  • Sam Baldock won't be back until after the international break. His timetable was described as a month back on September 14.

Predicted XI: Ryan, Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Suttner, Knockaert, Stephens, Pröpper, March, Groß, Brown.

Current Form

  • Arsenal have not yielded a league goal since they forgot they had to play Liverpool back on August 27.
  • They have now kept Premier League clean sheets against Bournemouth, Chelsea, and West Bromwich Albion.
  • Arsenal's only goals allowed during their current unbeaten run, which now stands at six, have come in Europe.
  • Brighton did not start off life in the Premier League on the right foot, losing their opening fixtures to Manchester City and Leicester.
  • They've cobbled together seven points since then, with a draw at Watford and wins over West Brom and Newcastle. Those seven points are good for 13th in the table.
  • They did, however, lose at Bournemouth twice in five days, first in the league and then later in the League Cup.
Match Facts
  • Brighton's most recent season in the top flight, prior to this one, was 1982/83.
  • Brighton won their match at home, 1-0, but lost 3-1 at Highbury in February of 1983.
  • Arsenal and Brighton have met in three FA Cup ties since then, all of which were played in Brighton.
  • In 1988, Arsenal were 2-1 winners.
  • In 2013, Olivier Giroud scored twice and Theo Walcott had a late winner, as Arsenal won 3-2.
  • In 2015, Walcott, Mesut Özil, and Tomáš Rosický scored, as Arsenal were again 3-2 winners.
The Referee
  • The referee is Leicestershire-based Kevin Friend.
  • I haven't made the "more like Kevin Enemy, amirite?" joke in a while, so I figured I'd just slip that in there.
  • Arsenal won two and lost one with Friend last year, though the loss was a League Cup tie against Southampton.
  • The first win came 3-1 at Watford early in the season; the second was the 5-0 win at Southampton in the FA Cup.
  • Brighton had Friend very recently (10 days ago to the date of this preview, in fact.) Friend took charge of their aforementioned League Cup loss at Bournemouth, which came in extra time.
Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Huddersfield Town v. Tottenham Hotspur; John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. Leicester City; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Crystal Palace; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Southampton; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Watford; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Swansea City; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Saturday (late): Chelsea v. Manchester City; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (early): Everton v. Burnley; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Newcastle United v. Liverpool; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and an organic compound. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for... okay, there's nothing too organic about the Twitter account, I guess...

Five Thoughts: Arsenal 2-0 West Bromwich Albion and BATE Borisov 2-4 Arsenal

As a general point of information, these may unfortunately become more spotty over the next several months. I've mentioned on here before that I'm a new referee, and Saturdays/Sundays are where the games are, oddly enough. Since I don't have TV, and in turn have no DVR, I won't always be able to see all these things.

1. I didn't see a minute of the West Brom game, for the reasons outlined above, but from what I read it was one of those bitty old matches where luck was somewhat on our side for once. The clip I saw of Shkrodan Mustafi's tackle in the penalty area looked like a fairly stonewall penalty to me, but I can see why the referee thought advantage was on there - it took a brilliant save from Petr Cech to stop them from scoring anyway. Things also may have been different had Nacho Monreal not apparently studied in the Bruce Lee School of Acrobatic Goal Line Clearances.

On the other hand, fuck Tony Pulis in the face.

As far as the good guys go, we can't complain with Alexandre Lacazette finding the net two more times. It's funny how people expect any new player who cost a few bob to immediately send goals raining from the heavens, like these aren't humans who need time to adjust to a new country, new language, new teammates, new manager, new everything. If Laca is scoring this frequently now, I'm kinda excited to see what he can come up with once he's settled in.

2. Moving on to today's match, the win against Koln was always going to give us a little leeway to deprioritize this one. Arsene's team selection showed it too, as the starting XI were basically all the first-team guys that never play, and the bench looked like recess at the local middle school. Given how difficult it is to go away to these far-flung corners of Eastern Europe and get results, I honestly would have been OK with whatever happened today.

I mean, Red Star should be at least 4 points, preferably 6. Away to Koln might be tough, but these dudes should be a win at home. Getting out of this group shouldn't exactly be neurosurgery, is what I'm saying.

3. Anyway, if this lot have won their league 11 years on the spin, which they apparently have, the other mobs must be worse than the pub teams north of Hadrian's Wall. Theo had already hit the post by the time 8 minutes were gone, and a minute later he had the ball in the net. BATE were all over the place, and were undone by a simple attack culminating in a Jack Wilshere cross to the back post, where Feo was unattended. Easy peasy.

Not as easy as the next one though, where, my god, we got on David Ospina's case for his poor clearance. At least that was on the dead run after coming miles out of his area to deal with something his defense couldn't. I can kind of understand it. This time, the lad in BATE's goal just kind of shoveled a crap ball to Walcott, under no pressure whatsoever. Theo won't have an easier goal in his career, I imagine.

4. A minute later, Rob Holding scored his first goal for the club, shinning one in off a corner kick. Honestly, this one was largely over as a contest after that, even though they annoyingly scored a couple of goals later on. He's had a rough time in the beginning of the season, so this will surely do the kid's confidence the world of good.

That reminds me Calum Chambers still here? Is he hurt or something? You'd figure this should be the kind of game he's playing in.

Then, of course, we fall asleep at 0-3 and fail to contest a simple cross from the byline. Nothing Ospina could do about a point-blank header with that kind of pace on it from 10 yards out. Unreal.

The home side may have gotten themselves back into it before the half was over, but Ospina made a couple of decent saves to stop any of that nonsense from happening. Once we got a penalty early in the second half, this really was over.

5. The second half otherwise just kinda...happened. Yep.

On to the next!

Preview by Numbers: BATE Borisov v. Arsenal, Europa League Group Matchday 2

Borisov Arena, Barysaw
Thursday, September 28
1:00 p.m. EDT, 18:00 BST
  • Match Officials from Poland
    • Referee: Daniel Stefanski
    • Assistants: Krzysztof Myrmus and Dawid Igor Golis
    • 4th Official: Adam Kupsik
    • Additional Assistants: Bartosz Frankowski and Zbigniew Dobrynin
  • All-Time in All Competitions: First competitive meeting
  • Arsenal's Overall Form: L-W-W-D-W-W
  • Borisov's Overall Form: W-W-W-D-W-W
Work and fixture congestion are slamming me hard right now, so you're getting the bullet point version of these match notes.

I'll try to remain as sardonic as possible.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Iwobi (thigh,) Welbeck (groin,) Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)
Doubts: Chambers (hip)
  • Mesut Özil only appeared from the bench against West Brom on Monday. However, he won't be on the trip anyway.
  • Francis Coquelin remains out through the international break with the hamstring injury he picked up against Bournemouth. Fixture congestion could start to become a bit of an issue for the players forced to go out every match in the center of midfield. As such, I'd expect Jack Wilshere to slide in here.
  • Calum Chambers likely remains unavailable, having picked up a hip injury against Doncaster last week.
  • Wenger is expected to go with a mix of first-teamers and youth, but Arsenal don't have enough depth at certain positions. Ainsley Maitland-Niles should start, but Alex Iwobi has a thigh knock.
  • Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez, Granit Xhaka, and Alexandre Lacazette were all left behind.
Predicted XI: Ospina, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerín, Maitland-Niles, Wilshere, Elneny, Nelson, Walcott, Giroud.

Borisov Squad News

Out: None
  • There appear to be no injury concerns for Borisov, at least according to my sources.
  • As such, it would be a surprise if they made any changes to the side that drew against Red Star Belgrade on matchday one.
Predicted XI: Scherbitski, Rios, Gayduschik, Milunović, Polyakov, Volodko, Dragun, Ivanić, Gordeychuk, Stasevich, Rodionov.

Current Form
  • Arsenal appear to have righted the ship since their 4-0 loss at Liverpool; they're unbeaten in five since then and have conceded once across all competitions.
  • That one goal was, of course, David Ospina's adventure outside of the box against Köln on matchday one.
  • In the process, Arsenal have climbed from 16th in the Premier League table to 7th. They are three points back of Chelsea for 3rd.
  • Belarus's season runs from April to November, so Borisov are 23 matches into their domestic season already.
  • They have a four-match winning streak in the league, but currently sit two points back of top spot with seven matches to play.
  • Borisov originally qualified for the second qualifying round of the Champions League, where they defeated Alashkert from Armenia before falling to Slavia Prague on away goals.
  • They then fell to the play-off round for the Europa League, where they book their group stage ticket by defeating Ukrainian side Oleksandriya.
Match Facts
  • This is the first time Arsenal will face BATE Borisov in UEFA competition.
  • Indeed, Arsenal have never faced a side from Belarus at all before tonight.
  • Borisov have only once faced English competition, in the 2009 Europa League group stage against Everton. In a bit of a twist, the away side won each match.
The Referee
  • The match officials are from Poland.
  • The referee is Daniel Stefanski.
  • Stefanski has never worked a match for either side and has never worked any UEFA-level match involving a Belarussian side either.
  • The only English sides Stefanski has seen came in the UEFA Youth League, where he worked a Chelsea win over Schalke in 2013 and a Manchester City loss to Juventus in 2015.
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a a diagnostic instrument for measuring the curvature of the anterior surface of the cornea. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat if you think you might have astigmatism.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. West Bromwich Albion

Emirates Stadium, London
Monday, September 25
3:00 p.m. EDT, 20:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Robert Madley
    • Assistants: Lee Betts and Marc Perry
    • 4th Official: Stuart Attwell
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 0 West Brom
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 70 Arsenal wins, 38 West Brom wins, 31 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W // W-L-L-W-D
  • West Brom's League Form: L // W-W-D-L-D
We're in the middle of a heavy run of fixtures right now, which is what happens when you're competing on three fronts. Since coming out of the last international break, Arsenal's fixture list placed matches on Saturday, Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, Monday, Thursday, Sunday, a list we are currently halfway through. Arsenal's regulars will have had a good amount of rest between last week's trip to Stamford Bridge and this week's Monday night home game against West Brom. From there, they'll travel to Belarus on Thursday before a trip to Brighton at noon on Sunday (that's at something like negative 2 a.m. in New York, FYI.) That takes us into another international break.

Arsenal have climbed from 16th in the table to 12th since their loss at Anfield, but they are only three points back of Chelsea for third place.While the table has made for some bleak reading so far this year, I've been encouraged by other results. Arsenal were in with a shout to take a win from Stamford Bridge for the first time since the Mesozoic Era; that's enough to convince me that Arsenal are still in contention to be a top four club, regardless of what the media's #narrative will try to tell you.

But, to finish in the top four, you have to win the games you are supposed to win. West Brom at home is one of those fixtures, where nothing less than three points will suffice.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Chambers (hip,) Welbeck (groin,) Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)
Doubts: Walcott (knee,) Özil (knee)

Jack Wilshere completed 90 for the first time since... well, maybe the later part of the Mesozoic Era? Or the early part of the Cenozoic? It's been a while. That's really it for the "good news," though.

Calum Chambers came off against Doncaster with a hip injury that will keep him out for a week or two. Elsewhere, from the weekend, Danny Welbeck hurt his groin against Chelsea. Arsène Wenger has said, "his target is Watford," which means Arsenal will be without him through the next international break and it appears England will be without him as well.

Theo Walcott has some concerns over a knee injury, but was not likely to start the league fixture anyway. Mesut Özil is back in full training from his knee problem and should be ready to feature by Monday.

Predicted XI: Čech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Alexis, Lacazette.

West Brom Squad News

Out: None
Doubts: Chadli (thigh,) Burke (thigh,) Livermore (personal,) Brunt (calf)

A lot of doubts in West Brom's injury list, as they have no players ruled completely out, but four who about 50/50. Jake Livermore could return after he was given an extended break by Tony Pulis after the last international break, with Pulis saying, "physically he is fine but mentally, he just feels a little bit tired." It's been a difficult few years for Livermore, who tested positive for cocaine in 2015, which he had begun using to cope after his newborn son died during birth the day after he started for Hull City in their FA Cup Final loss.

Oliver Burke, Nacer Chadli and Chris Brunt are all doubts for this match, though Gareth McAuley has returned to West Brom's XI. Kieran Gibbs will be given a start against his former club in this one, while Gareth Barry is expected to break the Premier League record for appearances when he starts in this one.

Predicted XI: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Gibbs, Krychowiak, Barry, Phillips, Rodriguez, Livermore, Rondón.

Current Form

Arsenal have responded decently well after the international break, following that 4-0 thumping at Anfield. Since then, the Gunners have racked up a 3-0 win over Bournemouth, a 3-1 win over Köln, a 0-0 draw at Chelsea, and a 1-0 win over Doncaster in the League Cup. There have been positives in the league fixtures, but the midweek cup ties featuring heavy squad rotation have left quite a bit to be desired, even though they both ended in victories. It feels like Arsenal are currently doing just enough to keep their heads above water, even though their performance at Stamford Bridge was better than our admittedly low expectations. On the bright side, since shipping four at Anfield, the only goal Arsenal have conceded was David Ospina's first half adventure against Köln.

In the league, West Bromwich Albion are ahead of Arsenal in the table by two positions and a single point. Their League Cup campaign ended on Wednesday night at home, at the hands of Manchester City, but they did open their Premier League schedule with two straight victories, over Bournemouth and Burnley. The Baggies are winless since then, however, with draws against Stoke and West Ham as well as a loss to Brighton; that was the Seagulls' first top flight win since their last relegation in 1983.

Match Facts

Both sides split the two league meetings between them last season, with both clubs winning at home. The sides met at the Emirates on Boxing Day and Arsenal left it late before winning 1-0. Olivier Giroud, making his first league start of the season, nodded a Mesut Özil cross past Ben Foster in the 86th minute to give the Gunners a very difficult three points. Ben Foster made 10 saves in the loss.

The reverse fixture at the Hawthorns was one of Arsenal's low points of the season (they proceeded to get lower at Crystal Palace, however.) Arsenal seemed completely unprepared for how West Brom came to play, despite the fact that they've been facing Tony Pulis for years across a variety of teams. You'll recall that this was the game where the Wenger Out airplane banner was followed by the Wenger In airplane banner. Craig Dawson scored twice from corners as the Baggies won 3-1. It was Arsenal's fourth defeat in five league games.

Arsenal have won seven straight at home against West Brom, dating back to September of 2010, when Manuel Almunia injured himself saving a penalty, stayed in the game anyway, then conceded three goals.

The Referee

The referee is West Yorkshire-based Robert Madley. Arsenal have already seen Madley once so far this season, for their Community Shield win over Chelsea. On that day, Madley showed a red card to Pedro in the 80th minute. Madley has already shown four red cards in five matches so far this season, two more than any other Select Group officials.

Madley took charge of three Arsenal matches last season: the 2-1 win over Southampton (aided by a late Arsenal penalty,) the 2-1 FA Cup win over Preston North End (aided by another late Arsenal goal, though not a penalty,) and the 3-1 loss at Anfield (aided by nothing.)

West Brom have also already seen Madley once this season, for their season opening 1-0 win over Bournemouth at the Hawthorns. However, West Brom did not see Madley for a single match at all last season. Prior to the season opener, Madley had not worked a West Brom match since a 1-1 draw with Liverpool on the final day of the 2015/16 season.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): West Ham United v. Tottenham Hotspur; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Huddersfield Town; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Everton v. Bournemouth; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester City v. Crystal Palace; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Manchester United; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Chelsea; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Watford; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Leicester City v. Liverpool; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Sunday (late): Brighton & Hove Albion v. Newcastle United; American Express Community Stadium, Falmer
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a four-act play. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for the dramatic conclusion.

Five Thoughts: Arsenal 1-0 Doncaster Rovers

This is, err, not going to be super in-depth. If we're being honest here, I've already forgotten 99% of what happened in that match. Who'd we play again, anyway?

1. I didn't get to the pub until about 10 minutes into the first half - enough to miss Olivier Giroud's wonderful scissors-volley that smashed against the crossbar at any rate - and then was distracted for much of the second half, as well. In other words, I'm not going to have much in the way of in-depth analysis this time around.

Thing is, an old mate from the Nevada's days and on through until a year or two ago was back up around these parts from North Carolina, and he happened to pop into O'Hanlon's to see if anyone was around. Truth be told, I missed large swathes of the second half catching up with him, meeting his new fiancee, etc.

It's a bit cliche to say it perhaps, but it is a reminder that some things are more important than a game of football. Having been in and around the Arsenal NYC setup since the beginning (and before that, to be fair), I can say with confidence that the friends that I've made and the moments shared with them far, far, far outweigh what happens in any one given game.

2. That said, what a starting XI this was, eh? If we thought the Koln game was darts-at-a-dartboard, this was more throwing the names of the squad into a blender and hitting "puree".

I literally had no idea that Calum Chambers played in this one, though unfortunately for him this is the last we'll see of him in a while, as he aggravated an injury somewhere in this one. Meanwhile, Rob Holding got though this one without calamity, as did David Ospina.

Meanwhile, those clamoring for Reiss Nelson to be more involved were granted their wish, though he didn't make much of an impact on the proceedings. There'll be better days for him, I'm sure.

The main headline, though, is that Jack Wilshere made it through 90 minutes and looked generally pretty good in doing so. He's been remarkably patient in waiting for his chance, especially given that even his loan spell at Bournemouth last season wasn't especially fruitful for him. There's still the makings of a truly great player in there, and it's not like our central midfield positions are locked in by players in mega-awesome form. All he can do is take his chances while they come, and you have to think this one was mission accomplished.

Consistency is now going to be the key for him.

3. On the other hand, Alexis playing in this thing was more than a little weird, especially as he's only been a sub in the Premier League games. The journos are already having a field day with this whole thing, too.

Typically, when Arsene goes to great pains to say that Thing X isn't true, then usually it means Thing X is *absolutely* the case. If so, honestly, I'm not as bothered about it as you might think I'd be. Competing on all fronts is going to be difficult in any case for us, but even assuming this is only a temporary demotion, the Chelsea match showed that some of our depth players are better than the more hysterical of us have given them credit for. And, if it means we have a world-class player to help us through the early rounds of the cups, then even better.

Really, the main goal was keeping him out of the clutches of an already-rampant Manchester City, anyway.

4. The first half was largely tolerable, and the goal was well-taken once it happened. Alexis crossed one in to Theo Walcott on the back post, who then dribbled past a few dudes and dinked it over the onrushing keeper. Easy peasy. Watching their # 8 go utterly into screensaver mode was especially enjoyable. Poor lad's brain was broken. But, and maybe I'm wrong here, we didn't really create a whole hell of a lot else against a club struggling in League One, and that was honestly kind of annoying.

If the first half was annoying, the second was downright problematic. I know we ended up throwing on Alex Iwobi and Chris Willock at one point, but I don't think either managed to pull up any trees, to put it diplomatically. Meanwhile, they saw a lot more of the ball, and I did see one bit where one of their lads either hit the crossbar, or Ospina had to tip it onto there. My god, can you imagine the Twitter meltdown if this thing had to go to extra time?

Hell, that goes double given that Man City, Man United and Chelsea all had easy wins. But, let's give ourselves a little credit here - we played an "experimental" line-up here, but take a look at how...regular-ish...these are:

City: Bravo - Danilo, Stones, Mangala - Delph, Yaya Toure, Gundogan, Sterling, Bernado Silva - Sane, Jesus

United: Romero - Darmian, Smalling, Lindelof, Blind - Herrera, Carrick, Lingard, Mata - Martial, Rashford

Chelsea: Caballero - Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill, Zappacosta - Fabregas, Bakayoko, Kenedy, Musonda - Batshuayi, Hazard

It's bizarre how seriously they're taking this, aren't they?

5. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't fun to watch, but we're through to the next round of the League Cup and we gave some players some minutes. I think we learned that Jack is starting to get more ready for prime time, whereas perhaps Nelson might need a bit more seasoning first.

Other than that, don't sweat this one. It's the League Cup, and if the other big teams want to throw strong lineups at it, that's their prerogative. Us, we'll take three points on Monday against West Brom and then worry about bigger things as they come. That's all. 

Five Thoughts: Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal

Only five thoughts this time around, as this is days late (my bad) and there were a relative few number of talking points in a match that was open, exciting, but in the end an utter stalemate.

Not that it was a bad thing given the circumstances, mind you.

1. Both sides had their spells of domination and their weak moments, but neither side can honestly complain about 0-0. There's a bit of "what if?" that either club could point to - the Chavs could only bring on the excellent Eden Hazard as a late sub as he works his way back to match fitness, while we could say the same about Alexis Sanchez...and Mesut Ozil didn't even make the 18.

Gun to my head, though, I think we just about shaded it over the 90 minutes were you to score this on points like a boxing match (though it's probably a blessing that we don't, given Adelaide Byrd's reality-challenged 118-110 card in the Canelo-GGG fight...anyway, I digress). Antonio Conte is a brilliant manager and his record speaks for itself, but there may have been a little hubris involved in playing Cesc Fabregas in central midfield instead of in some kind of shadow striker deal, or just behind the target man. Then again, I don't know if anyone could have predicted that Arsenal would be set up properly for a tough away match, and that the guys would do their jobs to perfection. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka look like they may finally be building some chemistry in the center of the park, as they often overwhelmed Chelsea's 1.5-man unit of Cesc and N'Golo Kante.

There's been a bunch of takes out there about this being two dropped points for us, about how we never really went for it, etc and so on. You'll note that, ten times out of ten, these are the same people losing their minds at our "tactical naivety" when we're bombing men forward in matches like this. You take your chances in a game like this if they're presented to you, but most of the time if you come away with a point from a place like Stamford Bridge, you've done exceptionally well.

2. That said, pardon me while I continue to gush like a Justin Bieber fan about Sead Kolasinac. This guy...THIS GUY...I think is my favorite Arsenal player since, hell, Dennis Bergkamp? The Guardian just did a piece the other day about how jarring it is to see this guy play for Arsenal precisely because we've been screaming out for a player of this ilk for so long. Seeing Chelsea guys just bounce off of him is about as much joy as I can have short of a night with Scarlett Johanssen.

Don't think for one second that David Luiz's cowardly challenge was an accident, or that it was a coincidence that the Bosnian Tank was the man targeted. A streetwise club like Chelsea are going to try and nip something like this in the bud before it ever really gets going, but, well, you're going to need heavier ordinance than Sideshow fucking Bob to bring down a tank, now aren't you? Let's all watch the tape of the World Cup 7-1 again and watch him cry some more. Fucking muppet.

Speaking of, it was refreshing to see the straight red card come out with no hesitation by referee Michael Oliver. Again, as I begin my journey in the referee game myself, I'm beginning to appreciate games like this much more. Even when he called fouls on us, I found myself nodding in agreement. He had a *storming* game, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

3. Alexandre Lacazette missed the one real presentable chance that we had, but, he is a human after all. My dude is a deadly finisher but even the best miss a few here or there. Nothing to really worry about. But, on a day of generally good performances, Alex Iwobi's stinker stuck out more than it might otherwise have done, perhaps.

I don't know if this is a blip or if this is an indicator that he's seriously stalled out, but either way stick a pin in this one. I don't know if he's going to get the consistent number of minutes that he'd get out on loan somewhere, but he also hasn't shown enough (in my estimation) to make a case for keeping others out of the team. Danny Welbeck can be frustrating at times with his end product, but he has other qualities that help his case a lot - his pace and power stretches defenses, which in turn opens up space for other players. We can work with that. But, Iwobi doesn't offer one-tenth of that right now, and it's concerning.

It was also a little unfortunate that Lacazette was the one to come off when Alexis came on, but I get why Arsene did it. Again, away match at Stamford Bridge, the balance of the team has to be right. They'll get their day to play together, and I for one am looking forward to it.

4. While Chelsea didn't exactly overrun us like they've typically done at their gaff, it should be noted that Petr Cech had two excellent saves in there (I believe both were in the second half) to help keep it at 0-0.

I know I can get tedious with this at times, but it's my damn report, so:

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

Petr Cech was never the problem.

5. We go from one extreme to the other, as we safely take our haul of a borscht-flavored point from Stamford Bridge and go directly from there to a League Cup match against Doncaster Rovers. To give you an idea of what a black hole club that is, I legitimately thought they were still in the Championship - as it turns out, they were in League Two last season, where they were promoted up to League One for this campaign. 

If a tree falls in Doncaster, etc and so on.

I mean, I am a Football Manager addict, which includes often playing in the lower leagues. Give me any box score from any game in the top four divisions in England and I can generally at least recognize 2-3 players and tell you a little bit about them. With Donny, however, they don't have the entire squad. I swear this has to be the most anonymous football club in the country, even if their club crest of "guy with a sword" is pretty damn badass. 

Also, according to Wikipedia, Doncaster and its environs should technically belong to Scotland because of the Treaty of Durham, circa 1136. That's amazing - they should push for that immediately. I don't care where they are in League One right now, put them in the SPL and there's a pretty good chance they could be runners-up. I'm serious, the SPL is a Chernobyl fire. 

Still, I could give a toss what happens there, though. Maybe we go a few rounds in and get our kids some playing time, but other than that I'm not that bothered. We have bigger fish to fry, yes?

Preview by Numbers: Chelsea v. Arsenal

Stamford Bridge, London
Sunday, September 17
8:30 a.m. EDT, 13:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Michael Oliver
    • Assistants: Simon Bennett and Stuart Burt
    • 4th Official: Neil Swarbrick
  • This Match, Last Year: Chelsea 3 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 75 Arsenal wins, 62 Chelsea wins, 54 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W // W-L-L-W
  • Chelsea's League Form: W-W // L-W-W-W
It got there in the end. By full-time, quality (in one half, at least) beat out quantity (of away supporters in the ground), 3-1. With that, we'll set aside the Europa League for two weeks before traveling to Belarus for matchday two.

That brings us to the task at hand ahead of us: Chelsea away. Stamford Bridge has not been a happy hunting ground for Arsenal, even if the media would like you to forget that Arsenal have handled the Blues well otherwise since the start of last season. Antonio Conté has bested Arsène Wenger just once in four tries, but that was the sole meeting at Stamford Bridge out of the four.

This match is going to tell us a lot about how the rest of the season is likely to unfold. If Arsenal win, then reports of their demise would have been greatly exaggerated. If Arsenal lose a close one, it's probably still going to fit straight into the media's #narrative. If Arsenal perform like they did at Anfield three weeks ago, then the media's drum-pounding about the club will never end, ever again. If it's a draw, well, nobody really wants that. Draws don't sell newspapers.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)
Doubts: Walcott (calf)

It's obviously not ideal to play a Sunday afternoon match after a Thursday night match, especially one that started an hour later than it was supposed to. However, that's just something we're going to have to get used to this season. It's not like the Saturday lunchtime kick-offs after Wednesday European nights that we've had in the past are much different.

Still, Arsenal was able to rotate the squad plenty on Thursday, which means the likes of Mesut Özil, Alexandre Lacazette, Danny Welbeck, Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, and Laurent Koscielny (though, he was also suspended in Europe) can come back into the XI. I've heard rumors of Theo Walcott picking up a calf injury (I believe the TV cameras showed him with an ice pack on the bench after his removal.) There are some doubts on the fitness of Özil and Ramsey as well, but Arsène Wenger said earlier that they should be available.

I think the biggest question is how many defenders Wenger chooses to start. Twice this season now, Wenger has switched back to a back four at halftime. The switch worked on Thursday, but seriously did not at Anfield last month. The beauty about the predicted XI I pick below is that I'm hedging my bets and, depending on where Kolašinac slides in, it could work for either formation.

Predicted XI: Čech, Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Chelsea Squad News

Out: None
Doubts: Drinkwater (calf)

When the hell did Chelsea buy Danny Drinkwater?


September 1, apparently, for £35 million! Anyway, he's struggling with a calf problem and is likely not yet fit to make his Chelsea debut.

Chelsea, of course, rotated plenty in midweek as well, and the likes of David Luiz, Eden Hazard, and Álvaro Morata are likely to come back into the starting XI. Davide Zappacosta is making a push to start in place of Victor Moses after scoring on his full debut Tuesday night.

Predicted XI: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Zappacosta, Alonso, Bakayoko, Kanté, Pedro, Hazard, Morata.

Current Form

Arsenal maintained their 100% record at home with their 3-1 win over Köln yesterday, but they have nothing to show for their travels so far this year. The Gunners are winless away from the Emirates, though the sample size remains small: just the losses at Stoke and Liverpool to consider. Arsenal played well at Stoke and had an equalizer ruled offside, but they didn't show up at all in the other road game.

Chelsea have won 11 of their last 14 competitive fixtures, across both seasons and all competitions. Two of those non-wins came against Arsenal at Wembley, in the FA Cup Final and Community Shield; the latter, of course, was a draw decided on penalties. Chelsea then lost their opening match of the league season to Burnley, but have won every match since. They've beaten Spurs, Everton, and Leicester in the league and Qarabağ, the top club of Azerbaijan, in the Champions League. (Today, I learned that the Azeri language has that G with the hat on it from Turkish, but they're not pronounced the same.)

Match Facts

Arsenal have picked up three wins in four tries against Chelsea since the start of last season, including two wins at Wembley, mentioned above. Though, again, if you want to get really technical, it's two wins and a draw.

In last year's FA Cup Final, Alexis Sánchez opened the scoring early with a controversial goal in the fourth minute. Chelsea were reduced to 10-men on 68 minutes when a Victor Moses dive in the box was rewarded with a second yellow card. Even shorthanded, Chelsea had an equalizer through Diego Costa on 76 minutes, but Aaron Ramsey gave Arsenal his second FA Cup winning goal in four years just three minutes later.

In the Community Shield to open this season, not-sent-off Victor Moses opened the score just after halftime, but it was Pedro who saw red in the 80th minute. Sead Kolašinac opened his Arsenal scoring account on the ensuing free kick to send the match to penalties, where Thibault Courtois idiotically went second and skied his spot kick. Arsenal won 4-1 on penalties.

Both sides split their league meetings last season. Arsenal ran riot over Chelsea at the Emirates last September, jumping out to a huge lead, with Alexis Sánchez pouncing on a Gary Cahill error in the 11th minute before Theo Walcott doubled the lead three minutes later. Mesut Özil added a third before halftime and Arsenal coasted to a 3-0 win.

At Stamford Bridge in February, Chelsea bludgeoned their way to an early lead, quite literally, as Marcos Alonso used his elbow to beat Hector Bellerín to a header on 13 minutes, forcing the Arsenal right back out of the game with a concussion to boot. Arsenal did well to keep the match close, but Francis Coquelin did not do well to keep Eden Hazard close on 53 minutes and the Belgian scored a wonderful individual goal to double the lead. Cesc Fàbregas made it three from a Petr Čech error on 85 minutes and Olivier Giroud scored a consolation goal in injury time.

Arsenal have not won at Stamford Bridge since that time John Terry fell down, which was October 29, 2011, a 5-3 Arsenal win. Chelsea have scored at least twice in eight consecutive games against Arsenal at the Bridge. Arsenal have only scored in three in those eight matches; one of them was the aforementioned 2011 win, another was in January of 2013, in which Theo Walcott scored a second half consolation goal as Chelsea won 2-1. The other was last year's match, where Arsenal scored a meaningless goal at the death.

The Referee

The referee is Northumberland-based Michael Oliver. Arsenal's record with Oliver, overall, is quite poor. In fact, he was in the middle for many of Arsenal's worst moments this calendar year: 3-3 at Bournemouth, 0-3 at Crystal Palace, 0-2 at Tottenham. In the league, all-time, Arsenal have a record of four wins, seven draws, and eight losses with Oliver in the middle. Arsenal did win their most recent match with Oliver, 3-1 over Everton on the final day of the regular season, though they did not escape a red card to Laurent Koscielny in the process. To be fair, that call was correct, so you can't blame Oliver for it.

Michael Oliver was in charge of Arsenal's league win over Chelsea last season, however, though that came at the Emirates. It's on the road where Arsenal tend to struggle with Oliver, even as their road record in big away games has, by and large, improved in recent years.

Chelsea saw Oliver five times last season, winning four and losing only once, at the Emirates as mentioned. They defeated Tottenham 2-1 in November, Bradford City 4-0 in the FA Cup in January, Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup in March, and West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in May.

Around the League
  • Friday (night): Bournemouth v. Brighton & Hove Albion; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday (early): Crystal Palace v. Southampton; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Huddersfield Town v. Leicester City; John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Burnley; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Stoke City; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Watford v. Manchester City; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. West Ham United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Swansea City; Wembley Stadium, London
  • Sunday (late): Manchester United v. Everton; Old Trafford, Manchester
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a retired midfielder. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to debate whether or not that just means he played in high school.

Ten Thoughts: Arsenal 3-1 FC Koln

You know, when we signed up for this Europa League lark, I don't know if anyone told us that we'd be the only club in the history of the competition to have four away games in a six-game group stage. What a bloody revolutionary idea. Or, maybe for the return leg, the population of London can descend on Koln and we can have our home leg there.

Fuck me, what a world we live in.

1. Anyway, yeah, still COMPLETELY alien to play in this thing. Mega-weird. The Sutton United match last season feels like a typical Boxing Day clash against Stoke or something by comparison.

2. It sure felt like a matchday squad that we'd turn out against some 12th-division club from the hinterlands of nowhere, though. David Ospina was in goal, Per Mertesacker was in the center of defense, and there was a rare Mohamed Elneny sighting. Alex Iwobi was on the left, and our bench had an average age of about go along with the prodigal son, Jack Wilshere. All that was missing was Mathieu Debuchy - that'd have really have put the fear of god into their lot. THE POWER OF THE SULK COMPELS YOU.

Alexis Sanchez got what I think was his first start of the season as well, with Olivier Giroud up top. It wasn't the League Cup selection, it wasn't the starting XI with a little rotation...this was "darts at a dartboard" territory. This is the other "big" team in our group too - just you watch, poor old Charlie George will get yanked off the stadium tours and into a No. 10 shirt by the time BATE Borisov rolls around.

Can't imagine why our guys played the first 45 minutes like 11 blokes who had just been introduced to each other just before the opening kick-off. It's like the old territory days in pro wrestling where, because the good guys and the villains couldn't been seen together, they'd often meet for the first time after the opening bell of a match. "Hi, I'm Eddie Gilbert. Grab a headlock." Think back to the first day of your job, and imagine that in front of the population of western Germany banging drums and singing in that crap beery voice we football supporters do. Fuck me, I don't care how much you're paying me, I'd turn around and go home.

3. Speaking of, I have stayed off of Twitter today because my god, all I can envision is like 149,875 terrible war jokes about 20,000 Germans invading London and yeah, that'd end with me driving a railroad spike through my brain.

4. Anyway, what a clown show this was, huh? At the end of the day, is anyone at all surprised that this shambles of a football club wasn't able to handle crowd control for something like this? We can't work out how to do transfers, we turn a decision on the manager into a year-and-change-long soap opera...guess it stands to reason that they had no idea on how to handle the Great Koln Invasion of 2017.

In the end, I don't know whose fault this really was. Is it the club, who apparently have no conception on what supporters are like when they're not over-fed hedge fund managers and their trophy wives, there to slum it with "the lads", that is, if the lads weren't priced out back in 2006? Is it the season ticket holders who *clearly* flogged off their seat because my son, what would Muffy and Biff think if we were seen at...gasp...the Europa League? Because, and I hope I make myself clear with this, that lot can go get fucked sideways as well. They're probably the same ones who get the best viewing spots on the parade route when the boys are showing a big silver pot to the sky. A plague and a pox on all of their houses and clans.

It's astonishing. Try this shit in Eastern Europe and some carved-of-granite ex-Spetznaz guy is caving your skull in with a baton. Meanwhile, these guys are buying Arsenal shirts and getting into the home sections.

What a world we live in. Truly, madly, deeply.

5. As mentioned, the first half was a humanitarian disaster of Alderaan proportions. Rob Holding, poor kid, was the best Koln player on the pitch. Yes, that includes Ospina - I'm getting to him in a second. We're lucky that today's referee was both sensible and a bit on the lenient side, as our kid probably could have been booked twice inside of the first three minutes. You have to credit his useful enthusiasm, though...should have had two bookings in the time it takes me to eat a candy bar.

The Germans were oddly disinterested in attacking with any kind of numbers, but whenever they did you could safely assume that there was Holding, desperately fouling after getting beaten again. Meanwhile, poor old BFG was like next to him like the buddy in a cop movie who a) at one point says "I'm getting too old for this shit" and b) gets ventilated by a few dozen bullets the day he's set to retire.

Now, as for our goalkeeper. Dear sweet holy hell, he had himself a bit of a mare today. The guy is perfectly fine on your average day...lest we forget, he was in goal in the FA Cup Final just four months ago. Then again, Holding was immense in that one as well. Makes you wonder if someone's sticking pins into voodoo dolls of our squad players or something. What an episode of Law & Order that'd be. Never had to deal with this shit down at the south coast, huh Jacky boy?

Anyway, I nicked this from the Guardian's MBM, and this sums up the Colombian's day better than any words I could type.

In fairness to him though, a bunch of other things went wrong on the play other than his one poor clearance. It all started when our mob thought the ball went out over the touchline, to which they all had the brilliant idea to completely stop playing. Line up a bunch of action figures and hit the off switch on all of them concurrently, and you'll get the idea. Ospina had to take the law into his own hands - coming off his line was 100% the correct decision in this case. The issue was that once he got there, he didn't get his feet set correctly and he fluffed his clearance. Happened to me just this past Saturday too, but he's paid a bit more money than me to get those right. Also, when your keeper comes out like that, a defender is supposed to drop back to at least attempt a goal-line clearance should the worst occur. But, you know, we're Arsenal. We don't do football intelligence 'round these here parts.

So, yeah, naturally Jhon Cordoba got the ball and arced it into the net from 40 yards out. Of course he did.

6. The rest of the half was dire, an absolute dog's breakfast of the most revolting football you've seen this side of the bottom half of League Two. Giroud had a few tame headers easily saved, Walcott ran around in the headless chicken style and Sanchez was a sentient version of the "Homer Simpson backing into the bushes" GIF.

And then, a savior came. Familiar with the methods of today's enemy, a Bosnian tank emerged from the shadows to rally the Arsenal and damn near take Timo Horn's hand clean off his arm in the process. Holding was taken out back to see the rabbits, and on came Sead Kolasinac in his place. Wouldn't you know it, Horn would have been fishing the ball out of his net three minutes later had it not rocketed through the net, through the back of the stand and roughly out onto the Hornsey Road somewhere.

I didn't think it looked like much, either. Elneny clipped a lovely ball over the top, but Walcott's first touch do I put this diplomatically..."agricultural". Theo did manage to collect it and send a cross in, but the defender blocked it. The ball spun up in the air and out a bit, directly into the path of the Bosnian Tank. BAM! POW! WHACK! You may not see a volley struck more sweetly all season, right on the button, and with his tank strength it was past Horn before the poor bastard could react. Seriously, with as much useless faffing around that this team does sometimes, to have a guy like this who refuses to use a scalpel when a sledgehammer will do, bloody hell it's refreshing.

7. That wasn't even the best goal we scored all day, and what odds you could have gotten for that on halftime. You'd be reading this from your yacht moored at the docks in Marbella. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who had a bit of a mare himself today (understandable given that I have scars older than him), fired the first warning shot with a lovely mazy run through half their team. He did the hard bit, then forgot the minor detail of "shooting" at the end, allowing Horn to nick it off him in the end.

Alexis, though, had a look at that and figured to himself that it just might work if one actually pulls the proverbial trigger at some point. Five minutes later, he did the same thing. The Koln defense had him surrounded, had to have been 5-on-1 or so, but Alexis just casually slalomed through them like the skiing bit you see at the Olympics. He was still a bit far out and didn't have a ton of time or space, but he got a little bit of back-lift and WHOOOOSH, there it went into the top corner. Normally, I react to a goal with a scream of some sort, "Yes!" or "Yeaaaah" or something, typically while getting out of my seat and raising my fists in the air or something. This one? I couldn't move, I couldn't emote, I couldn't speak. I just had my hands to my mouth, stock-still, like I just saw God.

Maybe I had.

Meanwhile, O'Hanlon's was all like:

8. That was it, really. The Billy Goats were never coming back from that one, not with the team they have. Ospina had to make a few easy saves in the second 45 but they never looked like scoring. The Europa League is, let's face it, a hell of a lot more forgiving than its big-boy cousin.

9. There was one more goal to come, and wouldn't you know it, the Bosnian Tank was in the center of it once again. Now, I'm no neurosurgeon, but I'm beginning to think that maybe we should find a way to get this guy into the team more often than not. Anyway, his cross was perfect, Wilshere dummied it to Walcott, who went in alone. He normally even scores from there, but he did that newborn foal thing he does sometimes and shoveled a weak shot directly to Horn. The German keeper, not to be outdone, spilled it into the path of Hector Bellerin. For a right back, he does seem to pop up with the odd goal here and there, and he dispatched the rebound cool as you like. Game, blouses.

10. All in all, a satisfactory end to a strange day, and one that could have been damaging to whatever hopes there are of us winning this thing. One would hope that our team selections will get more serious once this first group stage bit is over (if Koln can't beat us, you have to think we can see off the other two mobs in this thing). But, despite that and despite Ospina spotting them an early one, you kind of have to think that it's a case of job done here.

You also have to think that there will be UEFA sanctions and the like for the events of the day, but then again they're an organization that could screw up a one-car funeral, so who knows?

All you can really take from this in the end is that we got three points, we're wholly unprepared for the apocalypse, Wilshere looked OK in his cameo and Petr Cech has literally zero to worry about anytime soon. That, and the Bosnian Tank is really, really, really fucking great at football and a hell of a lot of fun to watch.


Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. 1. FC Köln, Europa League Group Matchday 1


Emirates Stadium, London
Thursday, September 14
3:05 p.m. EDT, 20:05 BST
  • Match Officials from Spain
    • Referee: Xavier Estrada Fernández
    • Assistants: Miguel Martínez and Teodoro Sobrino
    • 4th Official: Pau Cebrián Devís
    • Additional Assistants: Jesús Gil Manzano and Ricardo De Burgos
  • All-Time in All Competitions: First competitive meeting
  • Arsenal's European Form: W-W-D-W-L-L
  • Köln's European Form: W-W-W-D-W-L
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Thursdays.

Tonight, Arsenal will play their first Europa League/UEFA Cup match since losing the 2000 final to Galatasaray. It might be a second-rate competition, but that's no reason to fail to take it seriously. Because, let's face it, losing repeatedly in the Champions League was getting a bit stale, while here, the club have a legitimate chance to, you know, win a European trophy. Finishing in the top four might be a huge ask this season, but winning this gets you the same result. Just ask Mourinho.

Arsenal open their group stage with the Lukas Podolski derby as they host Köln at the Emirates. The German side finished fifth in the Bundesliga last year, though it was a distant fifth behind Hoffenheim by 13 points. They did some good business in the summer, signing Jhon Córdoba from Mainz, Jannes Horn from Wolfsburg, and Jorge Meré from Sporting Gijón, but they haven't been able to find goals yet this season and sit dead last in the table. That's in part because of their big sale, of Anthony Modeste to the Chinese league for £31.23 million. Their winter loan of defender Neven Subotić from Dortmund ended as well.

There's no reason to overlook these European nights, even if they're not on the usual nights of the week. Let's have some fun with this.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)
Doubts: Wilshere (match fitness)
Suspended: Koscielny (one match, denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity)

Up 3-0 against Bournemouth, Arsène Wenger decided to make a double substitution to bring on forwards Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sánchez; these were Arsenal's second and third substitutions of the match. Bringing on attackers when you're up three is one thing, but losing a holding midfielder to injury in that situation when you're out of subs is another. Arsenal were forced to finish the match on 10 men for 10 minutes after Francis Coquelin injured his hamstring. The French midfielder is expected to miss about three weeks.

Meanwhile, you may recall Laurent Koscielny was sent off for a foul on Robert Lewandowki in the second leg of Arsenal's crash-out against Bayern Munich last year. Since this is Arsenal's first European match since then, the center back is suspended tonight.

Reports have indicated that many first team regulars were out of training this week, indicating that they will be rested in advance of Arsenal's trip to Chelsea on Sunday. Those regulars include Mesut Özil, Danny Welbeck, Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka, Petr Čech, Aaron Ramsey, as well as the suspended Koscielny.

The biggest question is, with rotation and the injury to Coquelin, will we see Jack Wilshere tonight? Wilshere has not been in the starting XI in a competitive fixture for Arsenal since the final day of the 2015/16 regular season.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Holding, Mertesacker, Mustafi, Kolašinac, Bellerín, Elneny, Wilshere, Iwobi, Walcott, Giroud.

Köln Squad News

Out: None
Doubts: Sørensen (knock,) Risse (match fitness)

Danish defender Frederick Sørensen was removed at halftime from Köln's 3-0 loss to Augsburg at the weekend, but I can't quite tell if it was through injury or total ineffectiveness as Köln's porous defense spotted the hosts a 2-0 lead in the opening 45 minutes.

It's perhaps a bit surprising that Köln have been so weak at the back this year, considering they have Olympic silver medalist (Germany's number... five?!) and Arsenal fan Timo Horn in goal plus Confederations Cup winner and full German international Jonas Hector at left back.

Otherwise, manager Peter Stöger has no fresh injury concerns in his XI and will likely name a largely unchanged side, with perhaps the exception of Jorge Meré coming in for Sørensen.

Predicted XI: Horn, Klünter, Heintz, Meré, Hector, Zoller, Lehmann, Höger, Bittencourt, Córdoba, Osako.

Domestic Form

The good news is Arsenal have maintained their 100% form at home, after Saturday's 3-0 win over Bournemouth. The bad news is, they still have a 0% record away from home. But, that's not relevant until Sunday's trip to Stamford Bridge, so forget about it for now!

Arsenal will have the benefit of playing their second straight match at home against a side that has lost all of their league matches so far this season; Köln have zero points from their first three Bundesliga matches. They are the only German top flight club without a point. They've opened the year with a 1-0 loss at Borussia Mönchengladbach, a 3-1 home loss to Hamburg, and a 3-0 loss at Augsburg. Their schedule doesn't get any easier after tonight; they'll play at Dortmund on Sunday.

As with Bournemouth and their League Cup win over Birmingham City, Köln also do have a domestic cup win to their credit; in the first round of the DFB Pokal, they defeated fifth division Leher Turnerschaft 5-0. My rudimentary German tells me that that's some sort of gymnastics club.

European Form

Last year, Arsenal won their group for the first time since 2011 and were rewarded with a Round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich for some reason. Arsenal went unbeaten through the group, beating both Ludogorets Razgrad and Basel twice while drawing twice against their main competition, Paris St. Germain. PSG's matchday six draw at home against the Bulgarians from Razgrad handed Arsenal the group victory and the unfortunate draw against the German champions. To be fair, PSG drew Barcelona in the Round of 16, built up a 4-0 lead after the first leg, then managed to lose by five at Camp Nou.

Köln are back in European competition for the first time in 20 years. The Billy Goats last appeared in Europe in the 1997 Intertoto Cup, which you might recall if you go way back, was a summer tournament which earned qualification to the UEFA Cup. Köln advanced to the semifinals that year, where they lost on away goals to Montpellier. So, yeah, that "European form" of theirs at the top of the preview is actually 20 years old.

Match Facts

Arsenal and Köln have never met in a competitive fixture. You may recall that the most recent meeting between the clubs came in a friendly in 2012 as part of the transfer of Lukas Podolski. The German scored twice on the day, including once from the penalty spot, as Arsenal ran out 4-0 winners against the German side who had recently been relegated to the 2. Bundesliga. Two years later, the Billy Goats finished top of die zweite Liga to return to Germany's top flight.

You have to go back more than a dozen matches to find the last time Arsenal faced a German side that wasn't Bayern or Dortmund; in the 2012 Champions League group stage, Schalke took four of a possible six points against the Gunners, including a 2-0 win at the Emirates.

Köln have not played an English side since an 8-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur (!) in the 1995 Intertoto Cup. The Billy Goats have never won a match on English soil, in five tries; they've drawn two and lost three.

The Referee

The match officials are from Spain; the referee is Xavier Estrada Fernández. He's never worked a match for either of these clubs, since Arsenal and Köln have both not been at this level of European competition in about 20 years, one way or another.

Estrada has worked Europa League matches for English and German sides in the past, though not many. He took charge of Tottenham's 2-1 win at Asteras Tripolis in 2014's group stage as well as Schalke's 3-0 win at PAOK in last season's Round of 32. I guess it's a little strange that those two matches both took place in Greece. That's very coincidental. And Olympiacos wasn't involved at all!

Estrada's biggest honor to date in his career was working the final of the 2014 Under-19 Euros, in which Germany beat Portugal 1-0. Each of these clubs had a representative in that Germany squad at the time: midfielder Serge Gnabry for Arsenal and goalkeeper Daniel Mesenhöler for Köln. Neither of them played in that final, however, and neither of them remain with their respective club; Gnabry is at Hoffenheim, on loan from Bayern Munich, and Mesenhöler is now the number two keeper at Union Berlin.

Around the Europa League
  • Thursday (early): Slavia Prague v. Maccabi Tel Aviv; Eden Arena, Prague
  • Thursday (early): Villarreal v. Astana; Estadio de la Cerámica, Villarreal
  • Thursday (early): Dynamo Kyiv v. Skënderbeu Korçë; NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kiev
  • Thursday (early): Young Boys v. Partizan Belgrade; Stade de Suisse, Bern
  • Thursday (early): İstanbul Başakşehir v. Ludogorets Razgrad; Başakşehir Fatih Terim Stadium, Istanbul
  • Thursday (early): Hoffenheim v. Braga; Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Sinsheim
  • Thursday (early): Austria Wien v. AC Milan; Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna
  • Thursday (early): Rijeka v. AEK Athens; Stadion Rujevica, Rijeka
  • Thursday (early): Apollon Limassol v. Lyon; GSP Stadium, Nicosia
  • Thursday (early): Atalanta v. Everton; Mapei Stadium, Reggio Emilia
  • Thursday (early): Copenhagen v. Lokomotiv Moscow; Parken Stadium, Copenhagen
  • Thursday (early): Fastav Zlín v. Sheriff Tiraspol; Andrův stadion, Olomouc
  • Thursday (late): Steaua București v. Viktoria Plzeň; Arena Națională, Bucharest
  • Thursday (late): Hapo'el Be'er Sheva v. Lugano; Turner Stadium, Beersheba
  • Thursday (late): Red Star Belgrade v. BATE Borisov; Red Star Stadium, Belgrade
  • Thursday (late): Vitória de Guimarães v. Red Bull Salzburg; Estádio D. Afonso Henriques, Guimarães
  • Thursday (late): Marseille v. Konyaspor; Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
  • Thursday (late): Zorya Luhansk v. Östersund; Arena Lviv, Lviv
  • Thursday (late): Hertha Berlin v. Athletic Bilbao; Olympiastadion, Berlin
  • Thursday (late): Vitesse Arnhem v. Lazio; GelreDome, Arnhem
  • Thursday (late): Zulte Waregem v. Nice; Regenboogstadion, Waregem
  • Thursday (late): Real Sociedad v. Rosenborg; Anoeta, San Sebastián
  • Thursday (late): Vardar v. Zenit Saint Petersburg; Philip II Arena, Skopje
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a man of letters. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for letters such as F, N, Q, Ø, and Ý.

Ten Thoughts: Arsenal 3-0 AFC Bournemouth

It's been a sadly common occurrence over the last few many seasons where we've been badly in need of a functional, workmanlike, drama-free win. It's been a sadly uncommon occurrence over the last few many seasons that we've actually gotten it. Today, thankfully, we did.

1. Wouldn't you know it - today we had a left back at left back, a right back at right back, center-halves at center-half, etc and so on. Funny what you can accomplish when people are playing in their actual positions!

2. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has the Reverse Midas Touch and I love it - because I'm a simple and petty man. 0-9 against in his last two games...stellar.

3. As mentioned, this was a largely easy three points other than the odd moment here or there. Part of that was an uncharacteristic fluency in our game, given that it's the first one back from an international break. Part of it, though, was down to how aggressively awful the Cherries were.

I mean, everyone on the planet knows to play ten center-backs against us and hit us on the break. It's left cliche behind miles ago. Bournemouth looked like they were trying to play football against us some and they failed miserably at it. Sure, they defended in numbers at times - usually when we were playing keep-ball - but it wasn't systematic and they didn't have the required commitment.

One wonders if this is the season where they find themselves in serious relegation trouble. It'd be a shame, in one sense. I'd much rather have a team that tries to play a little around rather than the West Broms of the world.

4. Still, as bad as they were, all it would have taken was a period of time where they held us off before some of the worst of the crowd would start howling. Danny Welbeck was not here to mess around today though, and his goal six minutes into the match was exactly what we needed to settle those post-Liverpool nerves.

It was so so so easy, too. Sead Kolasinac, who had a storming game again today, had the run of the left wing. I don't know who was supposed to be marking him, or who was attending to Welbeck on the back post, for that matter. Kolasinac's cross was true (taking notes, Ox?), and Danny easily nodded it in past the stranded Asmir Begovic.

Come to think of it, it looked like every one of the more annoying goals that we concede during the course of an average season. Man, it's nice to have it be some other mob's problem for once.

5. Speaking of, we've had our comedy moments over the last few seasons, but Nathan Ake's fresh-air swipe when attempting to clear out a pass from Mesut Ozil arguably puts the lot to shame. I'd lose my mind if a U-10 player did that, let alone a guy who just moved clubs for 20 million GBP (inflated prices in the TV deal transfer market or otherwise). The German will get an assist out of it - not that it will shut up the more knowledge-deficient of our constituents - but how an allegedly professional defender does that is beyond me. Can't imagine why Chelsea wanted to get rid.

Either way, we're not having this conversation were it not for a gorgeous finish from Alexandre Lacazette once he was presented with the opportunity. He had a preposterous amount of both time and space, but we've seen some of our lot gifted those chances and either sending it into the Van Allen Belt or shoveling it tamely at a grateful goalkeeper. Not going to name names here, but one guy that springs directly to mind rhymes with "Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain." Take another look at the highlight of the goal, though. Lacazette is a cold-eyed killer in the Serbian gangster style. Hell, if he keeps going like this, maybe he'll get killed by Viggo Mortensen in a movie, too. No rush, no fuss, just takes a second to collect himself and bends his shot in a perfect parabola over and around Begovic's dive. You can stuff your poetry or paintings, that was the real art stuff right there.

6. Speaking of, once again, I admit my mistake in ever doubting that Lacazette could make the step up from Ligue 1. Much like the Dutch league, you have to keep in mind the utterly rotten opposition that they see outside of the top teams (in this vein, you'll note Monaco got tonked 4-0 by Nice today).

Lacazette, though, clearly has skills that translate. Composure and a deft strike of the ball will go far, regardless of geography. That first one especially, that's the key. Go back and look at a bunch of horrid misses from some of our guys and note what the common denominator is in most of them.

7. Having gone through most of their cover version of Arsenal's Greatest Defensive Error Hits, what with the open back-post header and the horrendous individual mistake, the Cherries decided to go with Miss an Easy Chance and Get Done on the Counter as their second-half encore. Hell of a show - frankly, I like the cover version better.

Petr Cech, other than one fantastic save towards the end of the match (thanks to his top-class footwork, not bad for a supposed old guy), had little to do throughout this one. But, had Jermain Defoe managed to find the back of the net instead of the woodwork on one of the few defensive lapses of the day from our boys, maybe this one may have been different. Instead, he missed, we went right up the other end, and that was it. Aaron Ramsey, who along with Granit Xhaka was much improved in the center of the park today, created the chance with one of his best passes in ages. All Danny had to do was run onto it and finish.

I'm still not sure that Welbeck is good enough to play game in, game out for us...but if he keeps this up I'll be the first to admit I was wrong. Your move, Mr. Welbeck.

8. Frankly, this probably should have been the proverbial cricket score by the end. I've long held the belief that Begovic is one of the more overrated goalkeepers of this recent vintage, but fair play to him, he was outstanding today. One save in particular that stands out was his recovery on a horrid backpass played back to him, where he first had to clear it out and then had to dive at full stretch to make the save when his clearance deflected off of one of our guys.

He had a few others, too. The talk in the past linking him to us was never anything serious, thankfully...and there's a reason why he never got off the bench at Chelsea. This is about his level, but he is capable of the odd performance like this one. Thankfully, we beat him enough times for it not to matter.

9. I just read that Eddie Howe called his team "wasteful, negative and slow" in the post-match media scrum. Shit, Eddie, tell us how you really feel.

Where's the lie, though?

10. So, Chelsea away next in the league, albeit with a minor diversion in the west of Germany on Thursday.

I was saying in the pub today how utterly alien it feels to be in the Europa this season, though it's tempered somewhat by how fantastically pedestrian our group is. I kind of feel cheated in a way. If we have to be in the Europa, I wanted us to have that little head-rush that comes with exploring new places and new things.

Shit, why couldn't we have gotten someone cool like Athletic Bilbao and their Basque player-only policy? Why couldn't we have played someone exotic like, I dunno, FK Vardar? Sounds like a Star Wars villain, if you ask me. Nice is in this thing, going up against Mario Balotelli would have been a fucking hoot. Or, what about Konyaspor? I mean, I fancy myself a football Renaissance Man - I watch a LOT of games from a LOT of places - but if you told me that they were in the Turkish Seventh Division, hell, I may have believed you.

What we got was a decent Bundesliga team you can see 10 times a year on Fox Sports, the 1991 European Champions and Ukraine's representative in the Champions League five times, all of a recent vintage. How bloody boring. Just a bunch of teams banally playing a little bit below their station.

That crunch tie against Skenderbeu Korce will have to wait until next season, I guess.

Anyway. Right...the Chavs.

I don't know what to think about them. We turned them over easily enough in the Charity Shield but they did bring in a few new faces right at the end of the window. Stamford Bridge, despite our best ditties about its' structural integrity, has never been a land of milk and roses for us, either. I'd be just fine with a point out of that, thank you very much. I reckon they wouldn't be, though.

Either way, join us at the Barleycorn for that one. Your humble match reporter - along with much of the rest of our Board of Directors - will be there selling Arsenal NYC season memberships (you can check out the benefits of the same here). It'll be rad! 

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Bournemouth

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, September 9
10:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Anthony Taylor
    • Assistants: Gary Beswick and Adam Nunn
    • 4th Official: Darren England
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 3 - 1 Bournemouth
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 4 Arsenal wins, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W // W-L-L
  • Bournemouth's League Form: D-W-D // L-L-L

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Cazorla (Achilles)
Doubts: Alexis (ankle,) Chambers (groin,) Iwobi (thigh,) Wilshere (leg)

Oh, I guess it's not that bad.

Santi Cazorla has been left out of Arsenal's Europa League squad and won't be available until Christmas with his, what is it, Achilles? Foot? Ankle? I don't even remember anymore. I miss Santi.

In his press conference yesterday, Arsène Wenger said "we have no injuries," which omits Cazorla, but I see what he means. Jack Wilshere is short of match fitness, Alexis Sánchez had an ankle problem while on international duty with a Chile squad that lost two critical World Cup qualifiers without him, and there are still doubts over the available of fringe first-teamers Calum Chambers and Alex Iwobi.

As for the predicted XI, well, we saw at Anfield that Wenger could put anybody anywhere for no reason. It's not like we have a square peg (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) to jam into a round hole (wing back) anymore.

Predicted XI: Čech, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Welbeck, Lacazette.

Bournemouth Squad News

Out: Wilson (knee,) Stanislas (groin)
Doubts: Aké (ankle,) Francis (hamstring)

Callum Wilson suffered two separate cruciate ligament injuries inside of 16 months, first in September of 2015 and again back in February of this year, ruling out the Coventry-born striker. Wilson had two of the four goals Bournemouth scored against Arsenal last season, both from the penalty spot. Midfielder Junior Stanislas is out with a groin strain.

Eddie Howe will be sweating on the fitness of Nathan Aké; the center back, who sealed a permanent transfer from Chelsea this summer, has an ankle injury. Aké spent the first half of last season on loan with the Cherries before being recalled by Chelsea in the second half. Meanwhile, Simon Francis, the captain, is a doubt with a hamstring problem.

Speaking of players who transferred from Chelsea this summer, the Cherries now have Asmir Begović and switched to playing three at the back just before this last international break. If Aké doesn't pass fit, however, Eddie Howe may revert back to their 4-4-1-1 formation.

Predicted XI: Begović, Cook, Aké, Mings, Smith, Daniels, Gosling, Surman, Arter, King, Defoe.

Current Form

And that goes for both teams! Arsenal are 16th in the table, but Bournemouth are 18th and have lost all three of their fixtures. Only Crystal Palace and West Ham are worse on goal difference.

Match Facts

Bournemouth have never beaten Arsenal across five matches all-time, though they did hold a 3-0 lead in last year's meeting at Vitality Stadium.

But let's start with this corresponding fixture last year, which Arsenal won 3-1. Alexis Sánchez opened the scoring on 12 minutes by pouncing on a poorly hit pass from Steve Cook that failed to reach goalkeeper Adam Federici. The Cherries, however, were level from the penalty spot on 23 minutes when Mike Jones ruled that Nacho Monreal fouled Callum Wilson. Arsenal were rattled, but did not concede another, and Theo Walcott scored the go-ahead goal from the back post on 53 minutes. Alexis added his second and Arsenal's third in the 91st minute.

The match at the Vitality, however, was insane. The Cherries struck twice in four minutes, with Charlie Daniels scoring the 16th minute and Wilson again converting from the penalty spot in the 20th, this time from a clumsy Granit Xhaka challenge. Ryan Fraser made it 3-0 to the hosts just before the hour mark.

20 minutes from time, Alexis Sánchez pulled a goal back for Arsenal after a flick-on from Olivier Giroud. Five minutes later, Lucas Pérez curled a volley inside the post (also from a Giroud assist) to make it 3-2 and in the 82nd minute, Bournemouth captain Simon Fraser was sent off. Two minutes into the six minutes of added time, Olivier Giroud headed in an equalizer.

While Arsenal battled resiliently to take a point from a 3-0 deficit, that match was the first sign that 2017 was going to be a dreadful year in Arsenal's world.

The Referee

The referee is Cheshire-based Anthony Taylor. You're likely well aware that Arsenal have had what I call "a colorful history" with Taylor, though their overall record stands at 13 wins, five draws, and only two losses.

Last year, Arsène Wenger called Taylor "dishonest to [his] federation" and then shoved him, but Taylor was the fourth official that day. In the three Arsenal matches that followed in which Taylor worked as the referee, Arsenal won all three: 5-0 over Lincoln City, 2-1 over Middlesbrough, and 2-1 over Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.

Bournemouth did not see Taylor last year, but were unbeaten in their two matches with Taylor the season before that, including a 2-1 win over Manchester United and a 0-0 draw at Watford.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Manchester City v. Liverpool; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Brighton & Hove Albion v. West Bromwich Albion; American Express Community Stadium, Falmer
  • Saturday: Everton v. Tottenham Hotspur; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Leicester City v. Chelsea; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Watford; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday (late): Stoke City v. Manchester United; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Sunday (early): Burnley v. Crystal Palace; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Sunday (late): Swansea City v. Newcastle United; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Monday (night): West Ham United v. Huddersfield Town; Olympic Stadium, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a small constellation in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for signs of alien life.