Arsenal are set to begin their Europa League campaign on Thursday against Bundesliga team Cologne. It will be a new challenge for Arsene Wenger as he will have to balance the Thursday to Sunday workload and rotation will be key in succeeding with that. Several teams have faltered in the Premier League after matches in the Europa League and the Gunners can’t afford to make similar mistakes.
This season is a bad one to miss out on the Champions League as the dynamics in the transfer market are changing. Those teams in Europe’s premier competition are at an advantage, which makes it crucial that Arsenal return at the first attempt. The Premier League is more competitive than it has ever been and the Gunners are facing a difficult battle to finish in the top four due to their inclusion in the Europa League. They could choose to concentrate on winning this competition rather than focusing on the league, following Manchester United’s lead from last season.
The German side have started poorly in the Bundesliga and have lost all three of their league matches. They are coming into the Europa League fixture after a 3-0 away defeat to Augsburg. They will be low on confidence, but they possess some talent in their ranks. Timo Horn, Jonas Hector and Leonardo Bittencourt are three players to keep an eye on.
Arsenal put an end to a stuttering start with a convincing home victory over Bournemouth. That should improve the mood around the camp heading into the start of the European campaign. However, their two losses so far this season show that they are far from formidable.
As mentioned above, Cologne have lost all three of their Bundesliga matches this season and have only scored one goal in the process. This Europa League match could be viewed as the perfect distraction from their league form, but the players will be low on confidence.
There will be a lot of rotation with Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud coming into the team. Alexis Sanchez could be given a start to continue rebuilding his match fitness, while exciting youngster Reiss Nelson could be on the bench.
Cologne could opt to make some changes, but an unchanged line-up is likely to be fielded against Arsenal. Jorge Mere is a player that they may choose to bring in if they do make alterations.
Arsene Wenger will ring the changes on Saturday night, with David Ospina, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott all in line for their first starts of the season. The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil are all going to be rested.
Marcel Risse and Milos Jojic are both back in training and reaching full fitness. Cologne should have their entire squad available for the trip to North London.
Score prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Cologne
A lot depends on the intensity that Arsenal approach this fixture at. If they are fully committed to reaching the next stage and going far in the competition, they will want to start with a strong display in their opening fixture. Arsene Wenger will give squad players an opportunity to prove themselves and that will add another edge to the fixture. They should have enough to overcome an out-of-form Cologne team and score a few goals in the process.