Ostersund V Arsenal Preview : Arsenal can't muck this up!
Event Venue: Jamtkraft Arena, Kick off: 18:00. BT Sport.See Stats
Arsenal may have fielded a young and weakened team in many of their group games, but now they have to start taking the Europa League seriously. Especially now that following their defeat to Spurs at the weekend, they now sit seven points behind their north London rivals and eight points behind Chelsea in fourth place. Now, they have Ostersunds from Sweden in the knockout stages of the Europa League and if they want to qualify for the Champions League next season, they'll need to do a Manchester United and win the second-tier cup.
Arsenal are at a crossroads. After selling Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United - which is a big sign of defeat in many ways - they recruited former Dortmund buddies Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and have a new look side. The immediate results against Everton looked extremely exciting, but the follow-up against Tottenham in a crunch north London derby was underwhelming. With Jack Wilshere back in the side though, they seem a much more creative and fluid side and boss Arsene Wenger has to be happy with his resurgence. But, who is Wenger likely to play? Through a tiny bit of arrogance or delusions they can still make the top four, he's admitted he'll play a weakened side in Sweden already. Danny Welbeck, Alex Maitland-Niles, Alex Iwobi, Rob Holding and Callum Chambers are all likely to see action in Sweden, but they should have enough to get the job done.
Just seven years ago, Ostersunds were in the fourth tier of Sweden. Imagine that, the fourth tier of Sweden! Now, after three promotion in five years and a fifth-place finish last season, they are about to take on Arsenal in a Europa League knock-out game. Ostersunds have been playing friendly matches to tie themselves over since finishing second in Group J, where they only missed out on top spot by one-goal on goal difference to Athletic Bilbao. Their season doesn't actually kick-off again until April so Arsenal are certainly in the flow and more match fit than their opponents. Graham Potter - who played as a full-back in the Premier League eight times for Southampton and once for the England Under-21 side, has been their manager since their rapid ascension in 2011 and he has three Englishman on board in Curtis Edwards, Jamie Hopcutt and Andrew Mills - none of who made the grade at home.
Even a much-changed Arsenal should walk past their Swedish opponents in this tie, home and away. over 2.5 goals is probably a certainty, but given the Gunners shaky defence, it wouldn't be surprising to see the home side snatch a goal.
- Osterlunds are currently in preseason, their season does not start until April
- Arsenal are eight points behind fourth place in the Premier League
- Ostersunds were unbeaten at home in the group stages
- Ostersunds have an English manager
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