We knew that few if any of the team which beat Spurs would be playing and that is what we got.
I used to banter my Spurs supporter friend that Spurs were playing in “The Losers Cup” when they regularly played in it, whilst we were in the “Proper Cup” for top teams. We couldn`t play in it because we couldn`t lose enough matches. How that grated with him, but unfortunately it is one of the perils with banter that if you land repeated blows, sooner or later you will receive one and we are doing that now.
Arsene Wenger must secretly be mortified because he has made it patently obvious that he does not rate the Europa League very highly. Now he finds himself managing a team which is down among the dead men. Against that background I watched our second string last night with little excitement. It did not help that we were playing the team which was bottom of the Bundesliga. In fairness to them although they had not won anything for over twenty years or more and had found the European Championship beyond their reach, they must nevertheless be champions of the Supporters. It was incredible how they roared on their team and how they combined tribal singing with dancing and flag and banner-waving. TV owes them a debt for bringing life and colour to what was otherwise a drab, dreary game.
Arsenal came out in a drab, dead blue coloured kit and delivered the performance to match it. Prior to the humbling of Spurs the remark that Arsenal are badly coached had commonly entered football reviews, then out of the blue, their habitual faintness of heart and character came out against Spurs and the tactics changed. The sideways and backwards passing, the gaps in defence and the pedestrian speed we played at were all cast aside and we outclassed the new boys on the block and sent them homewards “Tae think again” as they say in “The Flower of Scotland” the Scots love to sing.
To those of you who have become accustomed to the tasteless, colourless porridge we had been fed as football for the last 10 years, it must have been bliss to see it return as it did last night. The mix of no hopers and aspiring new boys found it too much of a battle to gel together.
Debuchy was hopelessly slow and careless in defence. BFG was uninspiring and Chambers could not seem to find anyone else on the same wavelength as him. Niles was eye catching, he worked hard, showed elements of skill and managed to bamboozle the Cologne defenders quite often, but he rarely made a damaging cross or pass.
Inside him, Wilshire was sucked into the mire of meaningless, endless passes backwards and sideways. He tried to make things happen himself and inevitably ran into one too many defenders and his dribbles crashed against the wall of defenders. Welbeck ran all over the place industriously but there was no connection with anyone which mattered. Coquelin, realising that Cologne were pretty useless, decided that he was a footballer and began dribbling, doing pull-backs and flicks to show how much better he was than they were.
The game meandered on and the substitutions in the second half failed to improve matters. Nelson did have a few cameos of skill and speed, but generally the tedium was only disturbed when Cologne scored with a penalty. After that, the only excitement was waiting to see if we were going to finish top of the group after the result in Belgrade. The result came in and OH JOY !, we can look forward to further Thursday nights of purgatory.
The youngsters in the side were underwhelmed by the event. Those who have sampled these nights know that they will not be in the first team on Saturday and the Elnenys, Coquelins, Girouds, Bebuchys etc. from the old guard are now fringe players. Wilshire is probably thinking he is banging his head against a stonewall, so all in all The Europa League is a dismal competition because nobody seems to want to win it. Unfortunately that attitude seems to have filtered down from the manager. It is up to you Mr. Wenger.
A sophisticated, articulate Arsenal Man of Mystery. Aged 70 and a bit.