We are back in Emirates FA Cup action against Sutton United on Monday and ahead of the game, Chris Harris spoke to Arsene Wenger to preview the match.
“It would be absolutely unexplainable and inexcusable not to take the game seriously.” - Arsene Wenger
Bayern 5-1 Arsenal. It’s the kind of result that consumes everyone who cares about this club.
The fans, obviously. The players too, who left Munich in silence after losing their grip on a trophy they desperately wanted. And the manager, of course.
You don’t serve a club for 20 years without caring deeply, and Arsene Wenger has been burning the candle at both ends while he dwells on Wednesday night’s events.
“Of course you lose sleep,” he told Arsenal Player. “But what’s most important is not your state. You worry about the club, the team, the fans and the people who love the club. You’re ready to sacrifice what you feel.”
What do you do next as a fan, a player or a manager? The only thing you can do - get ready for the next game.
“That’s what our job is about - we want to show that we can deal with a disappointment like that, focus on our next game and rebuild our strengths,” said Wenger. “Focus on the next one, even if you never forget.”
‘THE ULTIMATE CUP TIE’
The next one is a rarity - non-league opposition in the Emirates FA Cup.
The contrast between Allianz Arena and Gander Green Lane could not be starker, but that’s where our recovery must begin. Sutton United beat Leeds United to land a plum home draw with the 12-times winners and, to coin a well-worn phrase, this is what the cup is all about.
“It’s the ultimate cup tie,” said Wenger. “You face always tricky games, and on top of that, we play on a special [artificial] pitch. There are all the ingredients to make the game very interesting, but we have a good opportunity in the FA Cup and we of course want to take it, no matter what happened a few days before.”
The football world - bar our fans - will be willing on the National League side, who were the last non-league team to beat a top-flight side at home in this competition when Coventry City succumbed in 1989.
“We are warned,” admitted the boss. “In the FA Cup, of course everybody supports the smaller team. That’s part of the charm of the FA Cup as well and we have to deal with that and deal with the enthusiasm of their fans and players.”
MADE FOR MIDFIELD
There’s a 12-day gap between the Sutton game and our trip to Liverpool, but that won’t influence Wenger’s FA Cup selection. Expect plenty of experience and a smattering of youth, including those who starred at Southampton in the fourth round.
|Arsenal: Cazorla (plantaris), Ramsey (calf), Koscielny (thigh)
Sutton: Ben Jefford, Jack Jebb and Craig Dundas (all cup-tied)
Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles took their chance at St Mary’s and the latter demonstrated that midfield is his stronger suit after a less-convincing stint at right back in the third round.
“His best position is midfield in the future,” agreed Wenger. “He’s a player who likes to have the ball, he likes to be involved always, he has a good engine and he’s more suited to centre midfield than to right back, although I think he can play both. It looks a bit more natural for him in midfield.
“Ainsley and Jeff will certainly be in the squad or play, yes. Overall, 99 per cent will be experienced players.”
‘TURN UP ON THE DAY OR YOU’RE OUT’
Whoever plays, the boss won’t accept anything less than full commitment despite the chasm that exists between us and Sutton.
The National League side have lost their last three games - all away from home - but they’ve been imperious on their artificial pitch, winning six and drawing three of their last nine at Gander Green Lane.
Leeds left with their tails between their legs and Wenger knows we can’t risk an even more seismic shock.
“Sutton played very well against Leeds,” he said. “They did it in a convincing way and overall we have to be warned that that game should put us on alert.
“The football is a bit different on an artificial pitch, so it gives them a little advantage. We have to prepare, to adapt, and to play our game, because the disadvantage of the pitch is that we are not used to it. The advantage is that it is a flat pitch and that you can pass the ball well.
“For us, it would be absolutely unexplainable and inexcusable not to take the game seriously. It’s a cup game and you know you have to turn up on the day or you’re out.
“I believe that if you have any ambition, if you play for Arsenal Football Club, you have to take every game seriously.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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