Arsenal bid to keep their Europa League campaign alive tonight, when they travel to Sweden to face Ostersunds FK – the lowest-ranked club currently competing in a European football tournament. The Gunners have been responsible for some huge headlines over the last few weeks, but what do we know about their modest Swedish opponents?
While Arsenal are one of football’s oldest and most prestigious clubs, Ostersunds are still very much in their infancy. Founded in 1996 – exactly 110 years after Arsenal were founded, Ostersunds FK were first created due to a merger of a number of smaller teams from their region in central Sweden.
First plying their trade in the Swedish second division, Ostersunds gradually climbed their way up the leagues, before gaining promotion to the Allsvenskan (top-flight) in 2015. The succeeded in finishing 8th during their first season in the competition, and improved on that at the end of the 2017 season with a 5th placed finish.
Current manager Graham Potter has been at the helm of the club since 2011, making his managerial debut in the fourth tier of Swedish football. A veteran of English league football, Potter enjoyed a 13 year career as a full-back, appearing for the likes of Southampton, West Brom, and York City. The 42-year-old was originally signed to a 3-year contract by Ostersunds, but having led the club to back-to-back promotions between 2011 and 2013, Potter was granted a lucrative contract extension, and is now viewed as one of the most progressive managers in Swedish football. Potter led Ostersunds to a Swedish Cup victory in April 2017 – delivering the club their first ever trophy, and a pathway to the qualifying rounds of this year’s Europa League.
Potter isn’t Ostersunds only British link however. In 2007, director of football Daniel Kindberg struck up a deal with Roberto Martinez and Graeme Jones to begin an association with Swansea City. They have since loaned a number of Swansea youth players as well as other young English hopefuls that had somewhat slipped through the cracks in their home country. In fact, Ostersunds currently have two talented English players in their squad, with forward Jamie Hopcutt and midfielder Curtis Edwards both making regular appearances this season.
Ostersund’s current danger man is Swedish/Iranian striker Saman Ghoddos, who was brought in for the club’s debut season in the Allsvenskan in 2016. Ghaddos scored 20 goals during the 2017 season, including four in the Europa League, helping Ostersunds beat the likes of Zorya Luhansk, Hertha Berlin, PAOK, and Galatasaray.
Arsenal are expected to win tonight’s match comfortably, but be sure to keep Ostersunds FK in mind. The Swedish minnows look to have a bright future ahead of them.