London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger has expressed fears about Sutton United’s synthetic 3G pitch ahead of Arsenal’s perilous FA Cup fifth-round match against the non-league minnows on Monday.
The Arsenal manager believes the artificial surface could impede his men despite their best efforts to prepare on a similar pitch.
Arsenal desperately hope to avoid succumbing to what would be one of the FA Cup’s biggest ever upsets following their 5-1 Champions League humbling at Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
“What are the dangers? First of all the pitch, secondly their enthusiasm and thirdly that we are not ready for a big fight and subconsciously think that they are a non-league team and it is no matter,” Wenger said.
“That will not happen. 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.
“We will face an unusual pitch and we will have to deal with it. We have practised inside (at the Arsenal training ground) because it is an artificial pitch.
“It is not the same because it is a dry pitch and Sutton I have heard have a wet pitch, which they water before the game and is quicker.
“It is a bit ‘stop’. 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.”
– ‘I am a fighter’ –
Wenger’s future remains unresolved, with his latest suggestion being that it will be March or April when he makes his announcement on whether he will stay beyond this season.
But he remained defiant despite Arsenal’s sorry week, which featured angry criticism from fans following the result in Munich that has all but condemned his side to a Champions League exit.
“I am a positive person,” Wenger told reporters at Arsenal’s London Colney base. “I am a fighter, somewhere. You don’t stay so long in this job otherwise.
“I’ve always seen the future in a positive way. I do not expect too much from outside. I expect more from me inside.
“The expectation level gets higher. The fight doesn’t get higher. The fight is always tough. When you hate defeat like I hate defeat, it’s always tough. As well, I’m determined to always fight back.
“Every defeat is harder. I can never transmit to you my feelings about defeats. When I managed for the first time at 33 or 34, a player said that after our first defeat, I threw up.
“Whether you are young or old, every defeat hurts. It consumes me. That’s the target in my life. I’m a competitor. Even when I was speaking to a neighbour at six or seven, I was competing for everything.
“I was born like that. When I lose games, of course it’s difficult to take.”
Talking about his big decision on whether he will stay beyond the end of the season, Wenger said: “That will not depend on the players. It will depend on the results.”
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