Ostersunds v Arsenal

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Pre-Match Report

Ostersunds v Arsenal: The Brief

Rob Holding celebrates against BATE Borisov

This is a trip into the unknown for Arsenal.

Ostersunds - a team only established after Arsène Wenger's reign here began - are enjoying their first-ever European campaign, and have never previously played a competitive fixture against English opposition.

The city of Ostersund is located right in the centre of Sweden, and it's certainly the centre of attention on Thursday evening, for the biggest game in their 21-year history.

The entire population of the city would fit into Emirates Stadium, with room to spare, but there won't be an empty seat in the 9,000-capacity Jamtrkraft Arena this evening, when the temperatures is expected to dip to minus five degrees.

It's a venue they have made a fortress in this season's Europa League, winning five and drawing one of their six home games in the competition so far – keeping five clean sheets in the process – on the artificial 4G playing surface.

Their incredible rise from the Swedish fourth tier to domestic cup winners has been masterminded by English manager, and former Southampton player, Graham Potter, who took over in 2011.

Graham Potter

Wenger's respect for the opposition is clear. Of his available players only Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech haven’t travelled, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible.

With no game this weekend before the home leg next Thursday, the boss could afford to name his strongest Europa League squad yet. It's the 19th successive season we have played European football after the winter break, but our first time in this particular competition.

We preview our first visit to Sweden since 1999 with team news, quotes from the pre-match press conference, facts, graphics and a chance to have your say.


Wenger on how well he knows Graham Potter's side...

"To be completely honest I know their manager's name because he is a friend of one of our members of staff, and as well when we were drawn against them I was of course interested. I watched them play on tape and they play very well, a very attractive game. 

“He has done a great job here and is very influential in the way they play football. I believe they play in a very intelligent way, a very technical way that is very suited to the pitch. On these kinds of pitches you have to be very technical and they are a good side. When I saw them on the tape I understood why they did well against Bilbao and Berlin. It is not a coincidence."

Team news: 

ARSENAL: Cazorla (ankle), Ramsey (groin), Lacazette (knee), Koscielny (Achilles/rested), Wilshere, Cech (rested), Aubameyang (ineligible).

OSTERSUNDS: Bertilsson, Aiesh, Suljevic (knee)

Ainsley Maitland-Niles on Ostersunds


Former Gunner Adrian Clarke:

“They have a good record and they’re very disciplined under Graham Potter, who’s just done an unbelievable job. He will have a gameplan here because he’s a very smart, young coach. Don’t go thinking this is going to be an absolute thrashing. I think the second leg will be alive, but Arsenal have just got to get on with it. 

“They are having a break in between because they’re out of the FA Cup. It gives you the opportunity to rest up so there are absolutely no excuses. They should prevail in this last-32 clash and they should still be in contention for the Carabao Cup final.”


Arsène Wenger, on playing a team that was founded after he became Arsenal manager...

"What is great in life is that it can be bigger than your imagination. I thought today that to come here is a pleasure as well. We have played 20 years all over Europe but we have never played here. It is as well part of the competition.

"They are where they are today because they've earned it through the quality of their games and quality of their work. If we are where we are it is similar. We are not in the Champions League for the first time for a long, long time so we have to deal with it."

Matchday Show: Ostersunds (a)

The Breakdown

The Breakdown: Ostersunds v Arsenal preview

We’re back in Europa League action on Thursday when we play the first leg of our last-32 clash at Ostersunds.

Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox examines our Swedish opponents in more detail.


MC: Ostersunds are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who enjoyed a long playing career with more than 300 appearances in the Football League, primarily with Birmingham, Stoke, West Brom, York and Macclesfield. He took charge of fourth-tier Ostersunds in early 2011 and took them to two consecutive promotions, and then top-flight football for the first time in their history. Last year's Swedish Cup victory took them into the qualifying rounds of this competition, where they shocked Galatasaray to earn a group-stage place.

AC: They have a good record and they’re very disciplined under Graham Potter, who’s just done an unbelievable job. He will have a gameplan here because he’s a very smart, young coach. Don’t go thinking this is going to be an absolute thrashing. I think the second leg will be alive, but Arsenal have just got to get on with it. They are having a break in between because they’re out of the FA Cup. It gives you the opportunity to rest up so there are absolutely no excuses


MC: Potter is a tactical chameleon and has deployed a variety of systems in the Europa League this season, starting more frequently with a three-man defence than a back four. The one constant has been the midfield partnership of Brwa Nouri and the diminutive Fouad Bachirou, who will sit in front of the defence and invite Arsenal to go wide.


MC: Ostersunds might be underdogs for this tie, but they're also a good footballing side who hold onto the ball for long periods in midfield, before spreading the ball wide and getting their full-backs or wing-backs forward on the overlap. Arsenal will probably see more of the ball, but Ostersunds are unlikely to park the bus.


MC: Saman Ghoddos was Ostersunds' top goalscorer in last season's Europa League with eight - and he also managed four assists. An aggressive, mobile centre forward also capable of playing out wide, he'll look to work the channels on the counter-attack.


MC: Ostersunds are a good technical side but have sometimes looked vulnerable when defending set-pieces in the Europa League - this might be a promising route to goal for Arsenal.


Team news: Wilshere, Koscielny, Ramsey

Arsène Wenger has named an experienced squad for our Europa League last-32 first leg against Ostersunds on Thursday, though some familiar faces haven’t travelled.

The manager gave an update on his team at his pre-match press conference - here’s what he said:

on who hasn’t travelled…
Wilshere, Koscielny, Cech, Aubameyang (ineligible) left behind and everyone else has travelled.

on whether the pitch was a reason for leaving some players behind…
One or two had recent problems, like Koscielny with his Achilles. Wilshere was more precautionary.

on if those precautions are because of the playing surface…
I don’t know exactly what the pitch is about, but I wanted to rest Jack because he was sick before the game against Spurs. 

on Ramsey…
It is a little bit sensitive case because we expected him to be a bit further in his development of the groin problem and he doesn't move forward as quickly as we expected it. Today we would say that certainly he will not be available even for the next game against Ostersunds. Maybe for the cup final, we don't know yet, it depends how he will progress from now.

on if this squad is stronger than the ones he named in the group stage…
We go into direct knockout so of course the risk is higher. We are ambitious in the competition as well. So, yes, we are more experienced than we were before.

on if our league position has had any bearing on his squad…
I would have done that anyway, no matter what happens in the league. We, of course, try to focus on the league but we would have brought an experienced team here.

Follow the match at Ostersunds LIVE on Arsenal.com

Follow the match at Ostersunds LIVE on Arsenal.com

Matchday Show

Follow the Ostersunds game LIVE on Arsenal.com

Matchday Show: Ostersunds (a)

We take on Ostersunds on Thursday evening - and if you’ve not made the trip to Sweden, no problem, because you can follow it LIVE on Arsenal.com.

Tune in to the website from 5.30pm (UK time) for the following from our Europa League last-32 first-leg tie: 

  • Matchday Show, with live build-up and audio commentary from 5.30pm (UK time)
  • Live text commentary - featuring minute-by-minute updates and insights from our fans on Twitter
  • A short goals clip will be available from midnight Thursday

It's all free with Digital Membership - and remember, you can listen on the Arsenal App too!

Press conference

Wenger on why Ozil will feature against Ostersunds

Mesut Ozil didn’t feature for us in the Europa League group stage, but he’s in line to start away at Ostersunds on Thursday night.

Arsène Wenger has named a strong squad for our last-32 first leg, including the World Cup winner.

“He will play tomorrow,” Wenger confirmed at his pre-match press conference. “We want to do well in this competition. We played on Saturday, we play tomorrow night. 

“Over the weekend we have no game. So we have one week without competition. It’s important our players keep at the competitive level. 

“When you go in a competition it is to try to win it no matter where we are in the league. The pressure might be higher maybe but we try to go as far as we can. We go into direct knockout. We play a team who has come out of the group stage, so they are a good team."


Wenger - The position I prefer Welbeck in

With Alexandre Lacazette injured and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied, Danny Welbeck is in contention to lead the line against Ostersunds on Thursday night.

The forward hasn’t started a game for us in the last month, but Arsène Wenger feels the forward looks “sharper than he has for a long time”.

“[Playing centrally] is where I prefer him personally and it is where I believe that he has an opportunity to do well,” the boss said. “He had to wait a little bit to get back in the team but that gave him time to work on his fitness and from what I have seen today he is sharper than [for] a long time. He looks very sharp.”

Aubameyang will play no part for us in the Europa League this season due to former club Borussia Dortmund entering the competition at the round of 32. 

“Unanimously, I believe that all the clubs agree now this rule has to disappear in Europe,” Wenger added. “Especially because for example he played [for] Dortmund, Dortmund have been reversed in the Europa League and he cannot play. 

“When you look at the transfer amounts you spend now, that you have to spend £5m, £60m, £70m in the middle of the season, that the players cannot play doesn’t make sesne. Unanimously everywhere in Europe now the clubs are against this rule.”

Press conference

Wenger on the pitch, weather and Ostersunds

The Gunners have arrived in Sweden for their first match in the country for nearly 20 years, and with the mercury expected to drop below zero for the game on Thursday night, we will have to overcome some tricky conditions in this first-leg match.

The team trained at London Colney on Wednesday morning as usual before European away trips, and the manager explained why he passed up the opportunity to practise on Ostersunds’ artificial pitch the day before the game.

“Because it disturbs the organisation and the way we want to prepare for a game and I think we will adapt," he explained. "We have played sometimes indoors [at Colney]. I have heard this is 4G, we have 3G so it is different and outside it is different as well but no matter, we have not to make too big a problem with it.”

The town of Ostersund is currently under a blanket of snow, and the temperature is expected to be –5C by kick-off on Thursday, but the boss is not unduly worried. 

“We have to adapt quickly because we never practice on this kind of pitch and our technical level should help us to adapt quickly. The temperature at the moment I don't find a big difference with London. We have cold wind as well similar to what has happened here so I don't think the temperature will be a big problem. Our target will be to adapt quickly to the pitch.”