Arsenal largely avoided a tough opponent - at least, on paper - earlier today when they were drawn with Swedish club Östersunds FK in the last 32 of the Europa League. Östersunds will host the first leg on February 15th, with the return match at The Emirates on February 22nd.
While many are finding out for the first time today about this club and its existence, their placement in the last 32 is no fluke. Östersunds earned promotion to the Europa League group stage by besting Turkish giants Galatasaray over a two-leg qualifier, and then dropping just a singular match out of six in their group stage that contained Athletic Bilbao, Hertha Berlin, and Luxembourg club Fola Esch.
Much has been made about the lack of history Östersunds possesses, coming into existence in their current structure in October 1996 - the same month Arsene Wenger took over Arsenal. The most northern-located club in the Allsvenskan, Östersunds was as far back as the Swedish fourth division as recently as 2011. Consecutive first place finishes in the fourth and third divisions earned them a promotion to the Superettan in 2013, which they earned qualification to the highest level of football in Sweden after a mere three years.
From there they’ve finished 8th and 5th in their two seasons in the Allsvenskan, but it was their domestic cup conquest last season that gave them entrance to the Europa League’s second qualifying round and their subsequent victory over Galatasaray.
While many will write off their chances versus Arsenal, expect Östersunds to be ready and up for the challenge.