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 four...to 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 was...how 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.