LONDON, United Kingdom, Feb 23 – Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitted his side were poor in Thursday’s 2-1 Europa League defeat to Ostersunds, but was glad to see them qualify nonetheless.
Hosam Aiesh and Ken Sema found the net in the 22nd and 23rd minutes, both assisted by Saman Ghoddos, to put the Gunners in trouble despite their 3-0 aggregate lead from the first leg, before Sead Kolasinac gave them some breathing room early in the second half.
“We were not at the races in the first half,” Wenger said. “We were in trouble because we were complacent and not focused. We were open every time we lost the ball and had no ideas with the ball. That’s why we were in trouble.
“In the second half, it was much better. Our energy was high and our domination as consistent. Overall we responded very well. We did the job to qualify. That’s what you have to keep from the night and that’s it.”
“We prepared properly, in a serious way, but you have external circumstances. The fact that we won the first leg 3-0, the fact that we have another big game on Sunday (League Cup final against Manchester City), the fact that people subconsciously think they just have to turn up to win the game.
“Football doesn’t work like that. We played against a good side and it’s what you see in the FA Cup. You can be in trouble every time you’re not 100 percent focused. I felt in the first half the whole team was not at the level you expect. It was not easy for the defenders because we lost the ball too early and we didn’t’ screen well when we lost the ball.”
Jack Wilshere was more critical, saying that they “were nowhere near it, especially in the first half”.
“We weren’t good enough,” Wilshere told BT Sport. “To be honest, we did improve in the second half but it still wasn’t good enough.
“We’re through and that’s all that counts, so we will see who we get in the draw. We’ve a big game to come on Sunday too, so we can focus on that.
“But when you’re 3-0 up in a two-legged tie you still have to go again – it was only half-time. Maybe we underestimated them a little bit, but the main thing is we’re through.”