This match at Gander Green Lane will be a massive occasion for Sutton United. Their 3G pitch is something that Arsenal will need to overcome quickly or a cupset will loom in their direction.
Sutton will have a near full squad available for this game with former Gunner, Craig Eastmond returning to the fold, after a three match suspension. Craig Dundas, Jack Jebb and Ben Jefford are all ineligible as a result of being cup tied.
Arsenal are expecting to be without Laurent Koscielny after he picked up a hamstring injury against Bayern Munich.
Sutton will be confident of a cupset given their impressive home record since November with just one defeat. All they need to do is defend as strong as they have done to get this far then attack on the counter.
After an embarrassing 5-1 defeat in Munich, a result here is vital with no games till the 4th March. Arsene Wenger has to play a strong team if they’re to have a chance of winning. Forget the traditional approach of blooding youngsters for this sort of tie because this difficult 3G pitch needs strong players NOT a bunch of inexperienced youth (no disrespect), if Arsenal are to progress!!!
Wenger currently only has three players, who have scored in the FA Cup fifth round for the North London side. Out of the first team squad, only; Oliver Giroud, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Theo Walcott have got goals at this stage of the cup.
Beneficial history for Arsenal?
Luckily Arsenal got two players who have already been to the ground before. Alex Iwobi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were part of an Arsenal XI that played on the pitch in July 2013.
Those two NEED to start because their knowledge will be of upmost importance to the other Gunners. With Koscielny absent, leaders need to emerge in the visitors and for this occasion, Iwobi and Maitland-Niles need to step up and act like captains for those unused to 3G pitches.
The 3G pitch surely makes Sutton favourites to progress. Arsenal will be tough opposition but are reeling from Wednesday’s shambles in Europe so a strong lineup will be key for the visitors.
Let be honest, the result really lies in whether Wenger plays a strong or youthful team. With next weekend off, there is no excuses for rotation so anything short of a normal side will be disrespectful of the cup.
The result itself should be tight because I can see Arsenal being more exposed without their captain Per Mertesacker. The only decent leader has been Koscielny and he’s out so should be a scrappy affair but Arsenal will be lucky to sneak through.
Prediction: Sutton 1-2 Arsenal
Result: Sutton 0-2 Arsenal