Tonight, as they face non-league Sutton United away in the FA Cup fifth round, it will be a very unfamiliar experience for Arsenal. There will, though, be some familiar names on the opposing side at Gander Green Lane, with no fewer than four Arsenal academy graduates part of the Sutton squad.
Midfielder Jack Jebb is cup-tied and winger Jeffrey Monakana has been struggling with injury, but it is anticipated that Craig Eastmond and Roarie Deacon will be involved, with both players determined to help Sutton cause an upset against their former club.
Eastmond broke into the Arsenal reserves side as a schoolboy and played a prominent part at right-back as the club’s U18s won the FA Youth Cup and league double under the guidance of Steve Bould in 2008/09.
Possessing some prior experience of playing as a defensive-midfielder, Eastmond then moved into that position on a permanent basis and enjoyed a spell in and around the first-team as he played in all four major competitions.
Eastmond was unable to impose himself fully, however, and, after a succession of loan spells, joined Colchester United on a permanent basis before moving on to Yeovil Town and subsequently Sutton.
Deacon, meanwhile, featured regularly for Arsenal’s youth sides but was unable to break into the senior squad.
A sprightly winger, he signed scholarship terms in 2008 before eventually earning a professional deal. Although he broke into the reserve team and impressed at the Dallas Cup, a lack of end product remained a flaw in Deacon’s game and he was let go in 2011 and was picked up by Sunderland.
Having not made a senior appearance for Sunderland, Deacon joined Stevenage, with a switch to Crawley Town following before he signed for Sutton.