The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Hull
Limping Gunners vs stuttering Tigers.
- Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 4-1 Galatasaray (CL)
- Arsenal 1-1 Spurs (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-2 So’ton (LC)
- Villa 0-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Hull 2-0 Palace (Prem)
- Hull 2-4 Man City (Prem)
- WBA 3-2 Hull (LC)
- Newcastle 2-2 Hull (Prem)
- Hull 2-2 West Ham (Prem)
Arsenal are once again top of the table. That is, of course, the Premier League injury table, rather than the one which ranks teams based on the results of football matches, but small victories and all that...
The Gunners currently have nine players carrying injuries of varying severity. On one end of the scale is Danny Welbeck, who limped off the pitch towards the end of England's 1-0 win in Estonia, but should be back to face Hull on Saturday. On the other end are Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Debuchy, who could both be out until Christmas.
The key area of concern for Arsene Wenger, not for the first time, will be the defence. Laurent Koscielny joins Debuchy on the presumably rather crowded physio's table, while Calum Chambers will serve a one-match suspension having been booked in five of his seven Premier League appearances this season.
The result is that left-back Nacho Monreal is likely to fill in at centre-back, with rookie Hector Bellerin potentially making his Premier League debut at right-back. Could Wenger's policy of only employing six senior defenders be about to backfire?
Hull will naturally be hoping the answer to that question is "yes, this weekend, in the game against Hull", yet the Tigers haven't made a particularly convincing start to the season, despite strengthening considerably in the summer.
It could probably be argued that Hull's transfer window re-jig may in fact be the cause of their early malaise, with the campaign's first few fixtures not being without teething trouble.
Yet there were positive signs in the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace two weeks ago - a fixture that saw not only their second league victory of 2014/15, but also only their second clean sheet.
With Liverpool, Southampton, Spurs, Man United, Everton and Chelsea all to come after Saturday's trip to the Emirates, it was probably just as well they returned to winning ways against the Eagles.
Their squad depth should see them comfortably avoid the relegation scrap come the second half of the season, but there may be a few more difficult weeks ahead. Patience will be crucial. Giving Arsenal a bloody nose wouldn't do any harm, either...
You may want to pop the kettle on before reading this. Out for Arsenal are Laurent Koscielny (shin), David Ospina (hip), Mesut Ozil (knee ligament), Mikel Arteta (calf), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Yaya Sanogo (hamstring), Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), Olivier Giroud (ankle) and Calum Chambers (persistent fouling).
Hull will be without keeper Allan McGregor (shoulder) and Robert Snodgrass (knee). Ahmed Elmohamady may return from a back injury that forced him to miss Egypt's Africa Cup of Nations double header. Steve Bruce will assess Mo Diame and Sone Aluko after they endured long flights to link up with Senegal and Nigeria.
Player to watch: Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
With Arsenal facing something of a defensive injury crisis, Welbeck will need to be fit and firing at the other end to ensure the Gunners seal a much-needed victory.
Despite seeing his fair share of the ball at Stamford Bridge last time out, Welbeck only received 2 passes in the Chelsea penalty area, and subsequently didn't muster a single shot over 90 minutes.
Hull's defence, with the greatest of respect, isn't quite as good as Chelsea's, but Welbeck will need to be clinical as and when the chances do come. He hit the target with just 5 of the 13 shots he attempted in his previous three league games in an Arsenal shirt, scoring once.
His hat-trick in the Champions League against Galatasaray proved the England striker has that much-needed killer instinct in front of goal, now it's time to show it in the Premier League.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal e3-2 Hull (FAC, May 14)
- Hull 0-3 Arsenal (PL, Apr 14)
- Arsenal 2-0 Hull (PL, Dec 13)
- Hull 1-2 Arsenal (PL, Mar 10)
- Arsenal 3-0 Hull (PL, Dec 09)
Modern football is so full of bilious bickering that we sometimes overlook those unlikely friendships - like the one between Wenger and Bruce. Not every manager refers to their dugout-dwelling bredren as a 'specialist in failure' or an 'old c**t'. Arsene and Brucie's kinship goes back to the days when the Frenchman loaned various fringe players to the Geordie's Birmingham City side. Even though those players included Nicklas Bendtner and Johan Djourou*, the warmth between the two managers remains. It's a beautiful thing, and one worth mentioning every time these two teams play each other (which we seem to be doing).
*Yes, we know both Bendtner and Djourou performed well during their loan stints at St Andrews...
Facts and figures
- Arsenal have not lost back-to-back Premier League matches since January 2013.
- Hull have not won back-to-back league games since September 2013, despite winning 9 matches since.
- The Tigers have won just 1 of their last 12 Premier League trips to London (W1 D2 L9), but this victory came in their only trip to the capital this season (1-0 at QPR in August).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Arsenal's under-manned defence to be breached, but not as often as Hull's. 3-1 to the Gunners.
Back 3-1 at 11/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication