On Monday night Arsenal took on Sutton United, a side over 100 places below them in the football pyramid, looking to avoid a miraculous upset and to get back to winning after a 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich. Despite a few awkward moments, the Gunners eventually ran out 2-0 winners. Here are four things we learned.
1) Arsenal are struggling
Yes, this is the FA Cup, and yes, it is no doubt hard to demonstrate the same application against a side four divisions below, but it is evident that Arsenal are struggling. It is understandable that confidence is low, and the very basics seemed, at times, difficult for a number of players still shook after their experience in Munich. It seemed a task for the team just to get through the 90 minutes and they will be hoping for a successful international break to reset their confidence and skill levels.
2) The win and clean sheet was important
The victory may have been an inevitability, but what was important was to finish the tie unscathed. Sutton had their chances to put a rocked Arsenal side under significant pressure, but they ultimately came to nothing and a clean sheet helped to limit any further damage to an already vulnerable confidence. In fairness to the Gunners, they maintained their professionalism and applied themselves throughout and can almost certainly look forward to a third trip to Wembley in four years.
3) Maitland-Niles looks a very good player
Just like the ‘Wenger Out’ campaign is not based solely upon a dreadful night in Munich, observing that Maitland-Niles appears to have a lot of very promising attributes cannot be simply made after only 20 minutes against non-league opposition. However, the composure, tenacity and all-round maturity the young midfielder demonstrates each time he steps on the pitch for Arsenal continues to impress. He really does look like a player that can push on into the Arsenal first-team next season.
4) Wenger appreciates romance of FA Cup
In all honesty, Arsenal would have won this game without any of their first XI in the squad. The gulf in class would have told in the end and Sutton would have been knocked out by a team assembled of players not held in the highest regard. Instead, Wenger started eight international regulars and even chose to throw on the world-class Alexis Sanchez. Supporters have mused that this was an unnecessary risk, but Wenger will have been aware what this would have meant to the opposition and it was a gamble that paid off. Fair play.
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