Arsenal put aside match delays, crowd trouble and a goalkeeping howler to start their Europa League campaign with a win.

A strong but much-changed lineup struggled initially to get to grips with FC Koln, and the first half was an exercise in frustration as the Bundesliga side not only made life difficult but also took the lead in spectacular fashion.

David Ospina, once again the ‘Cup Keeper,’ fluffed his lines as he rushed out of his box to deal with a ball over the top, but could only find the opposition. To make matters worse for Ospina, the man to return the ball over the stricken Colombian was a fellow countryman. 40 yards the ball sailed, and the hordes of Germans who had set up stall in the Clock End of all places, were in raptures.

The FC Koln support was plentiful, so much so that thousands had turned up without tickets. Many purchased home tickets and the result was sheer pandemonium. It meant that kickoff was delayed by over an hour and this also meant the fans would also be delayed getting home. This last factor may be underplayed, but a midweek game is painful enough to get to for the majority, never mind getting home extra late and prepping for tomorrow’s workday.

Back to the game, and the first half after the bout of craziness from Ospina was thirty five minutes of our team trying to pass around the Cologne players. When we did click, we saw Olivier Giroud’s header saved by Timo Horn, and Theo Walcott finding a great position but screwing his shot wide.

The half time whistle blew and the inevitable boos followed. The Koln fans though, they were having a ball. Flares were being lit, and the songs were in full flow.

It took five minutes to momentarily silence them, although the stewards found out to their cost that the Koln fans were not in any mood to give an inch.

Sead Kolasinac has hit the ground running since joining, and Arsenal’s August Player of the Month scored the Gunners equaliser.

Mohamed Elneny chipped a great ball through to Walcott, who had again breached Koln’s backline and found space. His touch took him wide and he attempted to cross, but it was partially blocked. The loose ball fell out of the sky, and the half-man, half-tank that is Kolasinac lashed in a volley that Timo Horn had no chance to save.

From there, it was pretty much all Arsenal. We were finding our groove, and it was no surprise that on 67 minutes, we took the lead.

This was solely down to the genius of Alexis Sanchez, that very factor that Manchester City tried so hard to acquire.

The Chilean may not be at 100%, but it doesn’t dampen his talents. He picked up the ball from out wide, cut in, beat two players and unleashed a curling shot from 25 yards that made a home in the top corner. It was really great to see Sanchez doing what he does best, and we will need every drop of his star quality against Chelsea on Sunday.

Then we added gloss to the scoreline with a third.

Kolasinac and Sanchez linked up well on the left, with the Bosnian crossing in. Jack Wilshere, subbed on for Alex Iwobi, dummied it and it fell to Walcott. Theo smashed a shot and Horn saved well, but Hector Bellerin was following up and he powered in the rebound.

There were plenty of positives to take from the game. Cologne were far more spirited opposition than many gave them credit for, and our fightback against their well set up team showed we have plenty in the tank. The appearance of Jack Wilshere was welcome and could well end up pivotal as the season progresses, and Alexis, Elneny, Kolasinac all stood out.

We now turn our attention to Chelsea and the Premier League. This victory over Koln shows we have the opportunity to properly rotate our side and preserve as much fitness as we can, without impacting our team too much.

This Europa League lark may well help us after all.