Sutton United 0 – 2 Arsenal
A nation held its breath and urged a hearty effort from the underdogs. And as with Yeovil Town, Farnborough and two or three others before them, Sutton United found Arsenal to be no fools in this situation.
Plucky Little Sutton’s efforts can’t be faulted, which is more than I can say for Collins’ tackle on Alex Iwobi. It was a typical non-league tackle; tough, uncompromising and dangerous. It was also a throwback to the days when men were men and the talented players generally had their careers ended early. On a 3G pitch, it was somehow appropriate as well; every time the ball went toward the touchline, I waited for the familiar metallic clink of the link fence which usually surrounds the pitch.
I did think, however, that like Jack Grealish of Villa, wearing smaller shin pads with socks partially down is an open invitation to such tackles. It doesn’t make the tackle any more welcome but lessons to be learned, etc.
As for Arsenal, it was the performance of a team which hadn’t played together for a month. Rusty for the first twenty minutes; flashes of what might happen when it came together, were accompanied by passing for passing’s sake at times. Professional because it was all about keeping the ball and making Sutton run. In the end, Arsenal’s fitness told with opportunities to score more than two, coming at the end of the game.
Lucas Perez Still Won’t Start At Anfield
Lucas Perez opener had a touch of fortune about it. Theo Walcott’s air backheel meant the ball travelled unencumbered into the back of the net. It was a cross, no doubt about it, but who cares? It was hardly the superb finish Martin and Al were gushing about at half-time.
And it was bound to happen, given the comments attributed to his Mr20% before the game. I loved the searing honesty of linking his client to a club whom he admitted, he’d had no contact with; you’ve got my number, why don’t you use it. An undertone of desperation in his comments, if you ask me. He’ll still be on the bench next weekend though. Or the weekend after, whenever it is; I’ve lost track of time this morning.
The second inevitably came from captain for the night, Theo Walcott. A hundred for the club in 370 appearances, which for a winger isn’t a bad return. But 370 appearances in ten years underlines how much football he has missed through injury. You’d expect a player who is/was a first team regular to be another 80-100 games further on at this point.
As for the rest of the night, I’m not losing any sleep over whether it was a good match or bad; it was a win. Functional football with half the side changed from the debacle in Munich and played on a 3G pitch. You could see elements of why artificial surfaces died out in the 80s. If you thought the ball ran away from the players last night, it was a lot worse at Kenilworth Road and Loftus Road, I can assure you. Boundary Park as well, although Oldham was – and may well still be – the coldest football ground in England which was more of a concern.
No Risk, No Reward
Unsurprisingly, Alexis made an appearance. Not for him a wussy fortnight off, he just wants to play. And he did, for about twenty minutes. Arsène said afterwards that he did not “think it was a risk” to use the Chilean although the centre back who marked him undermined Wenger’s theory that “it is the guy who does not have good co-ordination, who is heavy on his feet, who is in trouble”. He was a big old unit.
We’re through to the quarter-finals and it’s tempting to put last four in there. Someone will no doubt say, “Oh no, Burnley fans thought that and look what happened to them”. And? It is going to stop me thinking that, at home, we ought to win more comfortably than at Sincil Bank, is it? We’re The Arsenal, surely we don’t hold with being worried about tempting fate in such fixtures? The manager and his staff, the players; they can be professional, I’m a bloody supporter.
Although using The Arsenal is something which is likely to fade over time. The prefix harked back to a time when the club would have remembered a pennant to mark Sutton’s biggest game. Small things which push the class of the club further into history. Well, I take that back unreservedly and apologise to the directors.
— Lizi Adams (@orangebannister) February 20, 2017
On the flip side, I don’t give a rat’s arsenal about the state of the dressing room; it was messy and dirty, as you would expect. Was it damaged deliberately? No. So to the muppets who think it’s an issue for the back pages or social media, get a life.
And having been thwarted by the FA in giving their gate receipts to Sutton, let’s commend Arsenal for donating £50k for Sutton to use in their community projects. It’s a two-way street in criticising the club for not even thinking of something; give them some credit when it’s due.
Just when you thought it was a true non-league football night…
‘Banter’ staged by the Sun. Not sure it gets worse. pic.twitter.com/ffOohIMfjy
— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) February 20, 2017
Finally, TImes of our Lives has reached 1992. The playlist is set fair, ready for your delectation here.