Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes that his side's 3-0 victory over Ostersunds FK justified his strong squad selection.
Strong team does the business
The Gunners played a much stronger squad than the ones previously chosen for the Europa League group stage matches played earlier in the season.
“Yes, the risk at the start was that I didn’t know how tough the pitch would be for our players,” Wenger said after the match.
“But overall we have no game over the weekend, so it was an easier decision. The only risk was the injuries. I’m happy we had no problems and the pitch was quite good.”
The artificial pitch was a topic of conversation for many prior to kick-off, and Wenger was asked whether he could see them returning to English football’s professional leagues.
“No, I believe that in England we have good groundsmen," Wenger said on the matter. "Personally, I prefer grass but I can understand in conditions like that to have this kind of surface.”
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Midfield pair delight Wenger
Two players the Frenchman praised for their performances were Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Henrik Mkhitaryan. The former has become a regular within the Arsenal first team squad in all competitions this season, while the latter was making his European debut for the gunners.
Maitland-Niles has featured at left-back numerous times, however, on Thursday he played in central midfield. “It’s his natural position,” Wenger said.
“I think 80 percent of his game was good, and I feel he can win the ball back well. Defensively he’s quite strong, he’s got good acceleration and it’s a positive game for a first run.”
On Mkhitaryan, the boss added: “He has worked very hard and it was a positive performance. He adapts slowly to the team and overall he had a positive game tonight.”
Arsenal’s next game will be the return leg with Ostersunds at the Emirates next Thursday.
With the aggregate score convincingly in their favour, the starting XI may differ when the teams step out again in North London, with the match coming just three days before the League Cup final with Manchester City.
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Wenger impressed with opponents performance
The Arsenal boss was also very complimentary about the Gunners Swedish opponents, who have become the fairytale story of this seasons' Europa League, having beaten both Atheltic Bilbao and Hertha Berlin in their first ever group stage.
"Overall, I believe they played well," The Gunners boss said. "They didn't give up, they continued to fight until the last minute. Their captain (Brwa Nouri) was impressive, I think he's a very good player and the midfielder who came on as well."
Wenger added: "It's a good side who had a positive attitude in the game. I can understand now, having seen them tonight, why they made so many good results in the Europa League."