Lincoln City’s manager Danny Cowley says his side will tackle Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final with Arsenal by breaking the game into nine ten-minute matches.
The tactic, tried and tested at Burnley in the last round when the Imps structured their giant-killing around six 15-minute matches, is supposed to help the players compartmentalise their focus when the odds are stacked against them.
Lincoln currently have a six-point lead at the top of the National League, the same division that Sutton play their football, and have done well juggling their cup exploits with their bid for a return to the Football League.
“We’re going to play nine 10-minute games against Arsenal,” Cowley told the Guardian.
“We’re playing 10-minute training games so they get used to this mentality. We understand that Arsenal could blow us away.
“We could play our very best and still get beaten 5-0 but we want to train the players’ minds for these 10-minute games. We might go three down in the first 10 minutes.
If we do, then the players must draw a line and start at 0-0 for the next 10-minute game. How many 10-minute games can we be competitive?
“If winning at the Emirates is the only definition of success the likelihood is we won’t be successful. We’re trying to measure success differently using achievable goals. But we’re also professional and prepared. We might surprise some people.”
Given how hard Sutton fought in the last round Arsenal certainly won’t have it all their own way at the Emirates. Should that be the case there’s a good chance the atmosphere could get tetchy. Last night’s drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich was preceded by fan protests calling for Arsene Wenger to quit while a second half exodus grew with every goal scored by the Germans.
While the knives may be out for the Frenchman, Cowley is certain the achievements of his more esteemed peer will play out well in the history books.
“He’s a special man and a pioneer of football in this country. I don’t think people will really respect the enormity of his achievement at Arsenal until he’s gone. That’s why I feel for him when he gets abused by his own fans.
He added: “Football’s crazy, isn’t it? I wouldn’t dream of going to the dentist and telling him what to do or shouting abuse at my plumber. But people come into your profession and tell you what to do. Of course that makes football great. People love football and that brings passion – when you don’t think clearly or act normally. I know the Arsenal fans are passionate but I don’t like the way some of them treat Arsène Wenger.”
Given Cowley’s background – as recently as last year he was a PE teacher – it’s not surprising he’s able to maintain a sense of perspective despite coming face to face with the madness of modern football.