Arsenal’s fans would have been forgiven for tuning into the Champions League knockout round draw on Monday morning, such was their team’s long and uninterrupted affiliation with the contest. However, their fate was sealed from a draw after Europe’s premier competition had been decided. Arsenal were given Swedish side Ostersunds.
The Swedish team are not a household name, and the likelihood is that the team was met by a chorus of ‘who?’, which, in part, makes Arsenal’s game that much more difficult.
The Gunners are expected to win this easily, and many will have tipped them to go on to triumph in the entire competition if they use their vast resources to win it. However, the fact they are such overwhelming favourites for the win is the exact sort of banana skin that Arsenal have slipped on all too often.
Against a side in the lower echelons of the Premier League, if Arsenal lose, it is easy to cite the competitive nature of the league, and rightly so, with anyone able to beat anyone else. However, the Swedish side, who were founded after Arsene Wenger took charge of the Gunners, should be dispatched consummately.
At home, Ostersunds will be enjoying a party atmosphere as the Premier League side come to town, and they will make it a very awkward 90 minutes for their opponents, while they will also do their utmost in the return fixture at the Emirates.
Ultimately, this is a lose-lose situation for the Gunners. Win, and it will be a case of everyone expecting them to brush their opponents aside, but should they lose, then it will likely be the biggest shock in Europa League history. There is absolutely no room for anything other than a victory for Arsenal.