Wenger wary of Swedish minnows Ostersunds


Arsenal won four of their six group games in this season’s Europa League

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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes Ostersunds’ run to the last 32 of the Europa League is no fluke.

The Swedish minnows beat Hertha Berlin and drew with Athletic Bilbao on their way to finishing second in their group.

Ostersunds’ English boss Graham Potter has said the tie has parallels with an FA Cup third-round game, but Wenger is wary of his side’s opponents.

“When I saw them play, I understood why they did well against Bilbao and Berlin,” he said.

“It wasn’t a coincidence.”

Arsenal face Ostersunds in their last-32 first-leg tie on Thursday with just one recognised striker available – Danny Welbeck.

Alexandre Lacazette is out for up to six weeks following knee surgery, while former Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible to play in the competition.

“Danny Welbeck looks sharper than he has in a long time,” Wenger added.

“He had to wait a little to get back into the team, but that gave him time to work on his fitness.”

Laurent Koscielny and Jack Wilshere did not travel to Sweden, both players having Achilles injuries.

Graham Potter: The English coach making a name for himself in Sweden

Ostersunds have enjoyed a rapid rise since Potter took charge seven years ago and he has overseen the club’s meteoric ascent from the Swedish fourth division to the top flight.

They claimed some impressive victories in qualifying for the Europa League, overcoming Turkish giants Galatasaray and Greek side PAOK.

Now they welcome Arsenal, and Potter agrees Thursday’s game has similarities with classic FA Cup ties, when a lower league side is drawn against a Premier League team.

“In some ways I know where you are coming from in terms of the small team against the big team, absolutely,” he said when asked to compare the tie to an FA Cup match.

“Normally in the third round of the FA Cup you have not beaten Galatasaray or PAOK or Hertha Berlin. But in terms of the size of the two teams, absolutely.

“We are obviously all excited about the game and the visit of Arsenal, a Champions League club.”

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