Arsenal made it through their FA Cup fifth round tie, but Sutton can hold their heads high for the way they stood up to Arsenal who seemed content to putter around for most of the match instead of delivering the statement fans so desperately wanted.
Arsene Wenger made a number of changes to the starting lineup and while there were no real surprises, it seemed like a rather weird mix. As a result they were slow to start and struggled as Sutton sat deep and held their shape. When’s that ever been a problem before?
It took Sutton under two minutes to have a late nibble at an Arsenal player, Nicky Bailey who came into the game as a someone who is that kind of player. A minute later Craig Eastmond caught Elneny with a scissor challenge.
There was little else of note to talk about before Lucas did what Lucas does when he’s given a chance – make goals happen. After a day that had been dominated by his future and agent, he did his talking on the pitch with a fine finish, helped by Theo’s attempted flick/dummy. Lucas Perez has directly contributed to nine goals in his last eight starts for Arsenal (6 goals & 3 assists).
No wonder he thinks he should be playing more.
What was noticeable in the first half was how Michael Oliver was allowing Sutton to put in a lot of niggly fouls (we’re used to that) but some awful ones as well. Booking Granit Xkaka for a small pull, he gave nothing when Collins followed through half way up Iwobi’s shin. Not even a free kick. Nor was a card issued when Craig Eastmond clearly dived in the Arsenal box trying to win a penalty.
The BBC described Collin’s challenge on Iwobi as ‘a proper tackle’ while also admitting you wouldn’t get away with that in the Premier League. The last time I checked, the FA Cup used the same rule book. But still, Granit Xhaka was booked. What a thug he is, eh?
Collins connected higher up Iwobi’s shin than it appears here, his leg was still rising.
Yeah wasn't a red eh? Ya bastards pic.twitter.com/xwTZsklaxm
— hammad (@HFooty) February 20, 2017
The BBC’s halftime analysis of it was as embarrassing as it was frustrating, laughing it off and saying there’s nothing wrong with it. By the end of the match, they weren’t any better, suggesting a clear shove shouldn’t be booked ‘under these circumstances’. What circumstances? Losing? Playing in a professional competition? It didn’t matter, the Sutton player wasn’t booked anyway.
Plus, there was this from Martin Keown
Martin Keown here, assuming Craig Eastmond's internal monologue is massively Brexit pic.twitter.com/e1h4ONTWb5
— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) February 20, 2017
As a result of this, Elneny was taken off at halftime, replaced by the Ox. It is a calf problem, the same body part that caused him problems at the AFCON.
Theo Walcott got Arsenal’s second with a thumping finish on the end of a great move. Receiving the ball across the goal from Monreal, he found the back of the net for his 100th Arsenal goal.
It was good to see, especially as he’d not exactly had the best of nights until that point.
Theo Walcott trying to control a football tonight pic.twitter.com/8Gm1cYzZZr
— Daily Cannon (@DailyCannon) February 20, 2017
The Ox’s presence in midfield was making a real difference. He was adding drive and creativity that Elneny just doesn’t posses but it wasn’t all one-way traffic, however.
Arsenal gave Sutton enough of a sniff throughout the match and rode their luck at times. Euro Dave reverted to English Dave with a clearance straight to a Sutton player and a flap at a corner. At times, it took frantic defending to stop the hosts. And the woodwork.
Arsenal themselves could and probably should have added many more. I lost count of how many times the ball flew across the face of the goal with no Arsenal player able to get on the end of it. Or there in the first place.
With a little over 15 minutes left, and Arsenal 2-0 up, Arsene Wenger called for Alexis who immediately started shouting at people when he didn’t get the ball where he wanted it.
Sutton will consider themselves unfortunate not to have at least got on the scoresheet. But while they made this a very interesting contest, Arsenal never looked in any real danger.
Before the game I was confident of a thumping win. This is Arsenal and they are, if nothing else, flat-track bullies. But at Gander Green Lane they showed that even with a change of faces in the starting lineup, the malaise that affects this squad runs deep.
Lucas cut a frustrating figure throughout large parts of the match. In addition to his goal, he should have also had a hattrick of assists.
It’s no wonder he’s frustrated. He’ll most likely be back on the bench for the next game – Liverpool away.