Starting XI: Ospina (c), Bellerin, Mustafi, Chambers, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Welbeck
Subs: Macey, Holding, Xhaka, Kolasinac, Willock, Nelson, Nketiah
Arsenal are in a prime position to qualify for the Europa League last sixteen after a comprehensive 3-0 first-leg win over Ostersund in Sweden.
Nacho Monreal’s early opener and an own goal by Sotirios Papagiannopoulos helped Arsene Wenger’s men to a two-goal advantage before the break before Mesut Ozil grabbed a killer third on 58 minutes. The home side had a chance to reduce the deficit in stoppage time but Ospina saved Pettersen’s penalty.
Unfazed by the cold, the artificial pitch and the fact the whole of Europe was cheering for the Swedes, Arsenal started brightly. One touch, pass and move was the theme as we worked nice angles in the final third of the pitch.
The home side sat very deep, seemingly hoping to catch us on the break with the occasional long ball. In truth, their only front man looked very isolated with Maitland-Niles mopping up in front of Chambers and Mustafi.
It wasn’t long before the chances started to flow for the Gunners. Danny Welbeck should have done better with a header on 8 minutes, his effort fell wide, and Mkhitaryan missed a golden opportunity to open his Arsenal account after he and Ozil closed down a short kick out from the keeper – with the goal gaping the Armenian was denied by a last-gasp clearance on the line.
We kept tightening the screw before finally finding the net on 13 minutes. Alex Iwobi did well to work space before firing a cross shot at keeper Keita that was spilled into the path of Monreal. The Spaniard, so often our fox in the box recently, pounced on the loose ball to score from a couple of yards out. (1-0)
Having stung the palms of Keita from long-range, Mkhitaryan again found himself at the centre of the action as we doubled the lead. Ostersund surrendered possession inside their own box as they faffed over a clearance and our number 77 smashed a cross into the back of the net off defender Papagiannopoulos. (2-0)
The second goal seemed to spark Ostersund into life. First Gero headed straight at Ospina, then the Colombian made a fine stop to keep out Ghoddos’ rasping drive from the edge of the area. The livewire Ghoddos tried his luck a couple more times before the break as the game was played much more in Arsenal’s half.
Ostersund made a couple of changes at the break and initially had a bit more of the ball in midfield but Arsenal held their nerve and soon went up the other end to grab a third.
Mkhitaryan picked up his second assist of the evening playing in Ozil from the left. The German controlled neatly before squeezing the ball under keeper Keita for his fifth of the season. (3-0)
The action was thin on the ground after that. Welbeck, who looked rusty, to say the least, scuffed an attempt wide after cutting in from the left on 81 minutes. That was pretty much the best of it. He was replaced by Nketiah with eight minutes remaining. Kolasinac and Nelson also got run outs in place of Monreal and Mkhitaryan. I say run out, really the game was being played at walking pace in the final moments.
Of course, Arsenal being Arsenal, we decided to make things a tad more difficult for ourselves. Bellerin gave away a penalty in stoppage time. Amazingly, Ospina, captain for the night, made the stop to deny Pettersson.
All in all, a comfortable night for the Gunners. The second leg is in a week’s time and you suspect Wenger will now field a weaker starting XI.