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No banana skin – and no fireworks: Arsenal hurdle Sutton cup challenge

Gunners find 'division five' team harder to break down than expected

20 February, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Arsene Wenger is looking to become the FA Cup’s most successful manager by trying to win it for a seventh time

FA CUP FIFTH ROUND
Sutton United 0, Arsenal 2

ARSENAL stopped at just two against non-league Sutton. Maybe the ruthless streak they lacked tonight (Monday) was charitable, maybe it was the plastic pitch, maybe the “division five team”, as Arsene Wenger called them, were better than expected.

Tight parking options in Sutton this evening

Whatever the explanation for a goalless last half hour, the Gunners must hope it doesn’t point to a deficiency in attack. The ball kept running away from Alex Iwobi, Lucas Perez lost his way, while Theo Walcott was often brushed off by defenders who only train twice a week and looked to be running out of steam. As Sutton tired, Arsenal could have had five or six goals.

You only need to win a cup match by one goal, of course, but they will need to be clinical if they really are to claim a third FA Cup success in four years. Lincoln may be an appealing task in the quarter-finals but the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs lie in wait before Arsene Wenger can dream about lifting the trophy for a record seventh time.

Smokebombs brought misty scenes to Gander Green Lane

On the artificial grass at Gander Green Lane, Arsenal were, however, able to puncture the endless hype around the romance of the cup in the run-up to this fairytale fixture with a goal in each half. Neither were particularly spectacular but nevertheless showed up the gulf between the two clubs through pace and precision. Perez netted the first, bursting in from the right flank before flashing in a cross-shot, with Walcott’s dash into the box confusing the keeper without adding a touch.

Walcott scored the second in the 55th minute, capping a passing move by shooting into an exposed goal with his 100th strike for Arsenal. But that was your lot. Perez twice ran clear and tried to find Walcott but the Arsenal forward was slower to the ball than the Sutton defence.

Young Sutton fans

The same happened when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had sped away from the fatigued defenders. The home team, however, were to come closer to getting the next goal, crashing the crossbar with a 25-yard shot from Rory Deacon, who was once an Arsenal youth player before dropping down the divisions.

Alexis Sanchez came on and flitted around. In a moment of showboating he tried to chip in a third goal from a tight angle. Even the Chilean, though, could not add to the scoreline despite the generous gaps now emerging in the Sutton backline, members of which were struggling with cramp.

“We did the job,” said Wenger afterwards. “It’s very difficult on this pitch and it wasn’t an easy game at all. We have to give them credit, every little technical mistake we made they took advantage.”

Asked whether Sutton had been better than he had expected, he told the BBC: “Honestly, yes, they are basically division five and when I arrived here 20 years ago, they were not as fit as this in division five. If we were not mentally ready tonight, I don’t think we would have gone through.”

ARSENAL: Ospina – Gabriel, Monreal, Holding, Mustafi – Xhaka, Elneny (Oxlade-Chamberlain HT), Reine-Adelaide (Maitland-Niles 73), Iwobi (Sanchez 73), Walcott – Lucas Perez
SUBS NOT USED: Debuchy, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Martinez

Attendance: 5,400

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