CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) is at the controls for Monday night’s match between Sutton and Arsenal. How will this one pan out?
Sutton v Arsenal | Monday 19:55 | BBC One
It’s rare to find a fixture shaped like this so late into the competition and Sutton’s home match against Arsenal looks a fascinating match on Monday night.
A huge 105 places sit between Premier League Arsenal and bottom half National League side Sutton. In the context of this competition it’s as big as it gets.
Fellow non-league side Lincoln produced a tremendous performance on Saturday to take down Burnley, but this task feels well beyond small Sutton.
Arsenal come into this game in a bad frame of mind after their hammering at Bayern Munich on Wednesday and there’s seems a real feeling that this could be Arsene Wenger’s last season in charge.
Defeat here would be unthinkable but it also feels impossible. Sutton would need to play out their skin just to lay a glove on Arsenal. This is a Group 1 horse up against a seller.
Shocks do happen in the FA Cup of course and Premier League sides do suffer defeats, but not like this. We can discuss Sutton’s win over Coventry in 1989, Luton’s dethroning of Norwich in 2013 and even Hereford’s win over Newcastle in 1972, but these losses were suffered by non-elite top division sides. Upsets of this scale don’t occur to the elite top-flight teams.
Sutton have clearly had their eye on this fixture for a few weeks as their form has dipped since that brilliant win over Leeds. P4 W0 D1 L3 is what they’ve brought to the table and they lie down in 17th place in the National League. Perhaps they’ll play the game of their lives? Perhaps it’ll be all too much for them?
The key to this match is of course the Arsenal line up. I’m sure Wenger has had this team is in his head since the draw was made and I doubt Wednesday’s result has altered his thinking at all.
A glance back to the Third Round in January saw Arsenal play a fairly strong side against Preston. The team sheet featured names like Mustafi, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud and I can’t see Wenger veering too far off that line up.
Arsenal have no game this weekend as scheduled opponents Southampton are in the EFL Cup Final so there’s no need for Wenger to be too cautious. I can see a decent line up causing Sutton havoc.
As well as big shocks not happening to the elite sides generally, Arsenal have a superb FA Cup record. P19 W14 D4 L1 is how they stack up since January 2014 and of course they won the competition in 2014 and 2015. Rock solid.
In 21 years at the helm of the club Arsene Wenger has only suffered FA Cup defeat once to a non-Premier League side. That was Blackburn in 2013 and it’s another stat that illustrates just how professional Arsenal are in this competition.
I’m expecting a strong, unsentimental, powerful performance from Arsenal that will simply snuff out Sutton. Odds of 10/11 with Sportingbet on them winning both halves look too big to me.
Sutton United v Arsenal – Arsenal to win both halves (10/11 Sportingbet)