19 February 2016

What, again? Enough with facing Hull in the FA Cup already...

Let it be said: as Bayern are to Arsenal, so too are Arsenal unto Hull City. For a third consecutive season, Arsenal square off against the Tigers. For a third consecutive season, Arsenal should be strong enough to force their way past those Tigers into the FA Cup's sixth round. That's not to say it will be easy; Steve Bruce has his squad atop the Championship with promotion squarely in his sights. Tempting though it may be to look past him towards Barça, we have a cup to defend.

Having struggled past Championship-side Burnley in the fourth round, we should know better than to get too far ahead of ourselves. Between a few niggles, that Champions League first-leg, and a tough trip to Old Trafford next weekend, we will certainly have to put up with some squad-rotation, but Arsène has said that he "will, as always, play a steam who has a good chance to qualify. The normal squad is involved on Saturday." He did rule out Gabriel and suggest that Koscielny's status depends on further tests. If nothing else, we should see a few switches, enough to rest a few for the week that comes while still fielding a strong XI.

As for Hull, don't think they'll neglect the FA Cup in order to secure the Championship title. If anything, our recent shared history—much as it has with Bayern and Arsenal—has probably provided some inspiration and determination for Bruce's men. He does have some squad management of his own to sort, what with three matches in six days, but he'll still field a side hungry to avenge previous losses to Arsenal and draw inspiration for the run-in.

To the match itself, we'll probably spend a good deal of time crashing up against a defense that plays a sort of 4-4-1-1, withAbel Hernández and Mohamed Diamé trying to get forward on counters launched by former Spurs Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone. Even if Hernández has scored 16 goals in all competitions, I don't think he or the rest of the Tigers have enough firepower to take on an Arsenal side sure to be fired up after a dramatic, last-gasp win last weekend. If there's an x-factor to account for, it will be the fact that the insufferable Mike Dean will preside. We can't afford to leave it late when he's involved—we'll simply have to seize this one by the scruff so that he can't pull the rug out from under us as he's done so many times in the past.

LAST 3
Hull 1-3 Arsenal (04.05.2015)
Arsenal 2-0 Hull (04.01.2015)
Arsenal 2-2 Hull (18.10.2014)

FACTFILE
Arsenal have scored at least two goals in their last 10 matches against Hull.
Hull has not beaten Arsenal at home in their last five visits.
The two clubs first met on 1 August 1913, a 1-0 win to Hull.

INJURIES
Rosický, Wilshere, Cazorla, and Gabriel have all been ruled out. Gibbs and Koscielny face late fitnes tests.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Ospina, Monreal, Mertesacker, Chambers, Bellerín; Elneny, Ramsey; Campbell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott; Welbeck.

Arsenal carry a lot of momentum and pride into this rematch and will overrun Hull.

PREDICTION
Arsenal 3-0 Hull