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Arsenal vs Köln Preview: Gunners begin Europa League journey for first time

14 September 2017

The last time Arsenal played at this level at the outset of a season, Arsene Wenger hadn't yet won his first trophy at Highbury and Reiss Nelson, a player generating great expectation ahead of his likely arrival on the continental scene, hadn't been born.

They still have some able players to call upon though.

The Europa League is indeed worth taking seriously for the Gunners.

But Wilshere stayed and, having returned to full training following a fractured leg suffered towards the end of his time with Bournemouth, the England worldwide is now expected to come back into the Arsenal side.

On Thursday night, at the odd and unfamiliar time of 8:05 p.m. BST, Arsenal's demotion on the European stage will become reality when they kick off their opening game of the Europa League group stage at home to FC Koln. Manager Jose Mourinho made winning the competition a priority as United slipped to a sixth-placed finish in the Premier League. If he is injury-free, he will come back to his best.

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Wenger refused to say whether Wilshere will start, but said the midfielder is getting "stronger and stronger every day" after recovering from an ankle fracture suffered towards the end of last season while on loan at Bournemouth.

That could open the door for Jack Wilshere to make his first start for Arsenal in over 13 months as he looks to rebuild his career following another fractured leg.

A strong showing can go a long way in helping Giroud grab a positive result for the Gunners, it will also give Arsene Wenger some pleasant selection dilemma, and possibly a larger role to the player over the course of the season.

With one eye on Sunday's trip to Chelsea, Wenger will rest Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Alexandre Lacazette, Danny Welbeck, Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey.

"It was a good way to prove that we have just had two bad games and we have to move on". Nevertheless, in Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud, the Arsenal boss has enough firepower to topple the struggling Germans.

Arsenal vs Köln Preview: Gunners begin Europa League journey for first time