Sunday 17 December 2017

Wenger fears slip-up on plastic pitch

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Ben Rumsby

Arsene Wenger was leaving nothing to chance when it came to Sutton United's plastic pitch last night as he sought to avoid an FA Cup shock that would almost certainly end any prospect of him remaining at Arsenal

Wenger admitted the artificial surface at Gander Green Lane was one of the primary dangers to his side's hopes of rescuing their season, outlining the Gunners' strategy of training indoors in order to acclimatise to it ahead of tonight's fifth-round tie.

So concerned was Wenger about the pitch that Danny Welbeck, who would have been in line to continue his comeback from injury by starting this evening, was given a run-out for the club's U-23 team yesterday instead of being risked this evening.

It was therefore hard to see defender Laurent Koscielny featuring either after he limped off in Wednesday's 5-1 Champions League thrashing at Bayern Munich with a hamstring injury that needed a scan on Friday.

Admitting that even training indoors would not fully prepare his players for what awaited them tonight, Wenger said: "It is not the same because it (Arsenal's) is a dry pitch and Sutton, I have heard, have a wet pitch, which they water before the game and is quicker.

"The weight on the joints is different and you cannot slide to block every time, so it makes football a bit different.

"The ball comes to you suddenly and accelerates and does not slow down like in a normal game, so we have to get used to the different speed."

He added: "Ideally, we would like to play on a normal pitch but it has been accepted and the competition is to deal with what you face."

Wenger had already indicated he would pick a strong side tonight and was given every incentive to do so yesterday when the winners of the tie were drawn at home against the other non-League club left in the competition, Lincoln City.

Sutton v Arsenal, Live BBC 1, 7.55

Irish Independent

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