Friday, 15 September 2017

The Great Switcheroo Sees Arsenal Reign On A Night Of Chaos

To say it was an eventful night at the Emirates last night is an understatement, but at least Arsenal managed to come through it with the three points. I saw the video clips during the day of Koln fans marching and singing through the streets of London and it was fairly obvious there was a lot more than the 2,900 away fans allocation. It seems there were up to 20,000 of their fans in London and at least half of them descended on the ground before kick off.

It led to a very scary situation for Arsenal fans with riot police eventually being called in to ensure safety inside the ground. From the reports I have read the Koln fans did their homework and many of them joined as Red Members which gave them access to tickets not taken up by Arsenal fans on the night. I have no doubt others tried to force their way in and it led to Koln fans taking over many of the sections reserved for home fans.

I know from the experience of a friend when Arsenal play in another country that a U.K. resident cannot purchase a ticket for a home section of that team's stadium. I wonder if it was the same for Koln fans and if Red Members purchasing tickets from Germany were blocked from doing so or if being a Red Member entitles you to a ticket regardless. There are ways around those rules of course, but it would be interesting to know whether the club actually allowed German residents to buy tickets for the game.

Thankfully the trouble was kept to a minimum and there was a lot of light hearted banter I'm led to believe. I have no doubt a lot of Arsenal fans chose not to enter the ground when they heard of the events unraveling and it must have been scary for those with children in particular. The decision to go ahead with the game was probably the right one when you consider what might have happened with so many Koln fans there if the game had been called off. It meant the kick off was delayed by an hour though which meant plenty of Arsenal fans had to turn around and go home as they could not have got home by the normal methods with the later finishing time.

In the game itself Arsenal started poorly and a bad clearance from David Ospina led to Koln going ahead early on. The three central defenders again didn't look good and the team just aren't playing well when they are deployed no matter what players are chosen. It's a system which worked really well at the end of last season as we searched for something to change our fortunes, but maybe it has run it's course.

Arsene Wenger changed formation to a 4-2-3-1 at half time with the unfortunate Rob Holding making way for Sead Kolasinac and it paid an instant dividend with The Tank scoring a cracking volley. The lead goal was an absolute beaut too with Alexis Sanchez eventually waking up and deciding to take part as he buried a shot into the top corner. The icing on the cake came when Hector Bellerin put the rebound away after a Theo Walcott shot was saved and we deserved the three points in the end.

It was good to see Jack Wilshere make his return and Reiss Nelson make his debut and they could both have a part to play this season. We are very short in the centre of midfield and the passing seemed an awful lot slicker when Wilshere came on. He has a lot to do to convince the manager to use him, but last night can't have done his case any harm.

It leaves us top of our Europa League group with a trip to BATE Borisov in a couple of weeks, but we have a much more pressing matter this Sunday. The manager has a lot of decisions to make before we travel to play Chelsea on Sunday and the first one has to be what formation he uses. It's clear that the one he's persisting with just isn't working and we're only at our best when we ditch it.

Besides the formation he has to decide if Alexis will regain a starting place and if he does it's a matter of who misses out. Opting for the second half formation against Koln would allow him to play with one less defender in the team, but it would mean more defensive duties for Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka. They have been found wanting in those duties at times already this season and if we play that formation they will have to be a lot more disciplined.

Finally for today it seems the only UEFA charge we will have to answer to after last night is for blocked stairways and the ticketing situation seems to have been ignored. Koln have charges of their own to face, but thankfully their fans didn't come looking for a fight or who knows what might have happened.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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