Although some people may believe that Arsenal’s Europa League round of 32 tie with Ostersunds FK is all but over, manager Arsene Wenger has warned his side against complacency ahead of the second leg on Thursday evening.
Respect earned by Ostersunds Fk throughout competition
The Gunners bring a 3-0 aggregate lead to Thursday’s second leg at the Emirates Stadium, however, Wenger remained cautious in his pre-match press conference.
“If you look at the results of Ostersunds in the Europa League, it’s quite impressive, home and away,” Wenger said.
“That game for us demands respect. It would be absolutely stupid for us to think we go out there and have a stroll, we could have a bad surprise."
Despite the comfortable scoreline and a slow start, Ostersunds impressed the Arsenal boss with their brave philosophy on the ball last time out, and whilst praising them again ahead of the second fixture, he also singled out one player.
“I believe that the most impressive player in the first game was (Saman) Ghoddos, who is a marvellous player technically and tactically," the Arsenal boss commented.
“I was impressed with him and overall I believe that collectively they are a team that play good football.”
League qualification goal for Wenger
Despite not having the same aura and bravado of the Champions League, the Europa League has always been an important competition for a number of clubs, with a place in the following season’s Champions League granted to the winners.
Although winning the competition would complete Arsenal’s main aim of returning to the Champions League after a season away, Wenger has not lost hope of qualification through the Premier League.
“Firstly we have to qualify and then after that see who we get if we go through," Wenger said. "We are focused on doing well but ideally, we want to get back into the Champions League through the Premier League.”
Faith remains in youth
With no game last weekend, the Arsenal boss fielded a stronger side for the first leg in Sweden than he had in previous European fixtures this season, however, a number of the club’s young players still featured, such as Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah.
When asked about how useful the competition has been to give game time to the younger members of the current squad, Wenger said: “It has been very useful, but as well they have shown me that they have the quality to compete.
“I think this competition has allowed them to gain confidence, to show the other players in the squad that these boys have the needed quality and can put them under threat.
“Internal competition has raised as well the threat for everybody because the young players have always done well.”
The Arsenal boss has confirmed that Columbian David Ospina will again start in goal after returning to the team in the first leg; the first game in three days for Ospina who Wenger also announced would begin the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday.
Danny Welbeck and Henrik Mkhitaryan will both play some part in the match, however, Aaron Ramsey remains on the sidelines due to a groin injury.
The visitors could hand a start to new signing Dino Islamovic after he was an unused substitute in the first leg defeat.