Arsenal fan Ronald Mukiibi looks forward to confronting Arsène Wenger
Arsenal fan Ronald Mukiibi looks forward to confronting Arsène Wenger - America News

Arsenal fan Ronald Mukiibi looks forward to confronting Arsène Wenger

  • 4 month ago

It is a measure of how far Ostersund have come that the Swedish side who will face Arsenal in the last 32 of the Europa League were formed a month after Arsène Wenger’s arrival in north London.

But having already eliminated Galatasaray and Hertha Berlin on their way to this stage of the competition under English manager Graham Potter, a visit to the Emirates Stadium will also represent an opportunity for defender Ronald Mukiibi to get a few questions off his chest.

A lifelong Arsenal fan who joined Ostersund on a permanent deal last summer as the club completed their astonishing rise from Sweden’s fourth division to the top-ranked Allsvenska in just six seasons, the 26-year-old intends to use the opportunity to speak to Wenger about some of the Frenchman’s team selections that have left Arsenal trailing Premier League leaders Manchester City by 17 points before the halfway point of the season.

“I want to exchange a few words with Wenger and ask him why he sets his team up as he does. That would be fun,” Mukiibi told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “I want to talk with him about why he makes certain decisions. Maybe we can talk about my own future during the conversation? If I have a good match then...”

Asked if he was in favour of Wenger standing down after more than 20 years in the hotseat, he added: “No, he can stay. But I still need to talk to him about those starting line-ups.”

Potter, who had spells as a player at Birmingham, West Brom, Stoke, Southampton and York before being handed his opportunity in Sweden six years ago, led Ostersund to the Swedish Cup last year and has been linked with a potential return to English football one day. Yet even he would have had to pinch himself when they were paired with Arsenal, with Mukiibi admitting he could not believe his eyes.

“I started laughing to myself. I sent messages to the guys while just yelling out. It’s sick,” he said. “We will play the team I’ve followed for my whole life. Who could have predicted it? It’s a dream. It’s about hitting your targets as a football player. I had hoped to play for Arsenal at the Emirates, but now I can play against them in the same stadium. Life works in mysterious ways.”

With the first leg taking place in Sweden on 15 February before the return leg a week later, Mukiibi is confident his side are capable of coming away with a lead despite the tie taking place several weeks before the start of the new domestic season.

“We are going there to try and win the match and to enjoy the experience,” he said. “We’ve achieved this for Ostersund and for all of Sweden. I don’t even want to take a break over the winter – I want to work out all the time!

“In my opinion we’re facing one of the best teams in the world, but we’ve played our best matches against the strongest opposition. Graham Potter can probably find some weaknesses in Arsenal and at home we are strong.”

The draw also saw Celtic paired with Zenit St Petersburg after Brendan Rodgers’ side finished third in their Champions League group, with the first leg in Glasgow on 15 February and the Russian side due to host the second leg a week later.