Defeated Gunners make progress as Wenger laments decisive penalty call
FC Koln 1 Arsenal 0
Arsene Wenger saw his Arsenal side secure top spot in their Europa League group despite falling to defeat at Koln thanks to what he sarcastically deemed a "very nice penalty".
The Gunners will go into next month's draw as Group H winners as a goalless stalemate between Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov meant the 1-0 loss at the RheinEnergieStadion was still enough to give them an unassailable four-point lead.
A drab game here was settled courtesy of a controversial second-half penalty as Mathieu Debuchy was adjudged to have fouled Sehrou Guirassy in the area when, in truth, there was minimal contact.
Guirassy stepped up to convert the resulting spot-kick and give Koln maximum points, which keeps them in the hunt to go through with Arsenal - in second place.
Wenger was not amused by the decision of Russian official Vladislav Bezborodov but did praise the hosts, who sit bottom of the Bundesliga without a league win all season, for their defensive resilience.
"We had a lot of possession," he said. "We lost the game to one shot basically. It was a very nice penalty that we have to take on board. It was honestly not a penalty at all.
"We missed a little bit of the accuracy in our passing in the final-third that is required to score more goals.
"We had plenty of dangerous situations but we always missed a little something to finish our chances.
"I must also say that Koln defended with spirit, with commitment and overall the crowd was absolutely fantastic for them."
Arsenal's best chance fell to Francis Coquelin, with the midfielder hitting the post in the first half as Wenger's side failed to score an away goal in Europe for the first time since 2014.
"I must say that the attitude was good," added Wenger.
"It took us some time to inject some pace into the game. In the second half it was much quicker. The pitch was difficult tonight, and the players were (struggling) because of it, but I cannot fault the preparation or the concentration of the players."
Although he hailed topping the group as a job done, the 68-year-old conceded it would only be a good thing if they landed a favourable draw in the round of 32.
Asked what securing top spot meant to him, Wenger replied: "I don't know. I will tell you after the draw.
"You feel you have done the job to finish top of the group. We now play our final game at home against BATE Borisov without much at stake, other than the fact that we want to win the game. What does it really mean? I don't know. It's what we wanted."
Koln boss Peter Stoger has come under pressure following his side's poor domestic form, but back-to-back Europa League wins will help his cause and the Austrian was delighted with the result.
"It was a battle - a hard-fought win," he said.
"The passion and fight for this game was there. I was incredibly impressed with my side. The lads are shattered after giving it their all.
"I'm proud of them and delighted we could take something from this game."
Koln: T Horn, Sorensen, Maroh (Rausch, 38 mins), Mere, Klunter, Ozcan, Jojic, J Horn, Cordoba (Olkowski, 56 mins), Osako (Lehmann, 73 mins), Guirassy. Unused subs: Kessler, Risa, Nartey, Bisseck.
Arsenal: Ospina, Debuchy (Nketiah, 84 mins), Mertesacker, Holding, Chambers (Nelson, 67 mins), Coquelin, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Welbeck (Iwobi, 46 mins), Wilshere, Giroud. Unused subs: Macey, Akpom, Sheaf, Willock.
Man of the match: Sehrou Guirassy
Match rating: 5/10
Referee: Vladislav Bezborodov (Russia)