Arsenal fans were pleasantly surprised with the performance of one player vs FC Koln

FBL-EUR-C3-COLOGNE-ARSENAL

It's been quite an odd experience seeing Arsenal in the Europa League this season.

Ever since Arsene Wenger joined the club back in 1996, the Gunners have been involved in the Champions League but last season, they just weren't good enough to qualify.

The manager has used the competition to test out his reserve players, with the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey not being used once so far.

Alexis Sanchez was in the first game at home to FC Koln purely to build match fitness.

In truth, the German side, BATE Borisov and Red Star Belgrade have provided little competition, with Arsenal easily claiming the top spot in the group despite losing 1-0 in Germany, courtesy of a 0-0 draw in the other game.

The Bundesliga's bottom side did claim victory due to a dodgy penalty but the Gunners certainly deserved more in Germany's fourth biggest city.

ONE PLAYER PLEASES FANS

And one of those on show really pleased fans with his performance as Ainsley Maitland-Niles showed his capabilities as a left-wing back.

The Englishman has really used the competition effectively to show his promise as a player and should now be regarded as first-team backup in the wing-back roles.

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Maitland-Niles has been on the fringes of the Arsenal team for some time and was used by Wenger successfully in last season's FA Cup triumph.

Before the season started, a lot of the talk was about exciting 17-year-old Reiss Nelson, but during the Europa League, it is clear that Maitland-Niles deserves more of a chance at the moment.

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Despite a very encouraging display against Tottenham at the weekend, it is clear that the Gunners will struggle to make the Premier League top four this season.

1. FC Koeln v Arsenal FC - UEFA Europa League

Wenger's best option may be to try and win the Europa League like Manchester United did last season, although, it won't be easy with the teams coming down from the Champions League.

Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Atletico Madrid could all be featuring in Europe's second tier come 2018.

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