Why Arsenal players won’t be intimidated by their surroundings at Sutton

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Changing room
The Premier League stars will be taken out of their comfort zones but it's unlikely to shock many players who grew up playing in similar surroundings

Much has been made of the facilities at non-league side Sutton United in the build-up to Monday night’s historic FA Cup tie against Arsenal. The chocolate-coloured away dressing room and lack of showers will indeed be a huge culture shock for Arsene Wenger’s men just days after the Gunners were shot to pieces by Bayern Munich at the luxurious Allianz Arena. 

The Vanarama National League outfit will use the revenue gained from their stunning cup run to improve the facilities at Gander Green Lane - but not before Wenger’s side have visited. 

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"We thought about putting new shower heads in ... for about two seconds," said Sutton boss Paul Doswell ahead of the cup clash.

“And then thought, no. We haven't done it for any of the other teams that are coming down. It's only because we haven't been able to afford it. It's not us trying to be big and clever.

"One of the players said to me the other day, 'When I played against you it was always hot in the dressing room'. I said that's because we can't turn the (radiator) off -- the valve's gone.”

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Those who feel that Arsenal’s foreign players will find it tough to cope with their surroundings are likely to be left disappointed. 

Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista grew up playing football in a favela in a dangerous neighbourhood in the south of Sao Paulo, while Alexis Sanchez played in his bare feet on the rocky streets of Tocopilla, Chile. Egyptian star Mohamed Elneny is another player who can be added to that list.

“As a kid, I often played for 10 hours on the street,” Elneny told the Guardian in an exclusive interview. "I think that’s when I learned to run and run without a break.”

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Even the much maligned Mesut Ozil, a player who won’t be involved at Gander Green Lane, learnt his trade in Gelsenkirchen by playing in an ‘Affenkäfig’ the monkey cage - a gravel pitch surrounded by fences that ensured play was continuous.

Almost every Arsenal player who will line-up on Monday is likely to have experienced facilities considerably worse than those at Sutton. If a professional footballer can’t cope with cramped conditions and lukewarm water then it’s fair to say they are probably in the wrong sport.

The only thing that can stop Arsenal from progressing to the quarter-finals for the fourth time in five years would be complacency, a facet which has admittedly been seen in the recent defeat to Watford at Emirates Stadium.


A mix of youngsters, fringe players and senior stars are likely to take to the field on Monday and it’s a compliment to Sutton that Wenger is taking his opposition so seriously. While it may be the only realistic silverware Arsenal have a chance of winning this season, there is no doubt that the Frenchman will be cautious of how well Doswell’s side performed against Championship team Leeds just a fortnight ago.

Wenger remains concerned about the unique 3G pitch at Gander Green Lane for a number of reasons. He feels that injuries are more likely to occur due to the added pressure on the joints of his players added to the fact that the ball moves around at a different speed to a normal pitch.

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“We will practise inside because it is an artificial pitch,” said Wenger.

“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.

“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.”

Sutton’s FieldTurf Vertex pitch was paid for by Doswell himself and is currently used by the local community and many youth teams in the area. Reserve shot stopper Wayne Shaw, who has become a viral sensation due to his unorthodox physicality, told Goal that he thinks ‘it will be a leveller - for five minutes at least!’

Whatever the result on Monday night you can be sure that Sutton will benefit from the game for years to come as Arsenal's multi-million pound stars get taken out of their comfort zones for the first time in years.