Arsene Wenger says his team ‘were not at the races’
Arsenal flirted with Europa League embarrassment in 2-1 defeat at home to Ostersund
Ostersunds FK celebrate with their travelling fans after beating Arsenal. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA
Arsene Wenger accused his Arsenal side of not being focused and having no ideas as they flirted with Europa League embarrassment before succumbing to a 2-1 defeat at home to Ostersund.
The Gunners will still be in Friday’s last-16 draw having won 3-0 in Sweden in the first leg but their performance in front of a half-empty Emirates Stadium on Thursday night was nothing short of dismal.
Ostersund stunned their hosts with two goals in 70 first-half seconds, a Calum Chambers own goal was added to almost instantly by a smart finish from Ken Sema.
Arsenal, who now move on to Sunday’s Carabao Cup final meeting with Manchester City, were disjointed and — although Sead Kolasinac’s goal early in the second-half settled any nerves — it did little to appease those supporters who had bothered to turn up.
“We were not at the races in the first half,” conceded Wenger.
“The second half was much better and we should have scored some more goals: our energy was higher and we were in control. In the first half we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent and not focused.
“We were open every time we lost the ball and had no ideas, and that’s why we were in trouble. Overall we responded well and did the job to qualify, and that’s what you have to keep from the night.”
Arsenal, admittedly without the likes of the rested Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal and Petr Cech, will have to be better in the next round with clubs such as AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid as possible opponents.
Ostersund were superb and took the game to their much-fancied hosts.
Their English manager Graham Potter had said on the eve of the game that the club would need to pull off the biggest miracle in football history to advance.
They fell agonisingly short but the 42-year-old was still delighted with such a memorable display.
“I’m incredibly proud of the performance,” said Potter.
“We talked about trying to play well, win the match and hope for the miracle. We got two out of three.
“I left (England) seven years ago to a club that didn’t really have anything, so for me to see 5,000 people get on a plane and come here, to see the pride and connection with the club, is a wonderful feeling of pride.
“For a club of our stature, to compete with this institution is a credit to the players and everyone connected with the club.
“We’ve got a Swedish Cup match on Monday, so it’s back down to earth, back to reality.”