Arsene Wenger praised his Arsenal side for the way they overcame unfamiliar surroundings as they easily beat Swedish side Ostersunds FK to more or less guarantee their place in the last 16 of the Europa League. The game was played in -4C temperatures on a 4G plastic pitch at the Jamtkraft Arena, but the visitors made light of alien conditions to win comfortably. Left-back Nacho Monreal scored the Gunners’ first from close range when Ostersund goalkeeper Aly Keita fumbled Alex Iwobi’s strike. Then the home side’s centre-back Sotirios Papagiannopoulos diverted Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s cross into his own net after the Armenian seized on a loose pass.
Ostersund improved after the break but any prospect of a revival was ended by Mesut Ozil, who made a well-timed run into the area and squeezed his shot past Keita for the third, before the hosts had a late penalty saved. “I think we adapted quite well to the pitch,” Wenger said after the game. “[Ostersund] were maybe a bit cautious at the start and we took advantage of it. “I feel that at 2-0 at half-time, it was important for us not to concede a goal and win the second half. “The risk at the start was that I didn’t know how tough the pitch would be for our players. But overall we have no game over the weekend, so it was an easier decision. “The only risk was the injuries. I’m happy we had no problems.”
The 27-year-old Danny Welbeck has only made 12 starts this season, after the club signed France striker Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon for £46.5m in the summer. With Lacazette out for up to six weeks after knee surgery, this was a chance for Welbeck, who has scored five goals this term, to remind everyone of his ability. He skewed an early header badly wide and at other times passed when he should have shot, frequently striking the ball without conviction. The Swedish club’s English manager Graham Potter, who has led them to three promotions since 2010, could at least reflect on a bright performance from striker Saman Ghoddos. The Iran international forced Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina into a couple of saves and led the line with pace and determination. Arsenal host the second leg of the last-32 tie at Emirates Stadium next Thursday (20:05 GMT).