I don’t know about you but last night’s game against FC Köln felt weird.

It was weird because we lost, yet ultimately there was relief, because we still topped the group to ensure that the game against BATE in a couple of weeks is as meaningless as it would have been had we won or drawn yesterday. So yeah, weird, because I didn’t really feel that much other than happy for the people of Köln that they got a win and a big night out when their team is struggling at the foot of the Bundesliga.

I also have family from Köln too, so it was nice to be able to have wishes for them and their City on a night where it ended up meaning so little to us in the end anyway, which is why it also felt weird because I was still happy at the end of an Arsenal defeat.

As promised Arsène rotated the shizzle out of the team and so as we’ve come to expect in these midweek fixtures, we had a completely different XI from the one that faced them in the North London Derby. Ospina, Chambers, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Coquelin, Wilshere, Welbeck and Giroud all came in and with a line up like that you can see why Arsène says we have a big squad. Just a couple of those at best (Holding & Maitland-Niles) you’d describe as ‘youth’ players and the rest are those that should be fighting for a first team place.

I watched the game through a skipping feed on my phone on the tube back home in the first half and it was clear from the broken John Hartson commentary that it wasn’t a game that will go down as a classic. Köln wanted to not concede, Arsenal retained possession but a Coquelin post and a Welbeck fizzer wide seemed pretty much the sum total of our efforts in that first half.

The second half offered little of the same save for a pretty obvious dive/fall over from the Köln centre forward. It was one that you’d expect the red to laugh off but I have my suspicions about the Russian, namely that he was as bored as the rest of us, so probably just wanted some sort of action/controversy to ensure that the game had at least something to talk about.

The Arsenal response was…well…there wasn’t really one. The rotated players hardly did themselves any favours when it comes to vying for a place in the Saturday team and if I’m honest, aside from the first game against last night’s hosts, all of the performances in Europe have been a bit disjointed. Upon reflection we’ve seen this sort of game a lot in Europe so far with just the odd punctuation of class like the Giroud overhead kick. You’d think to yourself that you wouldn’t want any of these players playing like this in the first team but I have a theory though; when squad player is asked to step up through injury or suspension, they’re inevitably playing with better players, so they naturally up their game. That’s what I think is happening in reverse in games in midweek; the senior squad players aren’t able to up their game as much because they’re not playing with other better players and so we’re seeing these types of ‘bitty’ performances.

Think about is realistically; if an injury or suspension happens in the first team, it’s only going to be one or two players that come in and they’d naturally up there game but also, Arsenal aren’t going to put in that kind of performance (you’d hope!) because of one or two squad players coming in.

So I’m not too worried about the overall performance of the team in this respect. Individuals however, there are some cause for concern, like Jack Wilshere. He wasn’t great, was he? He is master of ball control in small spaces and those intricate moves on the edge of an opponents box. That wasn’t coming off last night. Neither was the ability to get past a defender with that burst of pace he has. And so he endured a frustrating night and at a time when so many are crying for him to get more game time, this felt like a match in which it showed that he’s not playing on a Saturday/Sunday for a reason. It’s sad to say because we all really want Jack to be our saviour, especially with the two contract rebels gone by the end of the season, but I’m realising that it’s unlikely to happen at this stage. I just hope I’m wrong.

It wasn’t just Jack whose night was hardly covered in glory though. I thought Giroud was poor and nothing really came off for him, as well as Coquelin, who seemed intent on racking up world records for either running the ball out of play or passing it out too.

Iwobi came on and offered little, whilst the decision to play Chambers at full back and Debuchy at centre half was, well, in keeping with the general feel of the game, weird. I get that some might think Debuchy hasn’t got the legs for full back but come on, he’s played there most of his career, and we all know that Chambers is a central defender. It just didn’t make sense to me.

But there’s been a lot of that from Arsène this season so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

One of the bright sparks of the nights was Maitland-Niles though. I thought he did a good job at left wing back and look bright all evening. He’ll hopefully be buoyed by the game time and performances he’s getting and hopefully this will give him the confidence to get into the first team over the course of the season. One for the future perhaps.

Likewise, Reiss Nelson came on and had a bit of an impact and its hard not to get excited about this guy given his age. He’s great with the ball at his feet and I just hope he’s developed properly because he looks a bit special. We need to make sure he’s nurture properly and if so, in three years time we could have a first teamer on our hands.

And that’s about it from me. A successful night in the end because we’ve qualified as group winners. It should mean a more palatable draw and it will certainly mean some youth team players get a chance with the home crowd in a couple of weeks.

Catch you all tomorrow.