03 May 2015

Hull Preview: Walcott on the wing, Walcott does that thing...

It’s been a long weekend indeed that sees us waiting until Monday to square off against Hull. By then, we’ll have exhausted the exhilaration that is Man U losing a third straight—this last one at home—all but excluding them for the discussion. In the meantime, of course, Chelsea have won the Prem (finally...) while Man City beat Tottenham to offer us a chance at St. Totteringham's Day while keeping the chase for second place tight. None of this, however, should tempt us to look past Hull, who hit as hard as they’ve been hit as they seek to stave off relegation.

Brave wins for Aston Villa (3-2 over Everton), Leicester (3-0 over Newcastle) and Sunderland (2-1 over Southampton) mean that Hull are now just one point from safety. This might force them to hunker down and fight for a point, or it might inspire them to probe forward to chase all three. In either case, we have to make the most of this match if we're serious about staying ahead of Man City.

For as much as we’ve enjoyed success against Hull in the last few years, we would do well to mind the lesson that Man U have offered: no match is an easy one, especially against a squad fighting relegation. West Brom may have offered us another helping of schadenfreude in winning at Old Trafford, but, surely, they’ve served notice. Even if we’ve scored 12 goals in our last five outings against the Tigers while winning four, As to the match itself, we at Arsenal have to feel frustrated at our inability to break down Chelsea’s stubborn defense, even as we created chances.

While Hull may not offer the same quality in defense or attack, we should prepare for a similarly stubborn attempt at parking the bus while clogging the midfield in a 3-5-2 formation. The congestion that this attempts to create might frustrate us, as it not only denies us space in the middle third of the pitch, it strives to deny us attacks down the flanks. Even if the three centre-backs offer us space in the final third, those five midfielders could stymie us, daring us to find space behind them—and this might just be recipe for a certain winger, neglected of late, to make his mark.

While it’s true that those midfielders will create a bit of a traffic jam in the middle of the pitch, a few well-placed through-balls could exploit the narrowness that Hull’s back-three play with, and this all but dares Arsène to send out Theo Walcott.  Running behind that midfield and into the wide areas is his calling card. His absence hasn't quite made hearts grow fond as Gooners forget just how devastating he can be. Surely, Walcott thirsts to remind us of what he’s capable after a long injury-spell and increased competition had sidelined him. Given a chance, he could and should run amok. This is in fact a fixture tailor-made for his strengths; let’s hope that he’s given a chance at resurrecting the form that enticed and endeared a season ago.

LAST 3
Arsenal 2-0 Hull (04.01.2015—FA Cup)
Arsenal 2-2 Hull (18.10.2014)
Arsenal 3-2 Hull (17.05.2014—FA Cup Final)

FACTFILE
The two clubs first met on 20 September 1913, a 0-0 draw.
Arsenal have won their last four away matches in the Prem.
 Arsenal have scored two goals or more in their last nine matches against Hull. Arsenal have won their last four away-matches in the Prem.

INJURIES
Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Mathieu Flamini are all doubtful.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Ospina; Gibbs, Gabriel, Koscielny, Debuchy; Cazorla, Coquelin; Alexis, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.  

PREDICTION 
Hull 0-2 Arsenal.

A determined Hull side will hope to build on last week’s win over Liverpool but won’t be able to hold off Arsenal.

This post first appeared at Goonersphere.com.

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