The UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off today, showcasing the best and brightest talent in Europe. For the first time in over two decades, the world’s most prestigious competition will not feature Arsenal FC. After finishing fifth last campaign the Gunners will ply their trade in the Europa League this season. The first match of the group stage takes place on Thursday at the Emirates. Here is the FC Cologne scouting report.
FC Cologne Scouting Report
Cologne finished fifth in the Bundesliga last year, below upstarts like RB Leipzig but above the traditionally successful Schalke. The team amassed 49 points in their 34 games, scoring 51 goals and conceding 42.
Like with most other clubs, Cologne was far better at home than away. The team won 9 games at the RheinEnergieStadion, drawing a further 6 and losing only twice, once to Bayern and once to Borussia Monchengladbach.
On the road Cologne only managed to win three games, drawing seven and losing seven. They were also outscored away from home, conceding 25 goals while only netting 22.
Early Season Struggles
After a fruitful campaign last time out, Cologne fans have been disappointed with their club’s 2017-18 season. The team has lost all three games in the Bundesliga they have played, and have only scored one goal in the competition.
Their DFB Pokal hopes remain high, however, after winning their first match by a 5-0 scoreline versus Lehrer TS. Aside from the Cup win, Cologne have suffered their worst start in 14 years (the season Lukas Podolski make his debut).
This is despite the fact they have been playing fairly well, on paper at least. Cologne enjoyed 67% possession against Augsburg, a game which they lost 3-0, and 71% possession in their home defeat to Hamburg.
The team is feeling the effects of these early struggles, and team captain Matthias Lehmann even told reporters how dire the situation is.
“The situation can not only turn into a dangerous one, it already is. We should not underestimate it. The games are happening quickly now and we don’t get a lot of time on the training pitch.”
An Easy Match?
Cologne coach Peter Stoger has already told the media his team are the underdogs. Following last weekend’s loss at Augsburg he was quoted, “it’s no question who the favorite is.”
Arsenal have had their own troubles so far this year, losing to Stoke City before being dismantled at Anfield. Their victory over Bournemouth on Saturday was comfortable, especially given the performances of Danny Welbeck, Alex Lacazette and Mesut Ozil.
However, victory can never be assured, in this case due to the expected squad rotation. Players like Reiss Nelson (Premier League 2’s player of the month for August), Jack Wilshere (recently returned to training) and Theo Walcott (no games yet this season) are likely to figure.
Since few of these players have gotten first team minutes recently, or in some cases haven’t played with the first team very much, the game could prove very difficult for the Gunners.
However, Gooners worldwide have a right to feel confident as they will host one of the few clubs who are struggling at the moment as well.
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