Arsenal did manage to pick up the victory on Thursday against Cologne, but the story was what happened off the pitch. BBC Sport report that both clubs have been charged by UEFA for the crowd trouble before and during the game. The Germans face charges for crowd disturbances and setting off fireworks, while the Gunners face a charge over blocked stairways. The match was delayed by an hour as thousands of Cologne fans turned up at the Emirates Stadium without a ticket.
The scenes weren’t pleasant ones, but they have been overplayed in the media. That said, the security measures will have to be looked closely at as the club couldn’t deal with the number of fans that showed up at the game. Due to their huge amount of experience in European competitions, Arsenal should have been better prepared for what transpired. Although this was a distraction, the Gunners will be delighted that they won the game.
This weekend sees Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge as they take on long-time rivals Chelsea. They haven’t fared well against the rest of the top six in recent seasons, but they have managed to come out on top against the Blues three times since the appointment of Antonio Conte. Ahead of the match, they do have new injury concerns and that could impact their team selection. Football London report that Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey are both doubts for Sunday.
There is a belief that both will pull through in time to feature on Sunday after sitting out of the Europa League match. However, it is a concern for the Gunners as they are two key first-team players. Ozil has been much improved this season and is creating a lot of chances for his team-mates. The goals and assists haven’t been flowing, but his performances have been good and that is a good sign. Ramsey provides drive from the midfield and their lack of other options means that he would be a huge loss.
Chelsea have recovered from a disappointing loss to Burnley during the opening weekend and will be confident of beating Arsenal this weekend. However, Antonio Conte sees Arsenal as a direct rival and said the following to Sky Sports:
“Arsenal are a big rival for the title. If you see their squad you can understand that – they have a lot of top players.
“I don’t understand why they can’t fight for the title. They have lost only one player, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain, and they have kept all of their players. They have many top players.”
These are respectful quotes from the Chelsea manager and he is right to praise the talent in the Arsenal squad, but it is difficult to see them as title contenders. There are a lot of problems that are now ingrained in the club’s DNA and until big changes are made, not a lot will change.