REUTERS - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Sutton United’s artificial pitch could cause his side problems and warned against complacency when they visit the National League team in the fifth round of the FA Cup later on Monday.
Sutton are 17th in the National League but Wenger said his team would need to overcome a number of obstacles to progress to the next round.
“Firstly, the pitch,” the Frenchman told reporters when asked about the issues his team would have to contend with against their minor league opponents.
”Secondly, their enthusiasm. Thirdly if we are not ready for a big fight. Subconsciously if we think ‘no matter, it’s a non-league team, we will pass’, that will not happen.
“Ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch. But it has been accepted so... competition is also about dealing with what you face. We face an artificial pitch and we have to deal with it.”
Arsenal were beaten 5-1 at Bayern Munich in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie on Wednesday and much of the buildup to the game focused on Wenger’s future at the club.
The manager, however, was more worried how his team would adapt to the artificial surface and get past Sutton.
“I’ve heard that Sutton have a wet pitch, they water it before the game so it’ll be much quicker,” Wenger added.
“It means the weight on the joints is stronger, you cannot glide, you have to block every time so it makes football a bit different because the ball comes to you and somebody accelerates and doesn’t slow down like in a normal game so you have to get used to the difference in speed.”
Striker Danny Welbeck, who has recently returned from a lengthy injury layoff and played for Arsenal’s under-23 team on Sunday, confirmed he would not play against Sutton.
“Glad to get 70 minutes (on Sunday) to build up my match fitness. Plastic pitch at Sutton isn’t the best idea at the moment,” he tweeted.
The winner of Monday’s match will face the National League’s Lincoln City in the next round.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty