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.


INTO THE UNKNOWN?

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

THE OPPOSITION

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.”


THE LAST WORD

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)