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Cologne 1-0 Arsenal : Top spot, but not top gear

We travelled to Germany and lost yet again, but we did grab top spot in the group even with a loss in Cologne. We didn’t manage to play the vibrant football that saw off spurs, we didn’t even manage to win, but we still achieved our goal. This is the epitome of mixed feelings.Sixteen shots to the home side’s four tells you what you need to know in one stat, but we never quite clicked. Eleven changes will do just that. Arsenal included some surprise names, as qualification was already guaranteed. Many of us expected a more youthful lineup. With many of our players doubtful with minor injuries, players like Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson must have been hopeful of a start.So, the inclusion of a fit Calum Chambers, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck gave the eleven a more established polish. Our bench was filled with promise though, and as the game wore on, a few rolls of the dice became more likely.We fashioned a fair amount of chances, but Timo Horn in the Cologne goal was in great form. If it wasn’t the home goalie denying us, it was wayward finishing. Inside the first minutes, Jack Wilshere and Welbeck combined well to slot in a rampaging Ainslie Maitland-Niles, who was once again in the left wing-back spot. He connected well, but his shot found the side netting.Cologne waited about a minute to remind us of their dangers, as Cordoba fired in a great effort that a returning David Ospina saved well from.A midfield battle was transforming, and Mohamed Elneny and Coquelin were tussling well. It was the Frenchman that came closest next up as well, a long range fizzer.going just wide. Le Coq has never opened his account for us, and that was perhaps the closest he has come in an Arsenal jersey.Chances came and went, Calum Chambers scuffing a volleyed opportunity, and various final ball chances going awry, until Coquelin went even closer - striking a post with Horn beaten.Welbeck was next up with a missed shot, then it was Elneny. It was clear we were not frightened of taking pot-shots at goal, so it was a shame that our shooting boots were left in London.Half time came and went with the score goalless. Alex Iwobi was introduced for Welbeck, perhaps the England man being treated lightly with this being his return from his latest injury. Iwobi has been in good form this season, so we still had hope of breaking the deadlock, but it would be the home team who would strike first.Mathieu Debuchy was uncharacteristically struggling, and Guirassy could smell blood. He received the ball under pressure from the French defender and he went under with the challenge. The referee didn’t hesitate to point to the spot and it was the felled Cologne man who put the spot kick straight down the middle. The goal prompted another change from the bench, with the exciting Reiss Nelson given a chance to make a difference, coming on for Calum Chambers. Nelson had started the previous Europa League group fixtures, so he would be champing at the bit to get on the pitch. Cologne had other ideas though, and they were watertight at the back. Repeated bouts of possession crashed on the rocks of the home team's defence. They packed the midfield and tracked our runs effectively. Time was ticking away for us to sew up top spot in the group, and we couldn’t find a way through the Cologne backline. With six minutes left, Super Eddie Nketiah was given his game time, or a cameo at least. Debuchy made way as Wenger went for broke. That elusive clear chance we were looking for materialised. It came via Jack Wilshere, and his rocket of a shot was sweet, but Timo Horn came to Koln’s rescue with a quite incredible save, tipping the exocet over.That was that. We lost the game, and a healthy contingent of travelling Gooners were not treated to the show they deserved. We were underwhelming, especially when our last game was the effective crushing of spurs. There was a consolation however. With Red Star drawing with BATE Borisov, we had still clinched top spot in the group, with a game to spare. So, job done, even though it really wasn’t. Onwards and upwards.