Football

Wenger praises 'astonishing' Sutton

Arsenal boss says Gunners might have lost if they were not mentally prepared

Arsene Wenger admits the performance of non-league Sutton United was "astonishing" as they offered a stern test to his Arsenal side before falling to a FA Cup defeat yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The Gunners travelled to the humble surroundings of Gander Green Lane for the fifth-round meeting as Wenger named a strong starting line-up with goals from Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott sealing a 2-0 win.

Wenger's side will now face another National League outfit in Lincoln for a spot in the semi-finals after this examination of character following last week's Champions League capitulation at Bayern Munich.

That result led to increased speculation that Wenger would leave the club when his contract expires in the summer, and the Frenchman has said he will make a decision in the next two weeks. But he will not be considering a job in the National League after seeing the challenge offered by Sutton.

Asked if was a case of job done, he replied: "Yes, against a side that was astonishing. They are basically in division five and they are 17th out of 24. I will never go down there (to manage) because it is too difficult.

"The changing rooms for me were fantastic - the closer you are, the more united you are when you go out there."

Wenger also admitted he was caught out by Sutton's display and believes that justified naming such a strong side, with the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Lucas Perez also starting and Alexis Sanchez coming off the bench.

"(I was surprised) by the speed of their game," he said.

"We had to keep our focus, I must give credit to the players who were professional and kept their focus. If we had come here in a relaxed mood, we would have gone out tonight because they produced quality.

"We could not afford a light team selection tonight and that is why I came with basically all the players who were available because we couldn't afford to go out tonight."

Sutton boss Paul Doswell echoed his counterpart's sentiments and declared his happiness with the hosts' display.

"Five letters - proud," he said. "I'm very, very proud of them. We asked them to give everything they had and they gave us that." - PA SPORT

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