Amy Lawrence: The romantic in Wenger enjoyed a night back in less salubrious surrounds

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Arsène Wenger says he could never manage in non-league football, because it is too difficult


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Arsène Wenger: I could never manage in non-league, it is too difficult” was written by Amy Lawrence at Gander Green Lane, for The Guardian on Monday 20th February 2017 23.57 UTC

Arsène Wenger departed here unscathed but also astonished by the quality that Sutton United showed in pushing Arsenal during their FA Cup tie in suburban Surrey. Although the Premier League side emerged with a 2-0 victory, Wenger suggested the idea of managing at National League level was so tough he would not want to take it on. Job done? “Yes, against a side that was astonishing,” said Wenger. “It is basically division five, and they are 17th out of 24. I will never go down there to manage because it is too difficult,” he said.

Goals from Lucas Pérez and Theo Walcott, with his 100th for Arsenal, tilted the tie but Sutton were not without chances of their own. Wenger, who used Alexis Sánchez as a late substitute, argued that it was not a challenge he could take easily. “I must give credit to the players who were professional and kept their focus, if we had come here in a relaxed mood we would have gone out tonight because they produced quality,” he said. “Of course, we could not afford a light team selection tonight and that is why I came with basically all the players who were available because we couldn’t afford to go out – we can never afford it.”

The romantic in Wenger enjoyed his visit to less salubrious surroundings than he is used to. “I come from a club that is smaller than that so it reminds me of my childhood. The changing rooms for me were fantastic – the closer you are, the more united you are when you go out there,” he said.

The flipside of the more open and less security-orientated atmosphere was that a bottle of mineral water was thrown in Wenger’s direction. “I don’t know if it was at me or someone else or the referee but there was a bottle thrown, yes,” he remarked.

The Sutton manager, Paul Doswell, was clearly emotional at the end of it all after a whirlwind few weeks. He was full of admiration for his players. “We have done the non-league proud,” he said. “They are 105 places above us in the pyramid. Those lads won’t walk properly tomorrow. The problem in sport is when you have lost you feel disappointed but they put this club on a worldwide map.”

 

Doswell found it bizarre to host a game where the opposition arrived with bodyguards. “ It is a different world,” he said. “My lot will go to work tomorrow. They are movie stars with James Bond security. You can’t get near them.” It was more of an observation than a direct criticism. “I totally get it. Unfortunately that’s the world we live in. I saw a few idiots shouting and screaming at Wenger and Arsenal players. They’ve got to be protected from those type of people.”

Doswell was also touched by the fact Arsenal have offered to donate £50,000 towards Sutton’s charitable work.

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