Arsenal went into this game needing one point to clinch first place in their group. They played, for most of the game, like they’d already finished last and didn’t care. Fortunately, Koln, who ARE last in the group, played similarly. Also fortunately, it didn’t matter, as BATE Borisov and Red Star’s scoreless draw meant Arsenal still won their group.
Arsenal started strongly, and looked to dominate possession in the first 20 minutes. That first 20 minutes also featured a screaming shot from distance off the foot of Francis Coquelin that just barely fizzed wide, because nothing makes sense any more. Meanwhile, everywhere else on the pitch, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was doing the work of two or three guys for most of the half, and was easily the best Arsenal player all half.
At the 30 min mark, Coq pinged a close-range shot off the woodwork from a lovely ball from Giroud. Danny Welbeck went wide in the 33rd minute, but overall Coq had the two best chances of a half in which nothing really happened at all, and it must be said that he had a really good half, in a game where nobody else seemed to want to.
Welbeck came off at half time for Alex Iwobi, as Wenger looked to take the game to Koln a bit more and get the goal that would hopefully settle the game. The half opened the same way the first one ended, with Maitland-Niles doing all the work and Francis Coquelin trying to take advantage of that work and drive Arsenal forward in search of the opening goal.
Then, in the 60th minute, the match turned on its head. Mathieu Debuchy made contact with Sehrou Guirassy in the box, Guirassy went down, and the referee instantly pointed at the spot. It was a call that I’ve seen not given as much as I’ve seen it given, but in this case, it was given, Guirassy took the penalty, and slammed it home to give Koln an undeserved 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Jack Wilshere had two good chances in succession - one a Coquelin-esque lash from distance, and one decent header that he put over the bar. That sequence did not end with it being 2-1 to Arsenal though, so.
After the goal, Arsenal didn’t really create all that much - everyone except Maitland-Niles dropped off pretty dramatically, and while there was a lot of industry, it didn’t really amount to much. Eddie Nketiah came on for the last six minutes, but to no end, and both Reiss Nelson and Nketiah had good chances in the dying moments, and Jack Wilshere had a really good shot in the second minute of extra time, but the game ended 1-0 and that’s effectively that for the group stages. Arsenal win the group, and there’s only a dead rubber against BATE Borisov on December 7th to go.