Arsenal came from behind to beat Cologne 3-1 and get off to a winning start in the Europa League in a game that got off to the most chaotic start possible.
Kickoff was delayed by an hour due to crowd trouble, with Cologne fans mixed in with the home crowd in various different parts of the Emirates Stadium and extra police called in to deal with the trouble.
Things got even worse for Arsenal as Jhon Cordoba scored a screamer to give the visitors a shock lead, but the Gunners hit back with two wondergoals of their own as Sead Kolasinac and Alexis Sanchez struck before Hector Bellerin pounced to seal all three points.
Instantly changed the game when brought on at half time, Sead Kolasinac set the tone for Arsenal’s comeback.
The Bosnian has been a superb signing on a free from Schalke, and provides so much more than just strength and defensive nous in the full-back or wing-back position.
Latching on to a loose ball in the area, Kolasinac finished like any great striker to make it 1-1 with his first shot of the game, just four minutes after being introduced by manager Arsene Wenger.
Five games for Arsenal and already two goals – not bad for a free agent defender.
FAILED TO IMPRESS – ROB HOLDING
Holding has been taken off for Kolasinac at HT.
Here's his first half stats:
0 tackles won
0 interceptions pic.twitter.com/yI5buUzMVU
— UberArsenal™ (@UberAFC) September 14, 2017
The man dragged off to make way for Kolasinac at half time – it’s fair to say Rob Holding had a bit of a nightmare this evening.
Despite showing so much promise towards the end of last season, the youngster looked well out of his depth at this level with a poor first half display.
The stats above say it all – no blocks, clearances, tackles won or interceptions, Holding succeeded only in making three fouls against Cologne.
The 21-year-old will surely improve with time, but how many more opportunities will he get at a big club like Arsenal after flopping so badly when given the nod by Wenger?
WHAT SURPRISED US – ALEX IWOBI’S NEW ROLE
Many felt there was a chance Jack Wilshere could start this game and get the chance to revive his Arsenal career, but he was rather harshly overlooked for Alex Iwobi.
The Nigerian is undoubtedly an exciting young talent, but has shown all his potential out wide or in attack for the Gunners up until now.
Surprisingly, Iwobi got the nod in central midfield tonight, and while he didn’t have a terrible game, it seems unlikely that he’ll get many more opportunities there.
Credited with an assist from the centre, Iwobi got rather lucky with an over-hit through-ball for Alexis Sanchez, having been saved only by the immense quality of the Chilean to make the most of a difficult situation.
WHAT DIDN’T SURPRISE US – ALEXIS SANCHEZ LIGHTING UP THE EMIRATES ONCE MORE
Alexis Sanchez… who else?! 🔴⚪️
What. A. Goal. 😱 pic.twitter.com/lArfKJ77em
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) September 14, 2017
Some doubted he’d continue to play with the same commitment after seeing his transfer to Manchester City blocked in the summer – and for just over an hour here you’d think they had a point.
However, Sanchez then produced a moment of magic to turn the game on its head, chasing down Iwobi’s ball that forced him well wide on the left flank, before cutting in superbly to unleash an unstoppable curling effort into the top corner.
While it does seem inevitable that the Chilean will run down his contract and leave Arsenal on a free next summer, fans don’t need to worry too much about what he’ll offer the side until then.
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It may only be the Europa League, but Sanchez has the immense talent to decide tight games and give the Gunners some hope of European silverware if he continues to play in this competition this season.
For now, it’s an ideal warm-up for him ahead of the Chelsea game this weekend.