FA Cup Preview: Arsenal vs Hull City
Seven points in four games from the congested festive schedule is not the best of returns however the frenetic run of games quickly offers you another chance to go some way to putting things right.
Arsenal play Hull in one of the quirks of the FA Cup – the previous year’s finalists facing one another early. This time Arsenal have avoided another cup quirk and have not had to play their cup opponents within a few weeks of the match in a “league rehearsal” as we did last year.
Neither team has really built on their cup run from last season when arguably both should have and now one of last season’s finalists is about to put the other out.
I must admit to being worried about this match for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, despite not impressing in the league for most of the season Hull are coming off the back of an accomplished performance and result against Everton whilst we are coming off the back of yet another ignominious defeat caused by our own lack of desire and sloppy defending.
Secondly, in spite of our Herculean comeback in the final in a season where we capitulated in every other game we had found ourselves scored against early for the most Hull had the measure of us. They also had the measure of us in October and it was only thanks to Danny Welbeck that we avoided complete embarrassment.
Thirdly, we are poor at the moment. We’ve seized points where we have done little to deserve them or have been lucky to hang on which whilst as admirable trait we’ve been demanding of Arsenal for years is tempered by a sense of fragility that constantly threatens to turn what is retrospectively a gritty defensive display into a horrific defeat. In short, we’re seeing some games out but aren’t looking defensively assured.
Lastly, Wenger has never lost a third round tie in the FA Cup. Records are there to be broken and given our recent form I am bricking it that today is going to be one of those days.
I feel genuinely sick at the thought of this game because it is our only chance of a trophy this season and to “progress” we need to win it again. Winning a trophy two years on the trot is significant progress regardless of what anyone says. If we win the cup again I will still be disappointed in our league form but overall I will be pleased with our progress.
Should Ozil play for Arsenal?
Mesut Özil could return to the squad today and that is good news however I wonder if this is really the best game to introduce him again, even as a sub. We clearly need his talent and we are woefully short in the middle but we also need to manage his reintroduction as best we can to ensure he does not relapse.
Wenger has generally been good with reintroducing players this season but I also feel he has a bit of a blind spot when it comes to Özil’s fitness and form as we have seen him played and overplayed when he probably didn’t deserve it. There may be an element of shoehorning him into the team because of his price tag or it may just be a case of you can’t leave your best player on the bench.
It would be disastrous to Arsenal to lose him again for any extended period. In fact, we can ill afford to lose any player at the moment including Podolski who is off to Inter Milan on loan. We’re so thin right now the decision seems odd but hopefully Wenger has a new signing up his sleeve in the next week.
Another player who could be properly reintroduced today is Theo Walcott who is fit but lacking in competition according to Wenger. It was this time last year that we lost Theo to injury so starting him could be the incentive he needs to push on as he can bookend his absence with the FA Cup. It’s a motivating thought.
Flamini faces a late fitness test and frankly we need him to pass that. Chambers and Coquelin didn’t look great together and some of that may be down to the whole team being off the pace at Southampton but this is not the match to test the water again.
Wenger has suggested he wants to rest some players but is struggling to find a way to do it but I think we could see Alexis on the bench today which is another cause for concern because he has carried the team along with Cazorla these past few weeks. He needs a rest and usually this would be a good game to do it in but we simply have to win this one. My internal torment is pouring into this piece as I’m sure you can tell.
We’re at home which is some small comfort but I think this will be a really tense game. Yesterday the cup matches returned a glut of goals and the law of averages says today will offer few if any. I think Arsenal will edge this one but only just.
Arsenal from; Ospina, Martinez, Debuchy, Chambers, Gibbs, Monreal Mertesacker, Koscielny, Bellerin, Coquelin, Flamini, Chamberlain, Rosicky, Alexis, Cazorla, Welbeck and Campbell.
PREDICTED LINE-UP: Ospina; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Chamberlain, Flamini, Coquelin, Cazorla; Walcott, Welbeck
I expect to see substitute appearances from Monreal, Rosicky and Alexis
“Last season’s final is a great memory but we have a big job to do against Hull. We also want to come back in the Premier League, then we have the Champions League. What is for sure is that we have room for improvement and we have to manage to do that quickly.
Of course it is important. We want another cup run and we want, if possible, to keep the trophy. We’ve won it five times in my period so that means we know the importance that it has.” – Arsène Wenger
LAST 3 MEETINGS
- Arsenal 2-2 Hull (18.10.2014)
- Arsenal 3-2 Hull (17.05.2014)
- Hull 0-3 Arsenal (20.04.2014)
Arsenal Last 5: LWWDW
Hull Last 5: WLWLL
Despite reasonable investment in playing personnel this season Hull have not been able to maintain any semblance of form however they have shown themselves to be a decent match for Arsenal in their last two games, both times narrowly defeated, and they are coming into this game off the back of a good performance against Everton on New Year’s Day.
Hull will be up for this as ideal revenge for the final.
- The two clubs first met in 1913, a 0-0 tie
- Arsenal have scored at least two goals in their last ten outings against Hull
- Arsenal have never lost in the 3rd round of the FA Cup under Wenger
- Wenger has won the cup 5 times – more than any other Arsenal manager
- Hull have never beaten Arsenal in the FA Cup
- Arsenal kick off this campaign at home having won the trophy last season without leaving London
A horrible and tense game to watch with a tight scoreline and a chorus of boos at half-time is what I am expecting.
1-0 to Arsenal with Chamberlain scoring.