The Arsenal fans are feeling rather downbeat in the Transfer Tavern ahead of their side’s clash with Ostersunds in Sweden tonight.
Arsenal fans have been forced to watch a handful of their Premier League rivals play in the Champions League this week just days after their hopes of qualifying for the competition were dealt a catastrophic blow by Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. The Gunners suffered a 1-0 defeat in the North-London derby and fell 8 points behind 4th place Chelsea as a result, so their chances of returning to Europe’s most prestigious club competition next season look extremely unlikely with 11 matches to play.
Realistically speaking, Arsenal will be playing Europa League football again next season, unless they can replicate Manchester United’s success from last year and secure their place in the Champions League by lifting the Europa League trophy in May.
All things considered, it seems that winning the Europa League represents Arsenal’s best chance of qualifying for the Champions League, so they must set the tone for a memorable cup run with an emphatic victory over Ostersunds tonight. Ostersunds – managed by the English manager Graham Potter – conceded just 4 goals in the group stage of the competition and recorded 2 wins and a draw from their home fixtures, so they are certainly not a side to be underestimated.
However, Wenger should consider boosting Ainsley Maitland-Niles (valued at £4.5 million by Transfermarkt) to his starting line-up in place of Alex Iwobi who has struggled to repay the faith Arsene Wenger has shown in him so far this season.
The 19-year-old Maitland-Niles has played 90 minutes in all 6 of Arsenal’s Europa League ties so far this season. He is yet to score or assist in either the Europa League or the Premier League, but his promising performances suggest his record will improve with increased exposure to the first-team.
It is difficult to know what to expect from Ostersunds considering they have hardly played regular football since their domestic season ended in November of 2017, but the willingness of Maitland-Niles to run at the opposition with pace and trickery is bound to unnerve their defensive unit, so Wenger should continue his Europa League run by handing him a 7th straight start tonight.