This evening we’re in an extremely chilly Sweden for a Europa League away game with Ostersunds FK. I know very little of our hosts and the tie is being considered as a fixture that’s straightforward and a win should be achieved with minimal fuss.
Of course, that’s just people making assumptions. It’s worth noting that whilst Ostersunds certainly aren’t exactly an established name in European football, they’ve gotten this far in the competition having secured impressive results against the likes of Athletic Bilbao and Hertha Berlin. When you take into account the below-freezing conditions and the mysteries of a 4G pitch, then it’s all set up for a very tough evening and I’d suggest expecting anything else is a touch foolish given this is Arsenal we’re talking about.
One of the stranger things leading up to the game is the ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who isn’t available tonight because Dortmund have fallen into the Europa League, even though he hasn’t actually represented Dortmund in this season’s competition. Another strange ruling means Henrikh Mkhitaryan will have to wear the No77 shirt tonight instead of No7 as the latter number was worn by Alexis for Arsenal during the group stages and if two players wear the same number for the same team, UEFA fear the Earth may stop spinning on its axis and all Hell will be unleashed.
It’s all pretty stupid, and Arsene Wenger agrees:
“Unanimously, I believe that all the clubs agree now this rule has to disappear in Europe.
Especially because, for example, he played for Dortmund, Dortmund has 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 £50, 60, 70m in the middle of the season, that the players cannot play doesn’t make sense.
Unanimously everywhere in Europe now the clubs are against this rule.”
The team news sees a mixed bunch of absentees and surprise starters. Danny Welbeck will start as our centre forward as we’ve neither Lacazette or Aubameyang at our disposal. Both Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are injured, so a place in central midfield for Ainsley Maitland-Niles could be on the cards – I hope he does get a chance I what is his more natural position. Laurent Koscielny won’t be risked on the artificial pitch as it’s feared his troublesome ailments may not react favourably.
Mesut Ozil, yet to feature at all in the Europa League, has travelled to Sweden and will start the game. David Ospina is likely to continue his position as our Europa league ‘keeper. The competition certainly has added significance given our poor league form, so I expect us to field a strong team tonight. My guess is:
**Edit – I’ve just noticed I’ve not included a ‘keeper in the above line-up, so just ignore that. It’ll be Ospina**
If any other team was playing in Sweden tonight, I’d assume it would be a very comfortable victory that would see the tie won before the return leg next week. If you check out my top sportsbook reviews you’ll see it’s considered a done deal as far as placing bets on an away victory goes. Of course, this is the Arsenal, and I’m pretty sure there will be the occasional flutter of doubt about the brain box of most of you reading this.
The freezing temperatures and the unusual pitch ensure the fixture bares all the hallmarks of a classic cup upset, but the two-legged nature of European knock-out takes some of that away. Short of doing something utterly insane tonight, we should have more than enough at the Emirates next week to progress.
With that in mind, I’ll suggest a score draw will be the outcome tonight. We don’t travel particularly well at the moment and the home side will have familiarity and an boisterous support to back them up. A draw wouldn’t be a bad result at all. I’ll say a fairly uneventful 1-1 that sees Welbeck grabbing the equaliser with a Messi-esque dribble from our penalty area in which he goes past every opponent twice, scores and then celebrates performing an elaborate 5 minute handshake with Arsene Wenger.
Or maybe one will go in off his arse.
That’s all for today, folks. The comments await your predictions on the game – let me know what you think the score will be.
I’ll be back to review the game tomorrow.
Until that time, and as always: thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.
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