08 March 2016

Arsenal's season, Arsène's legacy hang in the balance against Hull...

Dare I say it? A double dangles just out of our reach. A draw at White Hart Lane does just enough to entice us into believing that we could still win the Prem. However, by unhelpful contrast, a draw at home against Hull has threatened our ability to win a third consecutive FA Cup—a feat unachieved in more than a century. Blackburn Rovers did three in a row from 1884 to 1886. 1886 is a nice number, come to think of it. Vintage year, that one. Anyway, back to the present. If we lose, it's back to the Prem we go at home against West Brom on Saturday. If we win, though, we rejoin the FA Cup fray at home on Sunday against Watford, with the West Brom match to be rescheduled.

It looks as if Steve Bruce as sized up the squads still fighting to appear in the FA Cup final and decided to once again rotate heavily—that, or he's seen how Man U and Swansea succeeded against us by fielding academy products. If he goes one further and removes himself from the sideline, we'll know just what he's up to. For what it's worth, Bruce has found himself in a bit of a Championship dogfight, four points behind Burnley and level with Brighton but with a game in hand. He, like Arsène, faces some selection-dilemmas. Bruce, a class act it must be said, explained Hull's approach like so:
The priority's always the league..we want to be playing Arsenals and Man Us and Chelseas every week, you know, so, the priority of course is the league, but there's nothing quite like an FA Cup-tie...that is a problem because there is a whole raft of teams playing in the Championship on Tuesday, there's a full fixture list, and if we manage to get through, then we've got to move next Saturday, too, so we're already a game behind, so it just piles up the fixtures, which is a bit of a concern of course...but I can't really bleat too much because that is the Championship. 46 games is a grind, and we'll just have to take it on the chin and move on.
In other words, it sounds like Bruce is putting most if not all of his eggs in the Championship basket. He'd rather earn promotion by winning the Championship outright or through the playoff than by winning the FA Cup. There's sense in that, especially when we consider that we've reached a point at which most of the FA Cup contenders hail from the Prem. Of the seven clubs already in the sixth round proper, only Reading hail from outside the Prem.

However, we at Arsenal shouldn't be counting eggs before they hatch, regardless of the opponent. Winning the FA cup has become in short order the order of the day. Having broken Bruce's heart in 2014 to win it, having beaten his side again in 2015, we have to feel like smashing Hull yet again. That's not to say it will be easy. We at our end have slogged and struggled, even against squads clearly inferior to ours. If anything, Bruce's suggestion of rotation is a bit of banter, as both Man U and Swansea bested us while fielding any number of academy products, starlets, and ingenues.

Our draw at White Hart Lane does suggest that we can dare to dream. Against long odds, Ramsey and Alexis scored goals. Tottenham, it must be admitted, play some stingy defense. Should either one of Ramsey or Alexis find their scoring boots, it will be lights-out for Hull—not to mention anyone else who stands between us and that third-straight FA Cup title.

LAST 3
  • Arsenal 0-0 Hull (20.02.16)
  • Hull 1-3 Arsenal (04.05.2015)
  • Arsenal 2-0 Hull (04.01.2015)
FACTFILE
  • The two clubs first clashed on 1 August 1913, a 1-2 win to Woolwich Arsenal.
  • Arsenal have not lost to Hull in ten fixtures across all competitions.
INJURIES
  • Čech, Kosielny, Cazorla, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arteta and Rosický have all been ruled out. Coquelin will serve a one-match suspension for his second yellow against Tottenham.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI
  • Ospina; Gibbs, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Bellerín; Elneny, Ramsey; Alexis, Özil, Campbell; Welbeck.
PREDICTION
  • Arsenal will surely want to win this one in order to advance.
  • Hull 0-2 Arsenal.
What do you think? Can Arsenal get past Hull? Share your thoughts below the fold!