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AT THE HALF: Arsenal 0-2 Ostersunds — Gunners on the ropes

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Arsenal were supposed to show up to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday, roll the ball out to midfield, kick it around a bit and, in just about any fathomable set of circumstances, advance to the Europa League round of 16 without breaking much of a sweat.

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Ostersunds FK had a very different idea how the round-of-32 second-leg clash would go, as the Swedish side hit the Gunners for a pair of goal just 70 seconds apart in the first half — the first courtesy of a Calum Chambers own goal, quickly followed by the second from Ken Sema — to pull themselves back to within 3-2 on aggregate.

With 45 minutes still to play, we’re one more Ostersunds goal from extra-time. Arsenal are in desperate need of a goal with only Danny Welbeck and Reiss Nelson as the only attacking changes available off the bench.

Arsenal’s Wenger played to his advantages in Swedish blowout

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You know that argument we make on behalf of preseason MLS teams when they face Liga MX sides in the CONCACAF Champions League?

[ RECAP: Ostersunds 0-3 Arsenal ]

Imagine you’re a Swedish club and instead of Pachuca, it’s Arsenal on the other side.

Ostersunds staged its second match since Dec. 7, and was overwhelmed by the speed and press of Arsenal from moment one as the Gunners claimed a 3-0 first leg win in the Europa League’s Round of 32.

“Overall we played a serious game, so job done,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “They looked very nervous and we took advantage of it.”

Ostersunds’ only other competitive match of 2018 was a Swedish Cup game on Feb. 9.

Nacho Monreal and an Ostersunds goal had it 2-0 by halftime, and Mesut Ozil put the finishing touch on the scoreline in the second half.

Ostersunds’ 2017 Allsvenskan schedule wrapped up in November, leaving only the Europa League group stage fixtures and the aforementioned Cup game to keep them sharp for the Europa League Round of 32.

The club won’t play outside the UEL until after the Arsenal tie is over, and doesn’t begin the 2018 Allsvenskan schedule until April 1.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan forced the own goal with a hard cross, and says Arsenal was prepped to pressure the out-of-sync hosts.

“It was their first game after a while, because we are in the league and keep playing maybe we are more practiced,” Mkhitaryan said. “They are a good team, tried to play, but we scored two in the beginning.”

Mkhitaryan said, “Why not?” when asked if Arsenal could win the whole thing.

“We have to focus on every game regardless of this result to ensure more success. Even with the League Cup final, I think we have to play with the same team and win at home.”

Ostersunds 0-3 Arsenal: Gunners too much in first leg

Robert Henriksson/TT News Agency via AP
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Nacho Monreal and Mesut Ozil joined an Ostersunds own goal on the score sheet as Arsenal cruised past their Swedish hosts in the first leg of a UEFA Europa League Round of 32 tie on Thursday.

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David Ospina stopped a stoppage time penalty kick to preserve the clean sheet and deny the Swedish hosts the lifeline provided by a poorly-timed Hector Bellerin tackle.

Arsenal didn’t need to do too much to get a lead thanks to an Ostersunds side which had knocked off some strong sides but looked uncomfortable with the Gunners speed of play.

The second goal came when Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s hard cross took a turn off Sotirios Papagiannopoulos and into the Ostersunds goal.

Ozil rounded off the scoring with this run into the box to tap the ball over the sliding keeper.

Europa League preview: Arsenal joined by Champions League outcasts

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Arsenal’s path to the UEFA Champions League is looking more and more like it will require a Europa League triumph, and that trek continues in Sweden on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Ronaldo, Real top PSG 3-1 ]

There are plenty of other big names left in the Europa League, with Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, and Atletico Madrid also beginning Round of 32 ties on Thursday.

Ostersund vs. Arsenal

Arsene Wenger‘s men will tangle with an Ostersund side which has some impressive European wins under its belt.

Drawing Galatasaray in the second qualifying round, Ostersund won 3-1 on aggregate before beating Luxembourg’s Fola Esch by the same score in the third qualifying round and getting by PAOK on away goals in the playoff.

Ostersund was also a surprise second place team in a group with Hertha Berlin, Zorya Luhansk, and group-winning Athletic Bilbao, and did not lose at home. This won’t be easy for the Gunners, who will hope to pile up away goals.

Midfielder Ken Sema is the player to watch for the Allsvenskan side. Arsenal will not have ineligible Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as well as injured Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny, and Petr Cech.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Atalanta

Christian Pulisic and Michy Batshuayi‘s fast friendship gets a Europa League test from Serie A visitors Atalanta, which has dropped to eighth in Serie A this season after selling Franck Kessie in the offseason. 22-year-old Italian striker Bryan Cristante is the club’s leading scorer, and longtime Fiorentina man Josip Ilic isn’t far behind the youngster.

Full schedule
Red Star Belgrade 0-0 CSKA Moscow — Tuesday

11 a.m. ET
Astana vs. Sporting Lisbon

1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Arsenal
Borussia Dortmund vs. Atalanta
Real Sociedad vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Spartak Moscow vs. Athletic Bilbao
Marseille vs. Braga
Nice vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. AC Milan

3:05 p.m. ET
Napoli vs. RB Leipzig
Lyon vs. Villarreal
Celtic vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
Partizan Belgrade vs. Viktoria Plzen
Copenhagen vs. Atletico Madrid
AEK Athens vs. Dynamo Kyiv
Steaua Bucuresti vs. Lazio

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out: