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FC Köln 1 - 2 Arsenal: Gervinho scores two in half hour in debut

0 - 1 Gervinho 7'
0 - 2 Gervinho 15'
1 - 2 Carl Jenkinson og 45'

Arsenal finished the "first phase" of their preseason today with a 2-1 victory at the Rhein Energie Stadium in Köln, Germany, against a tricky Bundesliga side led by Lukas Podolski. The first half was mostly controlled by Arsenal, although Köln did threaten from time to time, getting the better of Carl Jenkinson and Laurent Koscielny on the right on two or three occasions, but Gervinho opened his career in an Arsenal shirt in fine fashion, converting both of his chances and nearly assisting on a third.

Arsène Wenger named a strong starting XI that included Gervinho on the left, Koscielny and Vermaelen partnered in defense, and Marouane Chamakh leading the line. Köln created the first chance of the match as Koscielny fouled Podolski on the edge of the area only for Milivoje Novakovic to put his free kick over the bar. Arsenal began to string possession together, and it would not be long before they converted their first chance.

Jack Wilshere turned in the center circle and hit a 30-yard lofted pass over Köln's defense, Pedro Geromel was too slow to react, and Gervinho was in and lobbed a half-volley over Michael Rensing and in. The whole move took about three seconds, and Gervinho's finish was eerily calm. It was not the first time the German side's high back line would be exposed (Arsenal's didn't always fare much better), but Gervinho was wasting no time.

Arsenal's second built on the bedrock of more poor defending from the Billy Goats. The ball deflected back to Wilshere as they tried to build through the middle, and he sprayed a less-than-ideal pass out towards Walcott. Luckily, the left back decided to watch the ball roll past his feet instead of trying to touch it with them, and Walcott took advantage, immediately bursting towards goal and firing a low, curling cross into the path of his Ivorian teammate, who guided it home before tumbling over Rensing. It was 2-0, but Rensing unfortunately looked to have taken some damage (and so had Gervinho, too, although Wenger declared it "minor" in his post-game press conference), and both came off. Ryo Miyaichi replaced Gervinho on the left.

In between the two goals, Thomas Vermaelen had nearly found the net himself, as he stormed forward in the best TV fashion, intercepting a hopeful through ball, exploding through midfield, feeding Gervinho out on the left, and nearly putting the return pass in only for a last-ditch Geromel tackle keeping it out.

Köln made their way back into the match as the half wore on, Szczesny making saves when called upon. He could not keep out the final kick of the half, though, which would have been hilarious, except that it happened to Jenkinson. He was trying to blast a clearance forward, but woefully mishit his kick and corkscrewed the ball on the volley 35 yards over a stranded Szczesny and into his net. It was a one-in-a-million finish, but in the wrong net. Samir Nasri and Bacary Sagna made sure he didn't get too down as he trudged off at halftime; hopefully he didn't use up all of his scoring mojo in that effort.

The second half saw all change bar Gibbs, and if Arsenal were looking susceptible to the ball over the top a bit in the first, bringing the slower Sebastien Squillaci on really didn't help much. Tomas Rosicky and Andrei Arshavin played well, the former in Wilshere's spot, the latter out on the left, but Nasri once again looked out of place in the advanced central role, either sitting up with Robin van Persie or sitting way too deep by Emmanuel Frimpong (who, after the match in China, must be looking at Nasri back there with him and wondering why).

Köln threatened on numerous occasions, but Vito Mannone, and then Lukasz Fabianski, did well to clean up. Conor Henderson came on for Kieran Gibbs midway through the second half, and although he's not a left back by nature, he played reasonably well until the 89th minute, when he appeared to pick up a serious knee injury. He had to be stretchered off moments before the final whistle. Hopefully it's not a serious problem for the young player, but Wenger sounded concerned about it after the match.

All in all, it was a match that provided some answers to preseason questions, but it is still only a friendly, and not indicative of the side's actual quality as such. The amount of long balls over the top that Köln worked into threatening spaces is worrisome, but it was less of a problem in the first half when Vermaelen and Koscielny were on the case. Gervinho looks ready for action, Walcott and Wilshere are their usual selves, and Arshavin continues to look lively (hopefully he carries this into the regular season).

On to the Emirates Cup.