Sutton United out to stun Arsenal

Non-league side host FA Cup’s most successful team looking to continue giant-killing spree


Afp February 19, 2017
PHOTO COURTESY: ARSENAL

LONDON: A plastic pitch, a vulnerable heavyweight and minnows with giant-killing pedigree could conspire to produce one of the great FA Cup shocks when Arsenal visit non-league Sutton United on Monday.

Arsenal approach the fifth-round tie reeling from Wednesday's 5-1 humiliation by Bayern Munich and with manager Arsene Wenger closer to the exit door than ever before.

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Sutton stunned Coventry City, FA Cup winners 19 months previously, in 1989 and Micky Stephens, who played in that game and is now assistant manager, says they will approach Monday's match with a similar mentality.

"It's very difficult to stop them, but you don't want to give the players too much information," he told AFP this week. "I didn't want to know too much when I played against Coventry. I wanted to know about the weaknesses, but not the strengths of the Coventry players. Everyone will know their strengths. All we can ask of our players is that they do their best."

Sutton currently sit 17th in the fifth tier, 105 places below Arsenal in the English football pyramid, and have reached the fifth round for the first time.

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Their National League counterparts Lincoln City have shown them the way, having beaten Burnley 1-0 on Saturday to become the first team from outside England's top four divisions to reach the last eight since 1914.

Sutton entered the tournament in the first round in November and have already upset fourth-tier Cheltenham Town, third-tier AFC Wimbledon and Championship promotion-chasers Leeds United.

Their down-at-heel Gander Green Lane ground in South London will be at its 5,000 capacity on Monday for a game that will present Arsenal with the unusual challenge of playing on a synthetic 3G pitch.

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While neutrals will relish the thought of Arsenal's handsomely renumerated stars squeezing into Sutton's poky away changing room, Wenger is grateful to have another game to focus on.

"I think the future gives you hope and the next game is part of the future," he said. "I do not want to talk anymore about my personal situation. What is important is the next game. We had a big disappointment, we lost, and we want to win the next game."

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