The Gunners embarked on the next phase of their Europa League campaign, facing Swedish side Ostersunds away from the fortress of the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners needed to put in a performance following their shambolic North London display at Wembley over the weekend, emerging the first-leg scoreline of 0-3.
Arsenal got out of the group stages by utilizing fringe players and young prospects but, sitting eight points adrift the top four, winning the Europa League perhaps presents the Gunners with their best possible option of returning to the Champions League next season.
Wenger for the first time in the Europa campaign named Mesut Ozil in the Starting XI, that consisted of David Ospina, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Iwobi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Danny Welbeck.
The Gunners came testing the opposition in the opening minutes of the encounter, after a sloppy piece of play from the opposition, which resulted to Mesut Ozil stealing the ball, bursting through on goal, but was blocked by the opposition keeper; and Mkhitaryan’s shot in the process got blocked.
Moments later, the Gunners were in front, succeeding from the brilliance of Alex Iwobi getting in a low shot which the opposition keeper could only pam into the direction of an advancing Monreal, who swept home his third goal in his last six appearances – making him a key figure to the Arsenal squad in recent weeks.
In the 23rd minute, the Gunners saw their advantage increase, following the dismay of the opposition defender Papagiannopoulos, turning Mkhitaryan’s driven cross which was intended to meet Danny Welbeck, into his own goal from close-range after Ostersunds were once again caught in possession inside their own box.
David Ospina, who was Arsenal’s captain for the night looked to have had a relaxed time at his end of the pitch, but was called into action late in the first half when he was forced into turning Saman Ghoddos’ dipping effort over the crossbar as the hosts seemed to get back into the game following a healthy pressure on Arsenal.
In the second half, the Arsenal built on their lead with two away goals in this encounter – looking for a third to completely put the game beyond their opposition and found an answer to their question. An exchange of pass between Ozil and Mkhitaryan was able to inflict further damage to the opposition, with the latter playing an inch-perfect pass to the former, before turning a weak strike past the keeper, who should have done better in my opinion.
Ostersunds in the closing stage of the game had a chance to claw one back after they were awarded a penalty when Hector Bellerin brought down a player. David Ospina proved to be the hero of the day, as he went low quick enough to save the penalty, which was weakly struck – claiming his clean sheet afterwards.