Match Preview: Arsenal V Hull City; Let’s not get it twisted.
Look, let’s not get it twisted. Arsenal have been incredibly disappointing in the past two matches, but they’ve also been unfortunate. Lucas Perez’s crossbar and Hector Bellerin’s skull (both still shaking by the way) attest to that. A dominant team is able to banish bad luck from being a deciding factor, but we’re clearly not there right now. Only Chelsea have the power.
Consecutive losses haven’t changed my view that we’re still the side most likely to finish second, assuming Gabriel Jesus at City isn’t actually the Second Coming. With Tottenham and/or Liverpool definitely losing ground this weekend, Hull at home is a perfect opportunity for fortifying our position. Arsenal’s squad is the deepest in the league, which is one of the reasons why sitting in fourth feels like such a flop. It’s time to re-squeeze that squad and get some fresh juice drops out of it.
No matter how deflated I feel with the Arsenal, selection decisions still get me going as the next match approaches. There are some intriguing and essential ones this weekend, starting at the very back. On recent performances, David Ospina looks a more in-form and confident goalkeeper than Petr Cech, whose lethargic style is beginning to grate and needs a wake-up call. Since the Colombian is due to start at Bayern Munich in the week it would make sense to give him this game to tune up. Knowing Wenger, however, he is unlikely to drop a sensible senior pro after just one howler, so Cech will probably retain his place in nets.
In defence Mertesacker is still waiting for a match in place of Mustafi, but may have to sit tight until Sutton United, and Gabriel should benefit from Bellerin’s concussion to keep going at right-back. The Brazilian has performed ably there, but he can’t attack like Hector. Not many can. On the left I’d like to see Gibbs give Monreal a breather pre-Bayern.
In midfield we’re in desperate need of unity, mobility, and connectivity, so hopefully Elneny will be ready to provide. Expect him to clock up a considerable pass count against a Hull City side fairly indifferent to the football. Coquelin will continue, of course, and ideally keep it simple, while it would be welcome to see Özil get himself properly into the game.
Alexis Sanchez loves Hull. He listens to Throbbing Gristle, reads Philip Larkin to his dogs, and is always bloody banging goals past the Tigers. I reckon he’ll be playing (and scoring) from the left since Giroud, like the movie monster that never dies, keeps coming back for more. The big man is clearly not the starting centre-forward we crave, but his goal-scoring resilience is remarkable. I think Wenger will see Walcott as a prime weapon in Germany, so I expect him to be rested this weekend. Welbeck would be a super fine alternative.
I haven’t said much about Hull City, who have been stunning since the appointment of Marco Silva, a man who has triumphed in our stadium before. Let’s be honest, Arsene won’t be overly focussing on the opposition either. He’ll be thinking about getting the best from his eleven, and we have to trust in that. For his flaws, the manager’s ability to steady a rocking boat is astonishing. He has never experienced a ten-game run like Klopp’s current one. He will never have a season like Mourinho’s last year. This weekend the Wenger way will probably be enough.
A kick-off before lunchtime against a ‘boring’ Northern team has the hallmarks of a half-empty one, attendance-wise. The Emirates atmosphere has actually been slightly better of late, and we need those that are there to drown out the section of supporters that suck the energy out of the place before they’ve even seen how we turn up and play.
It’s that time of the season when our motto of Victory Through Harmony starts to resemble a perverse joke. When the dissenters are desperate to Make Arsenal Great Again. Unfortunately we can’t call on the likes of Jimmy Carter, Chris Kiwomya, and Gus Caesar anymore, so we are going to have to rely on Sanchez, Giroud, and Özil to pull us through, with Perez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and young Iwobi in reserve*. We remain in three competitions and I still think we can win one this year, but being a football fan isn’t about that alone. Let’s hope for a good day out. Let’s hope for the first goal, and some excitement. Let’s hope Steve Bould uses his last game in charge to do something mental on the touchline. Let’s hope for three points while our rivals drop theirs.
Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Alexis Sanchez. His feet are on fire at the moment, and he’ll be desperate to score.
Hull. Eldin Jakupović. Bound to be busy, this keeper frustrated Arsenal in last season’s FA Cup.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Ramsey (calf strain), Cazorla ( foot), Xhaka (suspended 4 of 4)
Hull City: Dawson (calf), Henriksen (shoulder), Hernández (hamstring), Davies (hamstring0, Odubajo (knee), Keane (knee), Lenihan (knee), Luer (knee), Mason (skull)
Hull City: LWLDW
Goals Scored Per Game:
Hull City: 0.92
Goal Conceded Per Game:
Hull City: 1.96
The Manager’s Perspective (courtesy Arsenal.com)
“The players have reacted this week by doing what their job consists of,” the boss told Arsenal Player. “That means the quality of their practising and by being united. And as well, getting clarity as to why did we lost the game and analyse well what happened and why we lost the game.”
So the past seven days have, at least, allowed the manager plenty of time to reflect on events at Stamford Bridge, and pinpoint exactly where things went wrong.
“I think the first goal had a huge impact on it because it allowed Chelsea to play what they are good at,” he said. “They are good on breaks, on counter-attacks and we didn’t create as many goal chances as we could have done with the number of possessions we had in the attacking third.
“I felt we lacked a bit of penetration in the final third. But it was quite an even game with some unexpected goals. Look at the saves made and the goal chance created on both sides, it was quite an even game.”
Now the focus is on looking forward, and making sure that the painful lessons in defeat have been heeded.
“We want to respond well, we had a difficult week but we don’t want to let it drag us down,” he said. “We are conscious, the players are conscious, that we missed out this week and we want to bounce back with full power.
“The best way to do that is to focus on what is in front of you.”
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (18M, 60Y, 2R)
Assistants: J Collin, A Holmes
Fourth official: R East
UK: Sky Sports 12.30 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 7:30 AM EST
Hull City 1 – 2 Arsenal
Match Facts (courtesy FourFourTwo.com via Opta)
- Arsenal have won seven of their last eight Premier League meetings with Hull (D1) since losing their first such game against the Tigers in September 2008 (1-2 at the Emirates).
- Since that 2-1 victory, Hull are winless in 13 games against the Gunners in all competitions, losing 11 (D2) including the 2014 FA Cup Final.
- Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in six goals in three Premier League appearances against Hull City (five goals, one assist).
- Sanchez is one of three Arsenal players to average 2+ goal involvements per game in the Premier League against a particular opponent (minimum of three appearances against them) – Ian Wright against Ipswich (eight goals and three assists in five games) and Lukas Podolski against West Ham (four goals and four assists in four games).
- This will be Marco Silva’s fourth meeting with one of the top six in the Premier League (Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool previously) in his first five Premier League games as Hull manager. Of those previous three, he’s lost only one (0-2 at Chelsea), drawing 0-0 at Old Trafford and then beating Liverpool at the KCOM in the last match.
- Marco Silva won on his only previous visit to the Emirates – 3-2 with Olympiakos in the Champions League last season. He’s the only manager to lead a Greek side to victory away on English soil in the Champions League/European Cup.
- The Tigers have kept two clean sheets in as many games in February, as many as they’d kept in their previous 26 Premier League games combined. Hull haven’t kept three in a row in the top-flight since October 2008.
- Olivier Giroud came off the bench to score in Arsenal’s last game against Chelsea, taking his substitute goal tally to four in the Premier League this season (level with Man City’s Nolito). No Arsenal player has ever scored more than four substitute goals in a Premier League season (Kanu in 1999-2000 and Emmanuel Adebayor in 2007-08 also scored four).
- Arsenal have won 15 of their last 17 Premier League games at the Emirates against newly promoted clubs (D2) since losing 1-0 to Newcastle in November 2010 – indeed, one of only three clubs to beat the Gunners at the Emirates were Hull City in September 2008.
- Arsenal have won 41% of the games Francis Coquelin has started in all competitions this season (9/22) – without him in the starting XI, they have won all 13 (100%).
- Hull have failed to score in 11 of their 24 league games this season – more often than any other Premier League side