Arsene Wenger said that he was “astonished” by how good National League side Sutton United were during Arsenal’s 2-0 FA Cup win at Gander Green Lane this evening.
Paul Doswell’s non-league side gave Arsenal a very difficult match, creating chances in both halves, and Wenger was immensely relieved to have won, making it through to the quarter-final against Lincoln City next month.
“Their side was astonishing,” said Wenger in the tunnel immediately after the match. “It is basically division five and they are 17th out of 24.”
Wenger admitted that he was surprised by how good Sutton were, moving the ball quickly and causing Arsenal problems on the artificial grass pitch here. “I was surprised the speed of their game, the fact they never stopped going until the end,” Wenger said. “Compared to 20 years ago these teams are fit now and can play at the pace of the Premier League. Maybe before they collapsed in the last 20 minutes, that is finished.” With questions swirling around about Wenger’s future, he joked that he would not take a job in the National League this summer. “I will never go down there to manage,” he said, “because it is too difficult.”
Doswell said that he was “very, very proud” of his Sutton players for doing better than Southampton did in the last round against a much-changed Arsenal side at St Mary’s.
“I’d have loved to have got a goal for the supporters,” Doswell said. “One of my little goals was to do better than Southampton and we have done that. They lost 5-0 to them and we lost 2-0 so in my mind that’s a moral victory.”
He was also delighted that Arsenal have promised £50,000 towards two new classrooms at Gander Green Lane as Sutton try to rebuild the club with their FA Cup revenues. “Arsenal have been superb and we think they will help us with a classroom,” Doswell said. “They promised us £50,000 and that will buy us two classrooms, an amazing gesture and we are very thankful.”
Doswell was frustrated, though, that a post-match pitch invasion meant that his players could not receive the applause from the fans he thought that they warranted. “It was a shame they couldn’t get the round of applause they deserved,” Doswell said. “It was a real shame people came on the pitch and took that away from them. I saw a few idiots shouting and screaming at Wenger and Arsenal players. You saw an idiot run on the pitch, that was the big moment of his life.” In the final minutes a plastic bottle was thrown at Arsene Wenger but did not hit him.
Doswell was also unimpressed with substitute keeper Wayne Shaw eating a pie on the bench during the second half, seemingly for a bet. “I don’t think it shows us in the best light,” Doswell said.