Arsenal v Hull
Kick off: October 18th, 2014 1500 PM BST
After another international break that our players take too literally so at least two of them break while they are on their international duty, some real football is back.
In normal circumstances we would enter the match against Hull without fear. We have had their number lately and our first trophy in nine years was won against The Tigers despite their two-goal-lead after nine minutes. However, with ten players being unavailable due to injuries and yellow cards, we have to be careful. The big picture doesn’t look great so far – we have won just two and drawn four out of seven opening league matches which is unacceptable, even if those matches included fixtures against Everton, Manchester City, Spuds and Chelsea. We are nine points behind the leaders, our team would have been called London Patients if we had participated in American MLS and our defence hasn’t been solid enough so far.
However, Hull are our first opponents in a streak of matches that we should defeat even with a decimated squad. They have added some flair to their team and are dangerous from set-pieces (which has been our weakest area so far) but they shouldn’t pose a threat to us.
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Of course, there is always a danger called “the international hangover”. Most of our healthy players have already played this week with their respective national teams so one must take fatigue into account.
Wojciech Szczesny is a safe bet for the place between the sticks, mostly because David Ospina has had injury problems ever since he signed for us. The Pole will have mixed feelings about the international break – Poland had beaten Germany before dropping two points at home against Scotland. Szczesny hasn’t been on his usual level this term and that has to change, especially given the problems we have with our defence.
Hector Bellerin is a very realistic option for the right full-back position. His performance against Southampton in the Capital One Cup gives us hope he will be a great stand-in for Debuchy and Chambers today.
Per Mertesacker’s responsibility will be the BF one. He will have to organize a defence that will rarely get a chance to play together and turn his attention to defending set-pieces. Just like Szczesny, he has to improve his form or our season might get ugly.
Nacho Monreal will have to play a central defender’s role. The Spaniard has been one of the rare players who has actually looked better this term than the last one but his physical abilities might be tested against The Tigers.
Kieran Gibbs has somehow been healthy for a while (touch wood) and will be one of our most important players today, not just because Gibbs is the only regular member of the defence – apart from Mertesacker – that is not injured or suspended but also because he offers width and pace for our attack. Our game against Aston Villa was a good example of what Gibbs can offer against teams of that quality attacking-wise, and The Tigers will have a lot of wounds to lick if Gibbs is allowed to run free down the left flank.
Mathieu Flamini is one of two French players that are not injured. The other one is Francis Coquelin who plays in the same position as Flamini. Flamini might get the nod ahead of Mikel Arteta today. Given the shape of our defence, Flamini’s performance might be one of the most important ones today.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will take his place down the right flank. His link-up with Bellerin can turn out both to be our greatest asset but also a liability defensive-wise.
Santi Cazorla will get a prolonged run down the middle given that Mesut Özil is injured. The Spaniard started our come-back against Hull in the FA Cup Final with a stunning goal from the free-kick. Now he’ll have to create goals for our attackers.
Jack Wilshere has done rather well this term and this might be the game in which he’ll add final product. He’ll get kicked – as usual, without yellow cards for the opponents – but he can get his revenge for that by scoring goals. In the absence of Ramsey and Özil, Wilshere has to become our main midfield force.
Alexis Sánchez might start on either flank today. I suppose Wenger will opt for Alexis’ down the left flank. Alexis has scored five goals in all competitions so far and has proven that he is a top-drawer player.
Danny Welbeck has offered a lot of work-rate and four goals since his arrival from Manchester United. His finishing should be sharp and composed today so we can break the visitors as soon as we can.
I’d say we’ll win 4:1, with a conceded goal from a set-piece (possibly from a Gooner Nikica Jelavić) and goals from Welbeck, Alexis, Wilshere and super-sub Podolski to secure our victory. None of the four players that were involved in our goals in this fixture last term are available for today’s match – Nicklas Bendtner left us to be the greatest striker ever somewhere else, Carl Jenkinson who crossed the ball for Bendtner’s early opener is on loan at West Ham, Aaron Ramsey who created Mesut Özil’s goal is now with the German in the treatment room.
Nevertheless, we should win this one. After all, the gun-powder is more dangerous than the tiger’s bite!
Head to Head
FA Cup Final (FAC) 17 May 2014 Arsenal FC 3 (2) – Hull City 2 (2) OT
Premier League (EPL) 20 Apr 2014 Hull City 0 – Arsenal FC 3
Premier League (EPL) 4 Dec 2013 Arsenal FC 2 – Hull City 0
Premier League (EPL) 13 Mar 2010 Hull City 1 – Arsenal FC 2
Premier League (EPL) 13 Dec 2009 Arsenal FC 3 – Hull City 0
Bellerin Mertesacker (c) Monreal Gibbs
Arsenal 4 v 1 Hull