Arsene Wenger accused his Arsenal team of complacency and a lack of focus after they risked an embarrassing elimination from the Europa League throughout their 2-1 home defeat by Ostersund.
The manager also insisted that despite concerns surrounding Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi, who were substituted late on, both will be fit for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester City.
Having built a convincing 3-0 lead during the away leg at their little-known Swedish opponents, Wenger named an under-strength team in preparation for Sunday’s fixture at Wembley and watched his team struggle and fall two goals down by half-time.
Of his leading players only Hector Bellerin and Wilshere started as an own goal from Calum Chambers and Ken Sema’s finish, both of which came within 70 first-half seconds, betrayed a lack of composure.
Only after Sead Kolasinac’s fine second-half strike did the pressure that had been building begin to ease, and Wenger said: “We were not at the races in the first half.
“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.
“We prepared properly but you have external circumstances. The fact that we won 3-0 (in the away leg), we have another big game on Sunday, that people subconsciously think you just have to turn up to win: football doesn’t work like that.
“It’s what you see in the FA Cup: you can be in trouble every time you’re not 100 per cent focused. Against Nottingham Forest we were beaten, because we were not at the level that was demanded.”
Asked about Iwobi and then Wilshere, Wenger responded: “Iwobi just had cramp. Wilshere’s not injured. He was OK.”
Ostersund manager Graham Potter, from England, has further enhanced his reputation despite his team missing out on the Europa League’s last 16.
“I’m incredibly proud of the performance,” he said.
“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.
“There are some good teams in Sweden, good players and good coaches. I’d like to think we can inspire other Swedish teams to go out in Europe and show what they’re about.
“We’ve got a Swedish Cup match on Monday, so it’s back down to earth, back to reality.”
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