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Match Preview: Sutton United v Arsenal; Hoping for a Brief Respite

Matchday. It used to be a day that all of us looked forward to. We set aside our differences and supported the club. But today you can cut the tension around the club with a knife. If we lose well, all holy hell will break loose. Win and we have a respite even if it’s briefly.

As the Arsenal head into this 5th round of the FA Cup, a lot of questions surround the team, the manager and the club hierarchy. But to me none of that matters today. Today it’s match day. All my frustrations are put aside at least momentarily because today is match day.

Match day is about supporting the club. Regardless of my feelings about the current direction, I support my club through their endeavors hoping for the best possible outcome. Afterwards given how it goes, then I respond to what I’ve been part of and witnessed.

I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Some will bleat on about time for a change and carry banners calling for the manager’s exit. How that helps today, I don’t know. I don’t argue for anyone not to have the right to cry out for change but on match day, the team needs full-throated support.

It’s easy to say that by all reckoning, the Arsenal should advance to the next round but as we all this Arsenal and right now we are as fragile as an egg shell. What might help, even modestly is a good rollicking. Sutton United is living the FA Cup dream right now and as glorious a story as it seems, sending them crashing out would be a good thing for Arsenal.
It would lift of spirits (even slightly) it might buy a momentary respite for the players. And for the club it gives them another chance at what remains the only realistic piece of silverware they can win.

Wenger has the chance to add to his FA Cup trophy haul. As of right now he sits atop of the pile as the coach/manage to win it the most. The Arsenal and United each sit tied with teams who’ve won it the most with 12 cups apiece. Another run to Wembley would be historic for the club yet again.

But given all that has gone on this week, the club need to put it aside and focus on the reality of this match. Our next match after this is March 4th. That is 12 days away. While some of the “kids” should get a chance, a strong squad needs to feature in today’s match. Put the match to bed early and beyond all doubt.

If this match is a slow plodding affair, it only builds onto the toxic narrative that is floating around the club right now. It’s something the club can ill-afford right now. Wenger has to forgo any of the “respect” of the opponent and just have the squad run at Sutton United.

Forget the stories about the “plastic pitch” and whether or not we’ve practiced on it. Forget the stories about the squalid conditions of the changing room and facilities at the home side’s “stadium.” They don’t matter. Arsenal have the talent and ability to have that matter for about 5 minutes. After that, well class wins out – always.

There no longer are any excuses anyone associated with the team can give to placate anyone should we stumble. Stumbling simply put – is not an option any more for the Arsenal. The die is cast on the overall feelings surrounding the team.

We are in a competition we have done fairly well in under Wenger, whatever comes at the end of the year regarding his tenure at the club is irrelevant today. Him putting out the best the side, the players playing with purpose and energy, and us supporting the team when they take the pitch is all that matters. Everything else is secondary, we can dissect the match afterwards.

I truly hope the squad realizes the opportunity that exists in front of them. I truly hope they understand the historic nature of the run in this competition and rise to the challenge. I’ve personally been disheartened about the ability of this squad to rise to the occasion.

Give us fans what we want – to see our club bathed in glory again. The FA Cup and the Arsenal have a long history together, let’s continue this run and set the bar for the competition for years to come and. . . if only briefly give us a respite from all the acrimony surrounding the club.

Probable Lineups:
Arsenal: Ospina; Jenkinson, Mustafi, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Matiland-Niles, Reine-Adelaide; Lucas, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Giroud

Sutton United: Worner; Amankwaah, Downer, Collins, Spence; Deacon, Eastmond, Bailey, May, Gomis; Biamou

The Manager’s Take (Courtesy

“[The biggest dangers are] first of all the pitch, secondly their enthusiasm and thirdly if we are not ready for a big fight and subconsciously think that they are a non-league team and it is no matter. That will not happen,” the manager said.

“Ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch but it has been accepted and the competition is to deal with what you face. We will face an unusual pitch and we will have to deal with it.

“We will practise inside [ahead of the game] because it is an artificial pitch. It is not the same because it is a dry pitch [at our training ground] and Sutton I have heard have a wet pitch which they water before the game and is quicker.

“It is a bit ‘stop’. The weight on the joints is different and you cannot slide to block every time so it makes football a bit different. The ball comes to you suddenly and accelerates and does not slow down like in a normal game, so we have to get used to the different speed.”

Match Facts (courtesy BBC)

  • This will be the first competitive game between the sides.
  • An Arsenal XI – comprising youth players – did play away to Sutton in a pre-season friendly in July 2013, winning 4-3. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi featured for the visitors.
  • The Gunners have reached the fifth round for the seventh successive season.
  • Arsenal have won 17 of their last 19 matches in the FA Cup (D1, L1).
  • Their last away defeat in the FA Cup came in February 2012, when they were beaten 2-0 at Sunderland.
  • Arsenal have only lost one FA Cup tie against a non-Premier League club under Arsene Wenger – that was their defeat to Blackburn, of the Championship, in the fifth round in 2013.
  • Wenger’s only game against a non-league side came in the fourth round in 2003, when Arsenal beat Conference opponents Farnborough 5-1. The Gunners were drawn away but the match was switched to Highbury.

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