StateSide Summary Nov 24: FC Cologne, Burnley

Cologne
COLOGNE, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 23: Yann Aurel Bisseck of Cologne, Frederik Soerensen of Cologne, Matthias Lehmann of Cologne, Nikolas Nartey of Cologne celebrate after winning during the UEFA Europa League Group H soccer match between 1.FC Cologne and Arsenal FC at the Rhein-Energie stadium in Cologne, Germany on November 23, 2017. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images)

A happy belated Thanksgiving to you all, and I sure hope that loss didn’t ruin the festivities for you. For those of you waking up late, after beating Hots*** in the NLD 2-0, the team traveled to Cologne to do battle with the team at the bottom of the Bundesliga. Arsenal then proceeded to lose 1-0.

The Gunners dominated the game for long periods, but were unable to breach the home defense. Then, just as we all feared, Cologne nabbed one via a penalty.

FC Cologne 1-0 Arsenal

Personally, I think the penalty was soft, as has been the case a few other times this year. No doubt Debuchy made contact, but there is also no doubt that the striker went down as soon as he felt the touch.

I don’t really like the fact that sort of behavior is the norm, but at the end of the day, it was the referee’s decision to make, and he made it.

What was probably even more frustrating than the decision, was the fact that on paper Arsenal were the better team. In Cologne, they enjoyed 66% possession, 16 shots (7 on target), 91% pass accuracy and 8 corners.

There really isn’t an excuse for not getting something from that match, even with the ‘B’ squad who hardly ever play together. Chambers, Welbeck and Giroud all made comebacks from injuries of various severity, making it tough for them to get back into the swing of things.

Chambers really didn’t do much attacking from RWB in Cologne, meaning that all of the dangerous attacks came from the left flank. Welbeck made a few good runs, but the boss had decided before the game to take him off at the half, making his role relatively small on the day.

The Attack

Meanwhile, the man who only missed the one game, Olivier Giroud was, for a few reasons, almost completely cut-off from play. For me, the few exchanges between him and Jack Wilshere just about surmised Arsenal’s day in Cologne.

The two came very close to putting a great 1-2 ball together, nearly cutting the Cologne defense to ribbons on three occasions. On one attempt, Giroud didn’t expect the run from Wilshere, so played it back to let the team continue probing.

With the next, the Frenchman did play the right ball, but Wilshere just couldn’t keep it under control. On the final try, the home defense intervened and cleared their lines.

For me, the entire game was one part Arsenal not ‘clicking’, one part not being familiar enough with each other and one part Cologne defending well.

They Still Clinch

It was also exceedingly frustrating that, at the end of the day, the team clinched their group after losing a game. I’m not saying that I’m not happy that we are through in top spot, but it just doesn’t feel as though the team earned it.

It is also worth mentioning that the team’s best chances not only came in the first half, but were courtesy of two defensive players in Francis Coquelin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

AMN had the first scoring opportunity of the game following a great run off the left (again, where the team was actually dangerous), while Coquelin kept doing his best Aaron Ramsey impression and making runs into the box, yielding at least two shots.

One small comfort, aside from topping the group, is that our brightest U-23s, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah, got a look late in the game. Nelson had that one great run into the box, although his outside-of-the-foot shot wasn’t terribly dangerous. Nketiah only had a few minutes at the end and didn’t get the service he needed to spark his magic.

Not a great game, especially following what feels like the biggest win since Wembley in May. Let’s just hope that the team playing on Sunday won’t be affected by the same problems that the ‘B’ squad suffered yesterday.

Burnley v Arsenal Preview

Fortunately, the regular starting XI will make a comeback on Sunday at Turf Moor. Unfortunately, Sean Dyche’s men are tough to beat at home.

I’m sure we all remember the fixture last season, expecting an easy Autumn win over newly-promoted opposition, but getting a lack-luster 90 minutes followed by a last-gasp strike from Laurent Koscielny.

To be honest, that performance versus Burnley last year was about as sub-par as the one in Cologne on Thursday. That fact makes me sort of nervous to be frank.

Luckily, unlike last season, Turf Moor’s status as an official fortress has been revoked. In 2016-17, Burnley won 10 of 19 at home, earning 33 points compared to just 7 on the road. They managed to beat Liverpool and Everton, just to name two, while also taking a point off of Chelsea.

This year, however, their record at home is already much less impressive. Through 6 at Turf Moor, Burnley have won 3, drawn 2 and lost 1, scoring just five goals along the way.

So, despite a slight case of post-traumatic stress, I think we can be relatively optimistic about our chances. Burnley are never going to beat Arsenal in an open, attacking game, so we can rest assured they will do exactly what Cologne did, and play on the break while keeping bodies behind the ball.

With the likes of Lacazette and Ozil up front, the Gunners really shouldn’t have a problem netting at least once or twice. I’m predicting a win.

Bold Prediction: Burnley 0-2 Arsenal

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