Arsenal and Sutton United have more in common than meets the eye

During the pre-match interview, Arsène Wenger stood in a small room in the Sutton United stadium, answering questions next to the bed in which the reserve goalkeeper sleeps three nights a week. This was a comical affair. It was lapped up by the ex-players and pundits, who hailed Sutton for providing a 'real FA cup tie’, in which a semi-professional side can take on a Premier League club. Although 105 division places and £1.4 billion separates the two teams, there really isn't much difference between them.


Wenger concurred with the idea of FA Cup romanticism, and played a key role himself in respecting the non-league side. He said that having come from humble football beginnings, he knew what it was like to be involved in a club which was supported by only “two or three people”. This is where Arsenal and Sutton share a vital similarity - whereas for Sutton it may have been Paul Dowsell and Wayne Shaw, it is Alexis Sanchez and Arsene Wenger who are holding Arsenal together.

Sanchez, the man who defied years of tradition by moving from Barcelona to Arsenal rather than the reverse, is the only player largely to avoid crowd heckles and widespread criticism. His style of play shows desire, and his bullish harassment of defenders puts the opposition under immediate pressure.

When watching Arsenal play, they seem lethargic - slow in tempo and lazy in work ethic. But when Sanchez is allowed to influence a game, Arsenal’s attack transforms into a threatening, fast-paced force. He provides an impetus that is lacking throughout the starting XI.

Sanchez is pivotal to the Gunners, as was displayed by the 750 die-hard Arsenal supporters at Sutton who chanted “pass the ball to Sanchez” repeatedly following his late introduction. Without him Arsenal struggle, and it is a growing concern that he may not be there to float the Arsenal boat next season.

The other man maintaining Arsenal’s status as a top team is their manager. Although Wenger is now past his best, he has been nurturing Arsenal like a child for over 20 years. He has devoted his entire life to the club, getting up early to test the pitch on match-day, dedicating his evenings to rewatching games.

He said recently that he could not survive without football, and without his guidance, Arsenal could not have achieved what they have. Like Sutton manager Paul Dowsell, who bought their pitch with his own money, Wenger has almost single-handedly run Arsenal for the duration of his reign. As a result, he is now struggling under the burden he committed to carrying. However, he has managed remarkably well under the circumstances.  

Arsenal humbly defeated Sutton in the end, although the game was much closer than expected, and perhaps this does not come as much of a surprise when you understand the environment in which both sets of players are operating.

Arsenal and Sutton may be leagues apart, but the nature of their club structure - one or two people allowing the club to survive - is very much the same.

Joshua Korber Hoffman is a 16-year-old football fanatic and Arsenal supporter. He writes a football blog called The Young Gun, in which his love for writing and the beautiful game intersect

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