As is the case with the FA Cup every year, this year is not short on magic either. Having been drawn against a top-tier club for only the fifth time since World War II, Sutton United welcomed Premier League giants Arsenal to the Gander Green Lane and proved to be quite a handful for the North Londoners.
Having held the visitors for the first quarter of the match, they could do nothing to prevent Spaniard Lucas Perez from scoring the opener – a goal only made possible because of Theo Walcott’s clever and generous jump. Come the second half, and Arsenal scored another within the first ten minutes thanks to Walcott this time, who did well to connect with a pass from Alex Iwobi inside the box.
With the likes of Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny given some time off by the club, youngsters Rob Holding and Jeff-Reine Adelaide got the chance to impress. Sutton, meanwhile, fielded their strongest side but failed to provide what would have been the upset of the century.
Here are five things we learnt from the FA Cup round:
# 1 Arsenal win a paper over the cracks
With three losses in their last four games in all competitions, the Gunners needed to get back to winning ways. And while they did that tonight, they did so with a performance that echoed their recent form.
Short on confidence in all areas of the pitch, Arsene Wenger’s men looked a shadow of their usual brash, crisp selves. Wayward passes, half-hearted cuts and almost no willingness to shoot from distance was a constant feature throughout the match.
While they were playing on a 3G pitch for the first time in years – despite having practiced on one the entire week – they took quite a bit of time to get their passing range and the pre-existing frustration built in recent weeks showed.