Arsenal raced out to a 3-0 win in the first leg in Sweden and returns home to finish the job.

By 90Min
February 21, 2018

Arsenal survived their bitterly cold trip to the 'Winter City' of Östersunds, Sweden, with a 3-0 victory in the first leg of this round of 32 Europa League tie. 

The heavy snow, modestly sized crowd, and artificial turf created an unfamiliar setting for the Gunners, but that did not stop them from producing a comprehensive display against the Swedish upstarts. 

Goals from Mesut Ozil, Nacho Monreal, as well as an Östersunds own-goal have given Arsenal a distinct advantage. A comfortable home fixture is all that stands between them and the next round. 

Here's the rundown of Thursday night's clash:


Key Battle

Ainsley Maitland-Niles vs Saman Ghoddos

Iranian forward Saman Ghoddos created Ostersunds' best chances during a dominant Arsenal display. Ghoddos tested David Ospina with a stinging volley from the edge of the box, and later a low effort from outside the box. Ghoddos also was involved in the move that created the penalty which Ospina would eventually save. 

With Arsenal dominating most of the possession, Ghoddos often had to drop into midfield to try and win the ball and create Ostersunds attacks. He will be the side's best chance of producing anything at the Emirates. 

Young Ainsley Maitland-Niles has impressed for the Gunners this season from left-back, but started in a central midfield role in the first-leg of this tie. A holding midfield role is perhaps Maitland-Niles' natural position, and he will be tasked on Thursday night of snuffing out any chance Ostersund get to attack. 


A Meteoric Rise & Unique Philosophy

In 2010, Ostersunds FK were relegated to the fourth tier of Swedish football for the first time. Over the next two years they would achieve back-to-back promotions and in 2015 they would be promoted to Sweden's top division, the Allsvenskan, for the first time in their history. In 2017 they won their first major trophy, the Svenska Cupen, and now they're playing on a European stage.

This rapid rise was achieved through the adoption of a new club philosophy: 'Eljest'. A northern Swedish wording which means 'be different.' Ostersunds have certainly taken a different approach to running a football club. 

For Ostersunds, being different meant running a culture 'course' designed to improve player confidence and mentality on the pitch. This has included the players and coaches performing plays, creating art exhibitions, dancing, and performing live music in front of crowds of 1,000 people.


Team News

Arsenal will not be allowed to where their traditional red and white home kit when they host Ostersunds. The Gunners home strip clashes with both the home and away kits of the Swedish side, so Arsenal will be in blue on Thursday.

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey will not be fit in time to face Ostersunds in the second-leg. The Welshman has been sidelined with a groin strain and faces a race to be fit in time for the EFL Cup final.

Alexandre Lacazette also remains sidelined with a knee injury which is expected to keep him out until mid-March.

Potential Arsenal Starting Lineup: Ospina; Bellerin, Holding, Chambers, Kolasinac; Elneny, Maitland-Niles; Nelson, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi; Welbeck

Potential Ostersunds Starting Lineup: Keita; Mukiibi, Papagiannopoulos, Pettersson; Mensah, Edwards, Nouri, Sema, Widgren; Ghoddos, Hopcutt


Prediction

Ostersunds will be probably be playing for pride as they will face a mammoth task of trying to overturn a 3-0 deficit away from home. Arsenal are a much stronger team at home and have lost just once at the Emirates this season. 

As Arsenal's poor away record drags them further and further away from a top-four place in the Premier League, the Europa League is becoming the Gunners' best chance of returning to the Champions League next season.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Östersunds FK

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