Sutton United v Arsenal
Tonight: Gander Green Lane, 7.55pm
Referee: Michael Oliver
TV: BBC One
Bet: Sutton 14/1, Arsenal 1/ 6, Draw 13/2
Former Arsenal captain Frank McLintock believes it is time for Arsene Wenger to step down and questions whether the Gunners will finish in the top four of the Premier League.
Wenger’s position is under intense scrutiny and the Frenchman stated in the wake of Wednesday’s 5-1 Champions League rout by Bayern Munich that he will make a decision on his future in March or April.
His contract expires at the end of the season and McLintock, who captained Arsenal during their double winning season of 1970-71, believes he must go.
“I think the decision is totally in his hands because he runs the show completely,” McLintock told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek.
“He’s weighing it up at the moment and I think it would be better if he did leave. I hate saying things like that because I have complete admiration for Wenger. But I can see it turning a little bit nasty. We might struggle to finish in the top four this year.
“If that’s the case then Arsene would be very disappointed and might say enough is enough.”
McLintock is unconvinced by the quality of Wenger’s recent signings.
“He’s bought four or five players over the last year or so — Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel Paulista, Granit Xhaka, Calum Chambers — and while they’re decent players they’re not the sort of players Arsenal should buy if they want to challenge for the European Cup,” he said.
Wenger has had his Arsenal stars training on an artificial pitch as they prepare for their FA Cup fifth-round tie at non-league Sutton tonight.
Asked what the main dangers facing his side will be, Wenger said: “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 — but 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 will practise inside 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 it 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.”
Wenger, who has lifted the FA Cup on six occasions since taking over at Arsenal in 1996, maintains he is always desperate to counter a bad result with a reaction and revealed how he has always taken defeat badly.
“I am a positive person. I am a fighter, somewhere. You don’t stay so long in this job otherwise,” he said.
“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.
“I can never transmit to you my feelings about defeats. A player, when I managed for the first time at 33 or 34, said that after our first defeat I threw up. Whether you are young or old, every defeat hurts.”
Danny Welbeck will not be risked on the artificial surface.
Meanwhile Graeme Souness has piled further pressure on Mesut Ozil, describing the German as “Arsenal in a nutshell”.
“Against the Crystal Palaces of this world, he is an absolute worldie player. Against the big boys of the Premier League and Europe, he is an absolute world away,” he said in the Sunday Times.
However Ozil’s agent, Erkut Sogut, told the BBC his player feels he has become a scapegoat.
“Bayern had 74% possession. How can someone in the No 10 position create chances if you don’t have the ball?
“Was he the reason that Arsenal conceded five goals?
“In these games people usually target a player who cost a lot of money and earns a lot of money — that is Mesut. But he can’t be always be the scapegoat. That’s not fair.”
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