Preview by Numbers: Hull City v. Arsenal

KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
Sunday, April 20
9:05 a.m. EDT, 14:05 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Jonathan Moss
    • Assistants: Simon Long and John Flynn
    • 4th Official: Kevin Friend
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 0 Hull City
  • This Match, Last Time: Hull City 1 - 2 Arsenal (March 13, 2010)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 11 Arsenal wins, 3 Hull City wins, 3 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-D-D-L-W
  • Hull City's League Form: L-L-W-L-L-W
  • Weather: Cloudy, 11 C / 52 F
  • Over/Under on Mentions of this Being FA Cup Final Preview During Broadcast:
  • Arsenal's Odds of Finishing Top Four Entering Weekend: 73.3%
Advantage: Arsenal.

Thanks to Crystal Palace's 3-2 win at Goodison Park on Wednesday night, Arsenal control their own destiny for fourth place once more. Win all four remaining league games and Arsenal can finish no worse than fourth place. In addition, Arsenal gained some ground on Everton in the first potential tiebreaker; Everton's goal difference advantage has been trimmed from six to three.

Again, both teams still have to play Hull City away. Arsenal's other three matches are against Newcastle, West Brom, and Norwich. Everton's other three matches are against Southampton, Manchester United, and Manchester City. But, as Palace proved this week, no result is guaranteed.

It's time to bear down and focus. Arsenal, after a miserable winter, are in control of their European destiny once again. Beat Newcastle, West Brom, Norwich, and Hull twice, and Arsenal will look back on this season as a step forward from last year (fourth again but with silverware in tow.)

12 more points and a trophy on the table. Let's go for it.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Gibbs (ankle?,) Wilshere (foot,) Walcott (knee,) Ryo (ankle,) Diaby (knee)
Doubts: Ozil (hamstring,) Monreal (dead leg,) Gnabry (knee)
  • First, the good news, as Mesut Ozil faces a fitness test to potentially return from the Grade 2 hamstring strain that has kept him out of action since March 11.
  • The bad news is that Kieran Gibbs is out and Nacho Monreal faces a fitness test meaning Arsenal could be, again, without a natural left back. On the other hand, Thomas Vermaelen filled the role admirably against West Ham midweek and I'd almost feel safer with the Belgian playing out of position than with the Spaniard playing there at all.
  • Precious few details on everyone else: Serge Gnabry's availability for the bench is still a doubt as he recovers from a knee problem, while Arsenal will still be without Jack Wilshere. Abou Diaby's season is probably over (surprise!) even as he returns to running. Theo Walcott and Ryo also remain done for this campaign.
  • Mathieu Flamini returns from his two match suspension, which should alleviate some of the weight on Mikel Arteta's tired legs. Aaron Ramsey should be available to start again and Kim Kallstrom was decent on Tuesday in that position as well.
  • My prediction that will be totally wrong? Arteta gets a rest, Kallstrom starts with Flamini, and Ramsey plays a more advanced forward role in the midfield. Alternatively, Tomas Rosicky could start in the advanced role again, leaving Kallstrom on the bench.
Predicted XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Flamini, Kallstrom, Ramsey, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud.

Hull City Squad News

Out: McShane (ankle,) Brady (groin,) McGregor (rib/kidney)
  • Hull will welcome forwards Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic back into their XI this week after being unable to use them at Wembley; both are cup tied and thus not eligible for the final in May. With both back in the picture, Steve Bruce's side will likely line-up in a 4-4-2.
  • The Tigers are without defender Paul McShane with ankle ligament damage, midfielder Robbie Brady with a groin strain, and goalkeeper Allan McGregor, whose broken rib damaged his kidney. All three are out for the season.
Predicted XI: Harper, Rosenior, Chester, Davies, Figueroa, Livermore, Huddlestone, Elmohamady, Meyler, Jelavic, Long.

Current Form
  • Well, this section should make for a little better reading after Arsenal snapped their four match + penalty shootout winless streak with their 3-1 win over West Ham on Tuesday.
  • When Lukas Podolski scored his second, he put Arsenal ahead by two goals in a match for the first time since the FA Cup win over Everton on March 8. It was their first two goal lead in a league match since the 4-1 win over Sunderland on February 22; they had gone six league matches without holding a two goal lead, winning just the one over Spurs during that span.
  • For the fourth straight time in meetings between the clubs, West Ham had taken the lead over Arsenal only for the Gunners to come back and take all three points. Arsenal have rescued all three points from a losing position just twice this season, both coming against West Ham.
  • The Gunners have just 10 points from matches where they have conceded first (they also have draws against West Brom, Southampton, Swansea, and City.) On the other hand, they have 55 points from matches where they've scored first. That adds up to 65 points, with Arsenal's other two coming from 0-0 draws. Unfortunately, Arsenal have conceded first in five straight league games and six straight across all competitions.
  • So, for those counting along at home, Arsenal have 18 wins, one loss, and one draw when scoring first and two wins, six losses, and four draws when conceding first, with two 0-0's for good measure.
  • Meanwhile, Hull City have been floating around comfortably mid-table (or rather, consistently among the highest in the table of teams near the relegation conversation) all season. They reached a high point of 7th in late September and have never fallen worse than 14th since.
  • However, that 14th place position was achieved just three weeks ago after a loss to Stoke. They rebounded with a win over Swansea to climb back to 12th, but have fallen back to 13th after playing in the FA Cup last weekend. Their match that would have been last week, against Manchester United, will be played Tuesday, May 6.
  • The Tigers have 36 points, leaving them six points clear of 17th-place Fulham with a game in hand. Conventional wisdom says that 40 points should be safe, so Hull need a win and a draw from their final five league fixtures to reach that mark.
  • Hull have a record of four wins in 14 league matches in the calendar year 2014, against Sunderland, Cardiff, West Brom, and Swansea. They have, of course, at the same time progressed to the FA Cup Final, though their quarterfinal win over last-place Sunderland was their only cup tie against a Premier League level opponent.
Match Facts
  • After Phil Brown-led Hull City shocked Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates in September of 2008 in their first season after promotion to the Premier League, the Gunners have won five straight against the Tigers, though they have not always been easy.
  • The reverse fixtures earlier this season saw Nicklas Bendtner get a surprise start, and even more surprisingly, he opened the scoring in the second minute after a cross from Carl Jenkinson. Mesut Ozil added a second in the 47th minute for a 2-0 Arsenal victory.
  • Bendtner was the hero the last time Arsenal played at the KC Stadium, scoring in the 90th minute after Boaz Myhill could only parry a Denilson shot, to give Arsenal a 2-1 victory that kept their title hopes alive. Brown was sacked the following Monday, while Arsenal's title hopes were effectively dashed by Birmingham City with a late equalizer at St. Andrew's two weeks later.
  • I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the time Phil Brown's assistant Brian Horton accused Cesc Fabregas of spitting at him before an FA Cup tie in 2009, which Arsenal won 2-1. The FA later concluded that no such thing had happened.
  • The meeting between these sides in December of 2009 at the Emirates featured a 21-man fight which started when Samir Nasri stamped on Richard Garcia; both clubs were fined for failing to control their players, but Nasri was not retroactively banned. Arsenal won the match 3-0.
The Referee
  • The referee is West Yorkshire-based Jonathan Moss.
  • Arsenal have seen Moss twice this season, with two 2-0 home victories, against Cardiff City and Crystal Palace.
  • Moss also worked the second game of the Emirates Cup in August, in which he gave Galatasaray a controversial and dubious penalty to turn the tide of the match.
  • Arsenal have had Moss in six league matches prior to this week; the Gunners have won all six. The previous four were all road victories, over Aston Villa, Wigan Athletic, Swansea City, and Queens Park Rangers.
  • Hull City have had Moss as their referee on three occasions this season, losing 2-0 at Chelsea, drawing 1-1 at West Brom, and losing to Spurs on penalties in the League Cup.
  • In prior seasons, in the Championship, Hull have a record of one win and two draws with Moss in the middle.
Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Tottenham Hotspur v. Fulham; White Hart Lane, London
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Southampton; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Cardiff City v. Stoke City; Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Swansea City; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Crystal Palace; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Saturday (late): Chelsea v. Sunderland; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (very early): Norwich City v. Liverpool; Carrow Road Norwich
  • Sunday (late): Everton v. Manchester United; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Monday (night): Manchester City v. West Bromwich Albion; Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham: Stirring Second Half Performance

Well, I suppose in retrospect you can sympathize for the first-half showing put on by the men in red and white. Two days ago, they struggled for 120 minutes against game opposition before finally winning on penalties. Today, it was back to the drudgery of the league, and the now-annual Fourth Place Trophy chase.

There were changes to the lineup that knocked out the FA Cup holders 48 short hours ago, as you might expect. Wojciech Szczesny, Kim Kallstrom and Tomas Rosicky were handed starts, with Thomas Vermaelen slotting into the left back slot left vacated by Gaping Chest Wound Nacho Monreal.

Perhaps the changes - along with the tired legs of those that remained - contributed to the lack of fluency that Arsenal showed going forward. Indeed, it was only Kallstrom (who hasn't had the "forward" trained out of him yet) that drove us in the early going - always looking for a positive pass, good energy and tracked back well also. The Swede ended up giving us a solid performance on his first start for the club. It was Yossi Benayoun-esque, which is meant as a compliment.

West Ham soaked up the early pressure though, and eventually made the odd sortie out of their half. Oddly, Vermaelen was among those who did impressively well to keep them at bay, alongside the more typical excellence of Per Mertesacker. The Arsenal, on the other hand, played well enough through the midfield but were guilty of timidness on that one final ball. Most were either under or over-hit, the worst culprits being Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla. It was all sort of encouraging in its own way, though.

Less encouraging was Olivier Giroud badly fluffing his lines when put through clean on goal around the half-hour mark. Cazorla's pass was a shade behind him, but the Frenchman surely could have done better than an odd "flick-this-thing-off-my-shoe" motion with his off foot. Adrian palmed it out at full stretch, but it was going so slow that the Spaniard likely made a bit of a meal of that one (and keep in mind that as a goalkeeper myself, I NEVER say that and typically find it offensive gobshitery from people who know the position in the same way that I know the detailed history of Outer Mongolia).

How important that miss looked when the Hammers snatched the lead soon after. Guy Demel played in Antonio Nocerino, whose shot was parried by Szczesny. Laurent Koscielny, just back from injury in fairness, was badly beaten to the rebound by Matt Jarvis. It might be an exaggeration, but this felt like the 10,000th in a series of goals that looked just like this one conceded to shit teams. It gets maddening after a while.

Kallstrom came right back with a tracer straight at Adrian, but it still looked like Arsenal would head into the interval with a demoralizing deficit. Cometh the hour, cometh Der Hammer though. West Ham went to sleep a bit, and this time Cazorla's through-ball was on the money. Podolski looked up and slid the ball into the far corner. It was a hell of a finish, but I suspect that Adrian got his angle slightly wrong there (he also might have had a shot if he had went for the dive instead of the leg save).

The visitors rebounded well in the early stages of the second half, only to come unstuck from (of all things) a bit of Route One football from the Gunners. A corner kick was cleared almost to the halfway line, where Vermaelen was waiting. He hooked a high, arcing ball back into the mixer. The Hammers defense and Adrian both looked like they thought the other was going to get it. Instead, Giroud came in, muscled his man off the ball in an excellent show of strength, and nutmegged the static Adrian. It was wonderful skill from the HFB, but Adrian was an absolute clown on that one. First, he probably should have come out for it in the first place. Second, Giroud had nowhere else to put that ball - you CAN'T get nutmegged there.

You know what, though? That's the Walrus' problem.

Anyway, the visitors were reeling now. Arsene, in turn, made what I thought was a brilliant substitution. The game but largely ineffective Rosicky came off, replaced by Aaron Ramsey. Any thought West Ham may have had of pouring forward for the equalizer was immediately superseded by having to deal with the new and serious threat heading towards their penalty area. For a guy who is two seconds back from a long injury, Ramsey was absolutely awesome.

The move paid immediate dividends, giving the points to Arsenal and giving Everton something to think about against an all-of-a-sudden feisty Crystal Palace side tomorrow. Giroud ranged out to the left, dragging that side of the defense with him. He put in a cross that was a bit behind Ramsey, but the Welshman brilliantly managed to track back and guide a through-header (yes, you read that right) into the path of the onrushing Podolski. Der Hammer struck again, Adrian lucky enough to not get his hands in front of the shot. He'd be taking them home in a shopping bag otherwise. What a hit, and what a relief to have the points firmly in our possession.

The rest of the match was just playing out time, the visitors a well-beaten side. There are five more must-win matches left in the season, counting the FA Cup. If nothing else, this was a badly-needed reminder that this side is capable of doing exactly that.

Your move, Toffees.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Vermaelen 8, Mertesacker 8, Koscielny 6, Sagna 8, Arteta 7, Kallstrom 8, Podolski 9, Rosicky 6 (Ramsey 8), Cazorla 8 (Jenkinson N/A), Giroud 8

Man of the Match: You can make an argument for Cazorla's excellence in the second half, or even Ramsey's cameo after coming on for the last 20 minutes. For me, though, Lukas Podolski takes the honors. How important was that goal right on the stroke of halftime for our season, let alone this match?