Date: 20th February 2017 at 11:52am
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Arsenal – and Arsene Wenger in particular – look to put another testing week or so behind us as attention turns to the FA Cup fifth round meeting at Sutton United this evening.

The FA Cup is realistically Arsenal’s final hope of silverware this season as the gap to Premier League leaders Chelsea is too great and the hopes of overturning the Champions League deficit against Bayern Munich are somewhere between slim and none!

Sutton quite literally have nothing to lose but all to gain with Arsenal’s season in danger of – all too familiar really – falling apart around mid-late February into early March time. Another non-league side Lincoln – after they beat Burnley – await the winners in the quarter-finals.

Arsenal would be the expected victor but Wenger’s taking nothing for granted. Playing on an artificial pitch at Gander Green Lane isn’t going to make this tie any easier and the has admitted playing on a ‘normal pitch’ would have been preferred but we play the hand we’ve been dealt.

He told

‘[The biggest dangers are] first of all the pitch, secondly their enthusiasm and thirdly if we are not ready for a big fight and subconsciously think that they are a non-league team and it is no matter. That will not happen. Ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch but it has been accepted and the competition is to deal with what you face. We will face an unusual pitch and we will have to deal with it.’


‘We will practise inside [ahead of the game] because it is an artificial pitch. It is not the same because it is a dry pitch [at our training ground] and Sutton I have heard have a wet pitch which they water before the game and is quicker. It is a bit ‘stop`. The weight on the joints is different and you cannot slide to block every time so it makes football a bit different. The ball comes to you suddenly and accelerates and does not slow down like in a normal game, so we have to get used to the different speed.’

Should Arsenal slip to a shock defeat the chances are Wenger could well have taken charge of his final FA Cup tie for the Gunners with his future still unclear? But the boss will continue his managerial career into next season – and beyond – with that much made clear.

Reflecting on another difficult week he said – in another interview on – that Bayern defeat hurt like every other defeat he’s suffered.

‘I’m a competitor. If I speak with my neighbour at six or seven, I was already competing for everything. I was born like that. When I lose games, of course it’s difficult to take. Every defeat is harder. I can never transmit to you my feelings about defeats. A player when I managed for the first time at 33 or 34 said that after our first defeat I threw up. Whether you are young or old, every defeat hurts.’

However, Wenger added his positive nature would see him fightback and carry on both for the rest of the season with Arsenal and in the future wherever that may be.

‘I`m a positive person. I am a fighter, somewhere – you don’t stay so long in this job otherwise. I’ve always seen the future in a positive way. I do not expect too much from outside, I expect more from me inside. The expectation level gets higher. The fight doesn’t get higher. The fight is always tough. When you hate defeat like I hate defeat, it’s always tough. I’m determined to always fight back.’

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