Shortly past 11pm, the final whistle blew and Arsenal sealed a 3-1 win against Cologne in their first European game of the season… but it’s not quite as simple as that.

Europa League football made its way to the Emirates on Thursday night, and was met with incredible scenes that nearly marred the match, with Wenger commenting after the game that “he didn’t expect the game to go ahead at all”.

Prior to the game kicking off, there were questions being asked as to whether the match could be contested, as thousands of fans who had travelled from Cologne made their way into the Emirates.

Cologne is a football crazy city, with a club that was averaging 40,000 through the gates while they were in the second division, and this was an incredibly big game for them. To play against a club with the prestige of Arsenal, in Europe, only five years after getting relegated was a fairy-tale… and they showed it.

There were a reported 20,000 away supporters at the ground and only a 2,700 away ticket allocation – with this being the case, the home end was filled with Cologne supporters; some of which had brought or bought Arsenal jerseys just for the occasion – with many making their way across the stands to join their native support, which resulted in the match being postponed for one hour.

It is believed that the match went ahead as it was the safest thing to do, and with all the other Europa League games either finished or starting the second half, the game began.
The Arsenal side was, as expected, lacking a number of first team players such as Petr Cech and Alexandre Lacazette, but there was still plenty of experience in the team, with Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez starting alongside each other up-front.
Early on, what had already been a perhaps unexpectedly tricky night for Arsenal took a turn for the worst when the side rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga table took the lead after Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina was found wanting.

A meek half clearance from the Columbian was picked up by Cologne and found its way to Jhon Cordoba who had a moment of improvised genius befitting of the occasion for his club when he hooked a shot from 45 yards out that sailed over the stranded Ospina and into the Gunners net to make it 1-0 to the Germans.

This resulted in a euphoric uproar from the gathered Cologne fans, which was the point where it became most clear just how many fans were in the stadium, with red flares sparking behind the goals and fans hopping throughout the ground.

The unease was palpable and Arsenal went in behind at half time amongst a chorus of boos and changes needed to be made if a result was going to be salvaged.
Thankfully, they were, both in terms of personnel and formation. The formation was changed to four at the back, and Sead Kolasinac was introduced, who was both influential and instrumental, with the adventurous Bosnian full-back helping Arsenal begin their recovery with an equaliser.

Following a streak of play that seemed like it was going nowhere, a Theo Walcott over-touch ricocheted off a defender’s foot and landed to Kolasinac, who walloped the ball ferociously into the Cologne net, catching goalkeeper Timo horn by surprise.

On 67 minutes, Alexis Sanchez - who has found his name in the headlines for the wrong reasons in relation to Arsenal a lot more frequently over the last few months - proved to be the factor that made the difference on the night.

Hunting down a long ball, the Chilean jinked past a number of defenders before bending a shot expertly past Horn. It was a moment of inspiration akin to that Arsenal fans have grown accustomed too from the forward, and hopefully there will be more to come in the coming weeks as he rebuilds his damaged reputation at the club following his attempted transfer to Manchester City.

The game was settled in the 82nd minute, when Hector Bellerin found himself in the right place to prod in a rebound from a saved Walcott effort.

The game ended at 3-1, with Wenger leaving satisfied after a strange night finished without major disruption in both senses – while there was crowd trouble and delays, things worked out okay and even though they went behind, Arsenal came back and won well in the second half.

Great to see was the return of Jack Wilshire following 13 months not playing for the Gunners between a loan move to Bournemouth and injuries. He returned midway through the second half and showed notable presence – hopefully he is able to maintain fitness, as he could definitely play a part in the rest of the season if he can maintain the kind of performance he had against Cologne.

Relatively poor on the night were his fellow midfielders Mohamed Elneny and Alex Iwobi, who struggled to get a hold on the game, and keeper Ospina who was at fault for the first goal.

Youngsters Rob Holding and Ainsley Maitland-Niles had contrasting evenings, with Holding subbed off at half time and Maitland-Niles playing the full 90 minutes and performing well.

Olivier Giroud was disappointed not to score his 100th club goal on the night, but looked threatening at times, as was Walcott, who peppered efforts at Horn but was unlucky not to have his name on the scoresheet.

As preparation for Sunday’s big Premier League clash with Chelsea, this game and the incidents surrounding it were probably not ideal, but at least it all concluded in a respectable victory for Arsene Wenger’s side, who managed to get off to a winning start to their Europa League campaign, navigating their way through a surprisingly difficult fixture.

If every Thursday night is going to be as entertaining as that one, then perhaps the Europa League mightn’t be as bad for Arsenal as expected.