Sunday, December 10, 2023

Sutton United 0-2 Arsenal: We won

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Arsenal experienced glorious victory once again as the mighty Sutton United were put to the sword by the brave, lionhearted underdogs in red and white. Goals from Lucas Perez and Theodore P Walcott were enough to put us through to the quarter-finals where our plucky chaps will have to take on yet another footballing behemoth in the shape of Lincoln City.

In seriousness, it was a more difficult night that people had expected. Sutton were most certainly up for the cup, and we arrived to play on the plastic pitch in poor form and with confidence and belief fairly low, it’s true to say. I thought we struggled with the surface for most of the night, I’m assuming that’s what caused so many heavy, clumsy touches, but players were not on the same wavelength either. Passes went astray far more than they should have.

It was intense, but not much of a game. More a fixture to endure that enjoy, but not long before the half-hour mark we were ahead. Granit Xhaka sent Lucas Perez down the right, he cut inside and put in a low cross which Walcott tried to get on the end of. He missed but his effort was enough to distract the goalkeeper for the ball to continue it’s merry way into the far corner of the net.

It was the Spaniard’s 7th goal of the season from just 9 starts, and can we just play him a bit more now, please? Stories emerged yesterday that he is unhappy at the club, and you couldn’t blame him if he was, even if his agent denied telling an Italian website the 28 year old wanted to leave at all costs.

David Ospina decided he wasn’t involved enough so passed the ball straight to a Sutton player late in the first half, luckily the lad shot wide. The Colombian made fantastic saves in Munich last week, but was Señor Mucho-Flappo last night, remaining unconvincing on crosses and corners throughout.

Early in the second half we doubled the lead, Theo Walcott getting his 100th Arsenal goal when a Nacho Monreal cross fell for him in the area. He finished with his left foot, and that was that in terms of the goalscoring for the night.

Sutton had a go in fairness to them, and former Arsenal youth player Roarie Deacon was the shining star for the home side. He was involved in almost everything good they did, and almost got one back when a stinging drive smashed back off the crossbar with Ospina beaten all ends up, and then all ends the other way around, and then all ends back the other way again.

Then one of their lads tried to headbutt Oxlade-Chamberlain as he raced past him, the most Sunday League thing I have ever seen at this level of the game, and fair play it was pretty hilarious:

We put on Alexis for a run-around, but we never really looked like scoring any more goals. I think the keeper made a save from Ox at one point, and that was pretty much that. Not terribly exciting, perhaps not as high scoring as people might have thought, but afterwards Arsene Wenger admitted he was a bit surprised at how good Sutton were:

Yes, they were. It’s basically division five and when I arrived here 20 years ago, in division five they were not as fit as they are today. They didn’t drop physically at all. You could expect that they would drop more physically but they remained absolutely focused and organised and had a huge desire in their game. If we were not mentally prepared we would not have gone through today.

And look, fair play to them for that, and you could see it was a night that meant a lot to the football club. Arsenal apparently donated £50,000 to them post-game to a) help clean up the dressing rooms and b) for them to invest in community projects, so fair play for doing our bit in that regard. It wasn’t a requirement, it was a great gesture from us.

The old ‘magic of the cup’ bluster was hard to stomach at times though. How everyone laughed at the big keeper fella eating a pie on the sidelines until it was pointed out that some betting firm had put odds on it. Was he sticking it to the gambling man, or were there some crafty fivers put down on that happening?

Also, while I think we all love committed football, if something is a foul it’s a foul, regardless of how one team is lower in stature than the other, or hosting a once in a lifetime cup tie. When Alexis Sanchez was pushed over, it was a yellow card, not an excuse for the commentators to laugh or for the referee to let him away with it when he’d booked Arsenal players for less.

As for this challenge on Alex Iwobi:

I think it was Graeme le Saux on co-commentary who said it was a ‘proper tackle’ but also that ‘You wouldn’t get away with that in the Premier League’. You shouldn’t get get away with it at this level either. It was a potential leg-breaker, not a ‘proper tackle’, and it was a Premier League referee in charge of the game who should have done better there, because at the very, very least it was a booking. Not a clip to chuckle over at half-time as ‘soft Arsenal’ get kicked again.

So, while I hope Sutton had a nice night, I’m not buying into all the coverage. We beat a team who tried hard but who were sponsored by The Sun, and there isn’t a thing on earth that would make me onside with anyone who is sponsored by them. I understand why they did it, and hopefully the money will come in handy, but you know, it’s The Sun, and the only thing you can say about The Sun is that it should be sent in a rocket and incinerated on the sun itself.

So, that’s that for football for a little while. Because we were supposed to play Southampton in the Premier League this weekend the game is postponed because they’re in the EFL Cup final. Our next match is March 4th, away at Anfield, a massive game for both sides, and after that it’s Bayern Munich. At least we should be nice and fresh for that.

Right, James and I will be here later with an Arsecast Extra. If you have any questions, please send to both @gunnerblog and @arseblog with the hashtag #arsecastextra. We should have that for you before lunchtime.

Until then.

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