The FourFourTwo Preview: Hull vs Arsenal
Hull’s chance to secure survival, Arsenal’s opportunity to reclaim runner-up.
- Hull 1-0 Liverpool (Prem)
- Palace 0-2 Hull (Prem)
- So’ton 2-0 Hull (Prem)
- Swansea 3-1 Hull (Prem)
- Hull 2-3 Chelsea (Prem)
- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (Prem)
- Reading 1-2e Arsenal (FAC)
- Burnley 0-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal (Prem)
You wait two months to win a game of football and then two come along at once. Conquests in couplets are Hull’s thing at the moment; since the 2-0 victory over Everton on New Year's Day the Tigers have triumphed in just four Premier League matches in 2015, and both have come back-to-back.
Aston Villa and QPR were dispatched in consecutive games in February and then, this past week, a solid Pardew-busting 2-0 win at Crystal Palace was followed by a resolute midweek 1-0 triumph over Liverpool, an achievement met with howls of glee from supporters thoroughly starved of that winning feeling.
Steve Bruce’s side now sit four points clear of the dreaded drop zone - room to breathe, sure, but certainly no cause for complacency at this late stage of the season.
Eighteenth-placed Sunderland have a game in hand, and with Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United three of the Tigers’ last four opponents they are far from safe just yet.
“We have given ourselves an outstanding chance [of survival],” was Bruce’s take on the win over Liverpool, three points earned through a diligent process of allowing Brendan Rodgers’ side the ball and watching on with a faintly bemused collective look as Raheem Sterling, Jordon Ibe and Mario Balotelli fumbled around incoherently, before overpowering the Reds from set-pieces.
“But that is all it is.” Bruce has been around the block enough times to recognise the mountain is far from climbed, but six points from their last six is a massive boost for Hull; without them they’d be in the bottom three and staring relegation square in the face.
Momentum is the name of the game, but the chances of continuing that winning run would appear extremely remote: Hull have lost five of their last six league games against Arsenal, the Gunners victorious in eight of their last nine meetings against Hull, including a certain FA Cup final.
If we’re talking momentum, few teams can match the Gunners right now: last Sunday’s goalless draw against Chelsea ended a run of eight straight league wins, and Arsenal haven’t lost in the Premier League since a young Englishman by the name of Harry shot them down in flames back in February.
Manchester City may now finally be putting up a fight for that runners-up spot, but Arsenal are top of the form guide and on track to make it their own for the first time in a decade.
The latest reports pitch Mathieu Debuchy’s chances of being fit for this clash at 50 per cent, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mikel Arteta remain out. That trio aside it’s a surprisingly quiet treatment room at the Emirates, giving Arsene Wenger a variety of weapons in his Arsenal. Hull are missing Nikica Jelavic, Robert Snodgrass and Curtis Davies, with Mo Diame and Andrew Robertson battling for fitness.
Key battle: Robbie Brady vs Aaron Ramsey
Michael Dawson may have taken all the plaudits for Hull’s win against Liverpool, leaping like some giant, graceful Yorkshire salmon to earn his team a vital three points, but it was Robbie Brady who most stood out for the Tigers on the night. The Irishman seems to have been around forever, but he in fact doesn’t turn 24 until next January. Brady’s enthusiastic zeal and dutiful defensive discipline (no player won more tackles on Tuesday evening) gave Emre Can all kinds of problems down Hull’s left, and his dangerous set-piece delivery also proved a valuable asset in spurring Hull to victory.
Next up for the former Manchester United youngster it’s likely to be Aaron Ramsey, who Wenger has deployed as the right-hand prong of a three-man attacking midfield in recent weeks, to great effect. Ramsey has grabbed two goals and three assists in his last five appearances for the Gunners (he’s only scored five in the league all season) and has dovetailed with fellow forwards Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez very nicely indeed. Ramsey will drift all over the place, but Brady must find the balance between pushing forward to aid in attack and ensuring he doesn’t leave room for Aaron and friends to roam in behind.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal 2-0 Hull (FAC, Jan 15)
- Arsenal 2-2 Hull (PL, Oct 14)
- Arsenal e3-2 Hull (FAC, May 14)
- Hull 0-3 Arsenal (PL, Apr 14)
- Arsenal 2-0 Hull (PL, Dec 13)
“To see everyone fit makes us stronger,” Wenger purred in the build-up to this game. “We are on a good run, we want to keep it going and the fact we have plenty of selection opportunities is very interesting.” There’s a latent, underlying bromance between Wenger and Bruce that bubbles gently under the surface. Wenger has previously described Bruce as ‘exceptional’ and ‘remarkable’, nominating him for manager of the season last year, while the flat-nosed former United bruiser has regularly leaped to Wenger’s defence like some bloated, loveable knight in shining armour, calling him a ‘genius’ and ‘one of the greats’. Yeah, get a room guys.
Facts and figures
- The Gunners have won 8 and lost 0 of the last 9 meetings with Hull in all competitions.
- Hull have only won 3 Premier League games in a row on 1 previous occasion; October 2008, when they won 4 successive league matches.
- Since their return to the Premier League in August 2013, Hull’s Ahmed Elmohamady has fired in 429 crosses from open play – 89 more than any other player.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Arsenal tend to tame Tigers with alarming tranquility, at least in recent years. Liverpool faltered, but their slow passing and lack of cohesion - isolating their forward players with large gaps between them all - are two traps Arsenal and their triangle-happy attacking interaction rarely fall into. The Gunners take this. 1-2.