Arsene Wenger has allayed fears with regards to potential injuries to Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi as Arsenal limped into the last 16 of the Europa League on aggregate after a shock loss to Swedish minnows Ostersunds at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday (22 February).
Despite the Gunners going into the game with a 3-0 lead, the French coach named a strong side with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi starting the game. And Wenger’s decision to not take the Swedish minnows lightly paid off as they dominated proceedings in the first-half and reduced the deficit to 3-2 at the interval.
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Arsenal responded early in the second-half with a goal from Sead Kolasinac, but were unable to find the equaliser despite Danny Welbeck fashioning three great chances for himself and managed to limp home with a 4-2 aggregate win. However, their performance is unlikely to boost confidence going into the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday (25 January).
Wilshere was withdrawn after 76 minutes and replaced by Joe Willock, but the manager confirmed after the game that there was no injury concern. The England international will be part of the squad for the final, but could lose his place in the starting XI to the fit again Aaron Ramsey.
Iwobi, on the other hand, played the entire 90 minutes, but was replaced during added time by Reiss Nelson. It looked like he had suffered a late injury. Wenger, however, allayed fears and confirmed that it was just a cramp.
“He’s not injured, no. He was OK,” Wenger said of Wilshere after the game against Ostersunds, as quoted on Arsenal’s official site.
“He just had cramp,” the French coach added talking about Iwobi.
Wenger, meanwhile, ripped into the team following the game and criticised them for being complacent in the first-half when they were dominated by the Swedish side. The Gunners’ boss admitted that his team lacked ideas even in possession and believes the only positive of the night was that they secured progress to the last 16 stage of the Europa League.
“In the first half we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble,” Wenger said post the 2-1 loss, as quoted on the club’s official site.
“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”