It’s finally time for Arsenal to kick off their Europa League campaign, as the Gunners welcome 1. FC Köln, the Bundesliga side where Lukas Podolski made his name, to the Emirates on Thursday night. While the Europa League certainly isn’t the European competition Arsenal wants to play in, the tournament should be a good opportunity for Arsene Wenger to test out several of his depth players, including some exciting prospects.
And by all indications, Wenger will rotate his squad significantly for the game against Köln, as he said he would do all summer.
Cech, Koscielny, Lacazette, Welbeck, Ozil, Ramsey and Xhaka all rested for tomorrow's game.— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) September 13, 2017
Wenger only confirmed in his press conference today that Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey would be rested on Thursday, but all seven of the players listed above did not train this morning, which is pretty definitive. Francis Coquelin will also be out for three weeks due to the hamstring injury he suffered against Bournemouth last Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Mirror’s John Cross expects Alexis Sanchez and Jack Wilshere to play.
Jack Wilshere is training with Arsenal first team and likely to play. What a reception he'll get tomorrow. Sanchez also likely to start.— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) September 13, 2017
For Wilshere, tomorrow would be his first Arsenal appearance in over a year. After a summer full of speculation that Wenger was willing to let him leave the club, it will be particularly interesting to see how he performs.
We may also see Olivier Giroud, Per Mertesacker, and Calum Chambers earn their first starts of the season, while I’m sure every Arsenal fan is excited at the chance to watch top prospect Reiss Nelson. Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are other young players who should be in the squad tomorrow.
Thursday night will be a special moment for 1. FC Köln, as the club will finally make its return to European football after a 25 year absence. Tomorrow night will also be a chance for Köln to reset their season after a terrible start in the Bundesliga. Three matches have produced one goal and zero points, dropping the Billy Goats to the bottom of the Bundesliga table.
For some more information on Arsenal’s opponent, we turned to a Bundesliga expert, Jason York, managing editor of Bavarian Football Works, SB Nation’s Bayern Munich blog. Check out our Q and A with Jason here.
WHAT: Arsenal vs. 1. FC Köln
WHEN: Thursday September 14th, 2017 I 3:05 PM EST/12:05 PM PT/8:05 PM BST
WHERE: Emirates Stadium
US TV: Fox Sports 1
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