After playing (and getting humiliated) against German giants Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in the Champions League in the previous match, it doesn’t get much different to playing non league Sutton United at Gander Green Lane. In what could have been the biggest upset of all time on a questionable pitch I wasn’t really looking forward to the game!
The game was something special though and shows what the FA Cup is all about. In what was an actual David v Goliath match everyone watching apart from Arsenal fans wanted the underdog to win. The winner would also face non league Lincoln City at home in the quarters so there was a real chance to go to Wembley. With Wenger already under pressure as well would this game define his season?
I was very interested to see what the team selection would be and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it. Wenger put out a very strong team showing that he was taking it seriously and showing Sutton some respect. Walcott captained the side and he was still searching for his 100th goal for the club. What a game to do it in but would he do it?
Big money summer signings Mustafi, Xhaka and Lucas Perez (who rightfully finally started a game) all started and Alexis Sanchez was on the bench just in case and what a moment that would be – I just couldn’t imagine him along with the other players in the small dressing room!
Sutton weren’t to be taken lightly as our team selection showed having beaten Leeds United (my step dad’s team) in the previous round and they started off very well and were more than a match for us.
I think the pitch was a main factor as our players had to get used to it quickly and our usual passing game wasn’t working. Sutton could have had a penalty when former Arsenal Youngster Craig Eastmond fell next to Monreal but it was rightfully not given. It was a real wake up call for us though.
This decision did seem to get us going as soon after we showed our difference in quality after Xhaka’s pass found Lucas Perez who then fired a low drive past their goalie (not their reserve goalie) with Walcott looking but not getting a touch.
The goal gave us much needed confidence as we looked to add another. Walcott and Iwobi had chances but Sutton admirably held on. They could have even scored themselves when Ospina gave me a heart attack by passing the ball straight to one of their players but fortunately he wasted the chance and it stayed 1-0 until half time.
In the second half Sutton were punished for not taking their chances as we added a second after 10 minutes. After a good move Monreal’s cross found Walcott at the far post who easily steered it in to get his 100th goal for the club.
This goal made Sutton really go for it and they were nearly rewarded with just over 30 minutes to go. They had a few chances but their best came from another ex Arsenal youngster, Roarie Deacon, who rattled the crossbar after a sensational effort from 25 yards out in what would have been a memorable moment for them. Deacon did eventually go on to be awarded man of the match from BBC and he fully deserved it as he was dangerous throughout and showed his extra quality and why he had potential when he was younger.
This woke us up again and Wenger responded by putting on Alexis Sanchez with 20 minutes left showing that we needed to put the game to bed. It was a bit embarrassing considering we were 105 positions above them in the English football pyramid but it was a special moment for them to have a player of his status come on. He immediately added some more energy and class but was not needed in the end as Sutton tired. This was particularly shown when substitute Chamberlain virtually ran down their whole left wing with one of their defenders trying to stop him by fake head butting!
So it ended 2-0 to us but it was far from convincing and both teams should have scored more. A lot of credit has to go to Sutton who gave us a good game but we should have won more comfortably. We got the win though which was the most important thing and it was much needed for Wenger who has received a lot of criticism recently.
Perhaps the best moment of the match was when their big reserve goalie, Wayne Shaw, (who is now famous) was seen eating a pie on the bench. He was also drinking in the bar at half time and you just don’t see or hear about in football anymore. He has now resigned today as it was found he made a bet about eating a pie during the game!
So we now face a home tie against Lincoln in the next round which a team like us should easily be winning and then Wembley awaits. There are other big teams still in the competition though including Chelsea, Spurs, Man City and Man United, so it will probably be tough for us to win the whole thing. If we do win it though it will be a record 13th FA Cup for Arsenal and would be a good way for Wenger to end.
We now have a bit of a break now and we don’t play next weekend as Southampton are in the EFL Cup final. So we next face Liverpool in the league in two weekends time which will be a massive game for us in terms of a top four finish.
But will we win the FA Cup? Will it be enough for us if we do? Will Wenger end this season if we do?