(Reuters) - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger left Sutton United with a deeper respect for non-league football after watching his Premier League charges being pushed hard by their far less illustrious opponents in the FA Cup fifth round.
Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners at Sutton’s tiny Gander Green Lane ground on Monday, but Wenger was full of admiration for Sutton’s spirited display.
“I didn’t really enjoy tonight because we absolutely had to do the job and it is tricky,” Wenger told the media after goals from Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott ended Sutton’s dream Cup run.
“If we had come here in a relaxed mood we would have gone out tonight because they produced quality.”
Sutton are 17th in the National League, 105 places below Arsenal in the English football pyramid, and while Wenger enjoyed the romance of the tiny club punching so far above their weight, he said he would never be able to manage at their level.
”It is basically division five, and they are 17th out of 24,“ the Frenchman added. ”I will never go down there to manage because it is too difficult.
”I come from a club that is smaller than that so it reminds me of my childhood. The changing rooms for me were fantastic -- the closer you are, the more united you are when you go out there.
“They were organised and had a huge desire. If we were not mentally prepared we would not have gone through today.”
Arsenal have been drawn against non-league Lincoln City in the quarter-finals, a team that became the first minor league side to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals in 103 years when the beat the Premier League’s Burnley in the last round.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty