Former Gunners Roarie Deacon and Craig Eastmond are convinced that non-league Sutton United can capitalise on the disarray engulfing Arsenal and produce one of the greatest FA Cup shocks of all time.
Fifth-tier Sutton, conquerors of Championship high-flyers Leeds in round four, host top-flight Arsenal in a fifth-round showdown on Monday at their 5,013-capacity Gander Green Lane ground.
Defeat to the part-timers is unthinkable for under-fire Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger following Wednesday’s harrowing Champions League meltdown against Bayern Munich.
But Deacon, who signed a professional contract with Arsenal in 2010 before being released a year later, is adamant that Sutton have the capability to heap further misery on the increasingly beleaguered Frenchman.
“They didn’t have a great result on Wednesday and we want to make it uncomfortable for them when they come,” former Stevenage and Crawley midfielder Deacon told City A.M. “They are not going to have it their own way.
“They might think they’re going to come here and play against Conference players and we’re not going to be fantastic players but when they come on the pitch on Monday night they are going to see what sort of players we are.
“We get the ball down and play, we’ve got players that can hurt them, defenders that can defend very well and keep the ball out of our net and players who can put the ball in their net, so when they come on Monday they’re going to be in for a shock.”
Regardless of whether Wenger opts to select his big-hitters or a shuffled pack, Deacon insists there will be no inferiority complex when Sutton, currently 17th in the National League, take to their 3G pitch alongside such illustrious opponents.
“There is no fear here,” added the 25-year-old. “You can’t go into games having fear because if we’re honest we deserve to be here but have no right to be because we’re a small club.
“But the confidence we have, the ability we have in our dressing room, the team spirit and the togetherness has got us this far. We don’t want it do end.”
Central midfielder Eastmond spent more than a decade at boyhood club Arsenal before leaving in 2013, having graduated to the first team and made a Champions League appearance against Shakhtar Donetsk in 2010. He too believes there is scope for a major upset.
“Of course we have got a chance,” Eastmond, 26, told City A.M.
“We’re at home and Arsenal are not going to like coming down here. They’re used to playing in front of big crowds and not playing on a 3G pitch. We have to take everything we can as an advantage.
“We know what we can do on the field. We’ve got players who have played at a higher level. We’ve just got to be on our A game.”