DANNY WELBECK returned to action after his second month-long injury lay-off here in Cologne – but was then hauled off at half-time as Arsenal lost 1-0 to the Germans.
Sehrou Guirassy stroked home a 61st-minute penalty after Mathieu Debuchy was adjudged to have fouled the Cologne star.
There was much excitement from Gunners fans before kick-off that their England striker was finally going to get a proper run-out in this Europa League clash with their team already guaranteed progress to the next round.
And the striker looked like a player desperate to make next summer’s England squad with a performance – buzzing around the final third throughout to make himself available for every pass.
One strong early run of his saw the Cologne defence back-peddling before they eventually deflected a Ainsley Maitland-Niles cross behind for a corner.
And he also attempted to bend a shot into the top corner but it went wide.
But Arsene Wenger elected to pull Welbeck off at half-time and introduce Alex Iwobi – no doubt thinking about Sunday’s trip to Burnley which should see the striker feature on the bench.
David Ospina was forced into an early save when Jhon Cordoba surged forward and let fly from the edge of the box – but the Gunners keeper parried it behind.
The Gunners, though, were looking positive and Francis Coquelin – who played in Germany on loan for Freiburg four years ago – almost broke the deadlock but his well-struck effort just flashed wide.
Wilshere – who has only played 25 minutes in the Premier League this season – but been a regular in the Gunners’ teams in the Capital One Cup and Europa League – headed weakly at keeper Tim Horn from another fine Maitand-Niles cross.
Coquelin then forced Horn into another save after exchanging passes with Olivier Giroud.
The came the penalty against the run of play.
But Arsenal were almost back on terms within a matter of minutes when Giroud was played through by a wonderful ball from Wilshere but his scuffed shot was saved by Horn.
Arsenal almost pulled level at the death when sub Reiss Nelson got the better of three defenders before his shot was denied by Horn.