Having been eliminated from the EFL Cup, the dream of a Premier League title almost in ruin after trailing leaders-Chelsea by 10 points and another second round exit in the UEFA Champions League looming after losing scandalously to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena midweek, Arsenal would be hoping to pick up the pieces against Sutton City on Monday in the FA Cup-the only competition the Gunners stand a chance of winning a trophy
Arsene Wenger would be turning his attention to non-league side, Sutton City for succor in the fifth round of the FA Cup after what seems to be another disappointing season for the Gunners fans.
Sutton United Manager, Paul Doswel, will however have no qualms about doing all he can to add to the burden of Wenger when their teams meet in the last 16 of the FA Cup.
Arsenal will make the trip from north to southwest London, for a match on the artificial pitch at Sutton’s Gander Green Lane ground, with Wenger under intense pressure following a humiliating 5-1 loss away to German giants Bayern Munich in the first leg of a last 16 Champions League tie.
That defeat came hot on the heels of a recent shock league loss to Watford and an ensuing, rather more predictable defeat by Chelsea that between them appeared to have scupper he Gunners’ hopes of a first Premier League title since 2004.
Even those once loyal to the veteran manager, who has been in charge at Arsenal since 1996, have started to question whether the 67-year-old Frenchman will seek a renewal of his contract when it expires at the end of the season.
Doswell, whose side beat second-tier Leeds in the fourth round, was blunt when asked about Wenger’s plight.
“Do I feel sympathy for him? No. He is well schooled, and he has been in the job for 20 years,” said Doswell, whose team are currently 17th in the National League, the fifth tier of English football.
Wenger accepted Arsenal had “collapsed mentally” against Bayern and Gunners defender Laurent Koscielny, who went off injured four minutes into the second half with the score at 1-1, could not explain why.
“I don’t know either,” he told Arsenal TV. “I think the first half was good – we were deep, like you need to be, and tried not to give them space or opportunities to score.”
Lincoln City, the other non-league side to make it to the fifth round, will also face Premier League opposition when they travel to Burnley today.
“We approach it the same way we do any team,” said Burnley manager Sean Dyche. “There’s not a divine right to win football matches.”
Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino is eager to bring a swift end to Tottenham Hotspur’s “bad period” when they travel to second-tier side Fulham on Sunday as the Argentine rejected the notion his side are in the midst of a crisis.
Tottenham followed up a poor performance in last Saturday’s Premier League defeat at Liverpool with a blunt display in Thursday’s 1-0 Europa League round-of-32 first-leg loss at Belgian side Gent.
“That is the reality. It sometimes happens. Good and bad things happen. We’ve started now a bad period. I hope, on Sunday, we break that negative run. It’s not about confidence… We were wrong with our judgment if we think, because of Liverpool, it’s only about confidence,” Pochettino told British media.
Tottenham’s woes were further compounded on Thursday when attacking spearhead Harry Kane sustained a knock to his knee that will likely force him to miss the match at Craven Cottage.
Pochettino suggested he would rotate his squad for the fifth-round tie against Fulham.
“I think we need to assess some players. Harry Kane got a knock on his knee, different players too. We need to refresh the team and we’ll do that. We’ll see, but we’ll put out a team with aims to win and be ready again to compete,” the Argentine manager added.
Chelsea will look to avoid an FA Cup upset at Wolverhampton Wanderers today with the mood still upbeat despite being held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at Burnley last Sunday.
The Londoners hold an eight-point lead over Manchester City in the Premier League but the Cup could give them a chance to rest some of their more established players even against a side that knocked out Liverpool last time.
Manager Antonio Conte was able to make nine changes from his regular side for the fourth round tie at home to Brentford yet still emerge comfortable 4-0 winners.
Wolves enter the game on the back of their eighth home defeat of the Championship season after Wigan Athletic won 1-0 with a late goal on Tuesday.
Manager Paul Lambert claims a meeting with the Premier League leaders is the perfect game for his side and he is drawing on some advice from Ottmar Hitzfeld – his boss at Borussia Dortmund. “They won’t need picking up or motivating,” said Lambert.
“I’m looking forward to it myself, the game and the atmosphere it’s going to generate.
“One of the greatest bits of advice I ever had was from Ottmar Hitzfeld. He actually sent me a nice text when we beat Liverpool so we keep in touch. He and Martin O’Neill were the best managers I worked under.
Manchester City, away to Championship high-flyers Huddersfield, will be without Gabriel Jesus after the striker, who had scored three goals in as many league games since his January arrival, broke a metatarsal bone in a league win at Bournemouth.
Pep Guardiola’s decision over a replacement is complicated by the looming Champions League last 16 first leg tie at home to French club Monaco, on Tuesday.
The City manager faces a choice between fans’ favourite Sergio Aguero, who lost his starting place to Jesus, or Nigeria’s Kelechi Iheanacho.
Today will also see third-tier Millwall try to inflict more misery on faltering Premier League champions Leicester, now just a point above the relegation zone, with top-flight Middlesbrough up against another League One side in Oxford.
Holders Manchester United are away to Championship strugglers Blackburn on Sunday fresh from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s hat-trick in a 3-0 win over St Etienne in the first leg of their last 32 Europa League tie on Thursday.