The Arsenal fans are feeling confident in the Transfer Tavern ahead of their intriguing clash against the relatively unknown Swedish Ostersunds at the Jamtkraft Arena tonight.
Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League via their league position were dealt a potentially fatal blow last Saturday as they suffered a 1-0 defeat against their local rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. The result has left The Gunners 8 points adrift of 4th place Chelsea with only 11 fixtures remaining to turn things around. With that to consider, the Europa League may well represent Arsenal’s best chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season. Manchester United qualified via that route last season after Mourinho put all his eggs in one basket and prioritised the competition above domestic fixtures towards the end of the season.
If Wenger wants to qualify for the Champions League next season, he may have to adopt the same attitude towards the competition, starting tonight against Ostersunds. On paper, a Thursday night fixture against a Swedish side who have barely kicked a football since their league season ended in the beginning of November represents something of a gimme for Arsenal, but their form in the competition so far suggests it will be anything but.
In the group stage of the competition, Ostersunds finished level on points with Athletic Bilbao who only topped the group due to their superior head to head record. The Swedish outfit conceded just 4 goals from their 6 fixtures and kept 2 clean sheets from their 3 home fixtures, so clearly they will be no pushovers when they face Arsenal tonight.
However, the conditions in Scandinavia will undoubtedly favour the side who are well accustomed to the freezing cold temperatures both sets of players will be exposed to, but Arsenal simply cannot use that as a valid excuse if they fail to record victory tonight.
According to Football.London, the temperature is set to be as low as -3/-4 at the very least, so it will undoubtedly be a vastly different climate to what the players are used to on English soil. Despite this, Arsenal simply must demonstrate their Premier League quality and stamp their authority in the tie with a decisive victory this evening, as with all due respect to Ostersunds, there can be no excuses against an opponent of their calibre.