Everton 0-2 Arsenal: Thorough Domination

Photo: Getty Images

I'm not being funny here, but did Everton have so much as a shot on goal today?

This wasn't a match that you'll be raving to your grandkids about on your deathbed by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a solid and professional performance that netted us three utterly vital points. As gash as we've been over the last month or two, the nearest and dearest are now just three points ahead of us with 8 games to play.

As I said in the report for - Leicester, I think - I'm the first to slate the manager when I think he's got it wrong, but I do think I give him credit where it's due as well. I think today he saw a starting XI that had done OK against Barcelona (defensive mistakes aside, but c'mon, we're Arsenal), and he saw an opponent that is quietly going through a horrendous tailspin. To my mind, Arsene set us up to sit back, not make mistakes, and just let them keep reeling - with the idea that either they'd make a mistake or their absolute clown of a goalkeeper would let in a softie.

In fact, he let in two. The first came just seven minutes in, though the work that created the chance deserved a goal anyway. Lightning-fast interplay between Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil led to the Chilean tearing apart Everton's static back line with one through-ball. Danny Welbeck timed his run perfectly, but his first touch was just a tad off. If Everton had a competent keeper, I don't think we score there. But, Joel Robles' hesitation allowed Welbeck to regain control, go around him, and tap it into the empty net.

You would think that the home side would have mustered some kind of response, but nothing of the sort ever materialized. They have enough points to be safe, but they're too far back to challenge for Europe. Maybe they're just in "playing out the string" territory, but it's astonishing that it's gotten that bad. Then again, when malcontents like Kevin Mirallas keep getting games and when you have a useless lump like Robles in goal, well, what do you expect? And, my god, Ross Barkley was absolutely shocking. He got subbed off early, and for good reason - yet another on the endless assembly line of Great English Hopes that have fizzled out.

Enough about them. If they were going to be content with shambling around in an opium haze, we were perfectly content to let them do it. Our guys kept possession intelligently and every so often took a pot-shot at goal to keep them honest. The final score doesn't quite reflect it, but only one team was at the races today. That score may have had a little more gloss if we had been given a penalty when Sanchez was hauled down by Muhamed Bešić, but we just don't get decisions anymore, apparently. I'm getting tired of writing "11-on-12" but it keeps bloody happening.

Anyway, the second goal was so simple in its execution. Isn't it funny what can happen when you go direct once in a while? Hector Bellerin - for my money, the best right back in the league - played a simple Route One ball that left the Everton defense in the rear-view mirror. Alex Iwobi, who has been quite the revelation in the last few weeks, turned on the jets and was in alone. To his credit, Ramiro Funes Mori got back enough to take the far-post shot away from Iwobi, which makes the goal even more inexplicable from a goalkeeper's point of view. You CAN'T CAN'T CAN'T get nutmegged there, but that's exactly what happened. Great finish from our man, but I don't think it'd have beaten either of our keepers, I'll put that way. Hell, maybe even Matt Macey.

Speaking of, we almost saw him. David Ospina, who didn't have much to do otherwise, got injured in some incident that I didn't see. He looked in a bad way and to my eyes, probably should have come off. He did make it through the 90, but keep an eye on this one. Our upcoming fixture list doesn't have too many monsters in it, and Petr Cech will be back soon, but Macey's green as grass and that would be a disaster for us.

Other than that? Not much happened, really. Everton changed their formation around, but rearranging the limbs doesn't really matter if the heart's not beating, you know? As for us, we took the proverbial foot off the pedal, which I'm fine with. In fact, Sanchez, after chasing a ball that went out of bounds, decided to have a seat for a few seconds.  I dunno, I laughed. Football needs a little levity every now and then. 

So, an excellent performance, and a relatively kind fixture list upcoming. As I type this, Leicester has just won again, so the title becomes an ever-dimmer prospect. However, St. Totteringham's Day is still very much on the table. But, consistency and belief are what's required at this stage, and we've been burned on that front before. Please prove us wrong, lads.

Man of the Match: Both goal-scorers played well, but I thought that quietly, Laurent Koscielny had a commanding, excellent performance. 

Sean Swift is a staff writer for The Modern Gooner, a board member of Arsenal NYC, and struggling mightily with learning French. What knob decided that objects should be masculine or feminine? Fuck's sake.

Preview by Numbers: Everton v. Arsenal

Goodison Park, Liverpool
Saturday, March 19
8:45 a.m. EDT, 12:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Simon Beck and Richard West
    • 4th Official: Jonathan Moss
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 1 Everton
  • This Match, Last Year: Everton 2 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 101 Arsenal wins, 59 Everton wins, 45 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W-W-L-L-D
  • Everton's League Form: L-W-W-L-W-L
It's been a long time since English clubs
consistently advanced to the last eight. Anyone that
tells you this is an Arsenal failing is obfuscating
the truth to enhance their argument.
Welp, another year goes by where Arsenal proves it's in the top 16 in the world but not the top eight. This is a team that is consistently good enough to qualify for a level where they lose to a better team over 180 minutes.

You can say it's a failing of Arsenal that they haven't advanced to the quarterfinals since 2010 and you wouldn't be wrong, but it's not like the rest of the English clubs have been barnstorming their way through this tournament either, aside from that 2012 Chelsea team that, mind you, finished sixth in the league at the same time. Personally, I'd argue that it's getting harder and harder for English teams to compete on both fronts.

Check out this awesome chart I made. Over the last five seasons (including this year), an average of 0.75 English clubs per year advance to the Champions League quarterfinals. But yeah, this is Arsenal's failure.

But enough about that. With Arsenal out of Europe and out of the FA Cup, there's only the league left to focus on, which isn't the worst thing in the world. Arsenal have nine games left to play and pretty much have to win all of them if they want to end this season with silverware.

Since Arsenal progressed deeper into the FA Cup than Leicester, Spurs and Manchester City, the Gunners will hold a game in hand on their title/"fourth place is a trophy" rivals from now until they make up the game with West Bromwich Albion on April 21. Still, it doesn't make for very pleasant reading when you see that Arsenal are 11 points out of first place. I mean, they had a better shot at winning the league at this point last season...

The stats say that Arsenal's odds of winning the league are down to a paltry 1.6%. If they win all of the remaining games, those odds improve only as far as 74.3%. So, to put it simply, they have to start winning again, they have to continue winning, and they need some help.

If they can get all three points at Everton (not an easy task on a Saturday afternoon after playing in Barcelona on Wednesday night,) then we'll talk more about the run-in. If they lose, then we have to start looking at the (currently) 23% chance they fall out of the top four entirely... And I really don't want to have to write that piece.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Flamini (hamstring,) Ramsey (thigh,) Cech (calf,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Rosicky (thigh,) Cazorla (knee,) Wilshere (ankle)

A weird night for Mathieu Flamini.
Well, I guess it wasn't that weird...
Mathieu Flamini's inclusion in the starting XI on Wednesday night was as surprising as it was horrifying. He picked up a yellow card for his troubles and then came out before halftime with a hamstring problem, so you know, usual Flamini. With Aaron Ramsey still out, expect to see the Francis Coquelin / Mohamed Elneny axis continue for a while. Elneny finally found his shooting boots at Camp Nou (after 730 misses against Watford last weekend,) so hopefully he keeps those on.

There will be many who hope that Arsenal retains the same forward quartet that started on Wednesday as well, as the combination of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Iwobi, and Danny Welbeck all combined well together. The only other names you can throw in there, in the name of rotation, would be the struggling Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott.

Kieran Gibbs has been starting in place of Nacho Monreal quite a bit at left back lately, so I'm not sure what the deal is going to be there. I'd drop Gabriel for Per Mertesacker and keep the rest of the back line intact. Elsewhere, Petr Cech is still out with his calf problem, but should be back after the international break.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi, Alexis, Ozil, Welbeck.

Everton Squad News

Out: Hibbert (knee,) Browning (knee)
Doubts: Oviedo (illness)
Suspended: Barry (first of two, two yellows / second suspension,) Mirallas (second of two, two yellows / second suspension)

A loving embrace.
In the FA Cup last weekend, Diego Costa was sent off for a second yellow card when he had a dust-up with Gareth Barry; Barry was also booked in the exchanges. Hilarious, of course, because we all hate Diego Costa. But then, moments later, Gareth Barry stuck a leg out to trip Cesc Fabregas and found himself sent off for another yellow. Also hilarious, because we all hate Fabregas too and I suppose it's funny to see him fall down, but mostly because Barry, in a matter of moments, managed to get himself suspended for this fixture.

Which isn't to say Everton aren't going to be dangerous, because they've still got Romelu Lukaku up top. Of course, Lukaku playing against the club that let him go is always going to provide a more emotional response than another opponent, and he picked up a brace in the process.

With Barry out, Muhamed Besic is most likely to come in to the center of midfield, playing deep alongside James McCarthy. Other than that, it's hard to see Roberto Martinez changing his XI too much from the one that beat Chelsea last weekend, and that might include keeping John Stones on the bench.

Bryan Oviedo is a doubt through illness, while Tony Hibbert and Tyias Browning are both out long-term with knee injuries. Kevin Mirallas, like Barry, is suspended after he was sent off two weeks ago against West Ham. Like Barry, Mirallas is serving a two match ban because it was his second red card of the season.

Predicted XI: Robles, Coleman, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Baines, Besic, McCarthy, Lennon, Cleverley, Barkley, Lukaku.

Current Form

Arsenal will hope to contain Lukaku better than they
contained Messi.
Since Danny Welbeck's late winner against Leicester City, Arsenal have won once in eight matches. Five of those other seven have been losses, with the draws coming only against Hull (necessitating the FA Cup replay that represents Arsenal's only win in the bunch) and Spurs (you're welcome, Leicester.) There's not much more to be said about this form that hasn't been said already; it's Arsenal's worst run since 2011, when they forgot how to play the sport after losing the League Cup Final to Birmingham City.

Everton, on the other hand, have won six of their last eight and have advanced to the FA Cup semi-final, where they will face either Manchester United or West Ham United. So, three of those six wins in Everton's positive run have been cup ties, meaning they've won three of their last five league games. Those wins have come against Newcastle, Aston Villa, and Stoke (two of which aren't really saying much, but winning 3-0 at the Britannia is something I envy a bit.) Both of their losses came at home, 1-0 to West Brom and 3-2 to West Ham. So clearly, if Arsenal just change their name to West Arsenal for a few hours, they can come away from Goodison with a one goal win!

Match Facts

Arsenal scored twice in quick succession through the pouring
rain in the reverse fixture.
Arsenal won the reverse fixture 2-1 back in October in a match that also came after Arsenal played a midweek European fixture; it came four days after Arsenal's 2-0 win over Bayern Munich. Arsenal took a 2-0 lead against the Toffees in quick succession, as Olivier Giroud scored in the 36th minute and Laurent Koscielny scored in the 38th. It wasn't comfortable, though, as Ross Barkley pulled a goal back in the 44th minute and Arsenal's legs got a bit heavy in the second half.

In this match last season, Arsenal trailed 2-0 through 83 minutes, as Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith scored first half goals. In the 83rd, Aaron Ramsey pulled one back and seven minutes later, just before the end of regular time, Olivier Giroud pulled Arsenal level. In added time, unfortunately, Giroud broke his leg blocking a clearance and would go on to miss three months; the injury forced Arsenal to move in the transfer window and if it hadn't happened, Arsenal likely would not have purchased Danny Welbeck.

An Arsenal win would give them a league double over Everton for the season; there are already 10 teams in the league which Arsenal have failed to complete a double over, including those Arsenal already dropped points to in the first half of the season. They have only picked up all six points, so far, against Bournemouth, Newcastle, and Leicester.

Arsenal also beat Everton in the preseason, 3-1, to win the Asia Cup, something I completely forgot about until I found out that that was when Tony Hibbert hurt his knee.

The Referee

Here's Dirk Kuyt's "kung fu lunge" that brought only a yellow.
The referee is County Durham-based Mark Clattenburg. Arsenal have a historically good record with Clattenburg, but are 0 for 2 in matches with Clatts this season. In November, Clattenburg was the man in the middle for Arsenal's 2-1 loss at West Bromwich Albion, though, to be fair, he did give Arsenal a late borderline penalty, which Santi Cazorla proceeded to miss. In January, Clattenburg took charge of the Arsenal loss to Chelsea in which Per Mertesacker was sent off on 18 minutes, though, to be fair, that was a stupid challenge.

On the other hand, Everton hate Clattenburg, after a Merseyside derby in 2007. Every critical decision went against the Toffees that day. First, Tony Hibbert was sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, though it appeared Clattenburg only pulled out the red card after Steven Gerrard remonstrated with him. Everton ended the match with nine men after Phil Neville was sent off for handling a goal bound shot in the 92nd minute. Liverpool won the match 2-1, through two penalties scored through the aforementioned fouls, though Everton were denied a penalty shout of their own just before the 90th minute, when Jamie Carragher wrestled Joleon Lescott to the ground. Dirk Kuyt was also shown only yellow for a "kung fu style lunge" on Neville earlier in the match. Clattenburg did not work another Everton match until a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in January 2012.

Everton's only match with Clattenburg this season was a 4-3 loss to Stoke City, at home, on December 28.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. West Ham United; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Leicester City; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Watford v. Stoke City; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Norwich City; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Swansea City v. Aston Villa; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Sunday (early): Newcastle United v. Sunderland; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Sunday (early): Southampton v. Liverpool; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday (late): Manchester City v. Manchester United; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Bournemouth; White Hart Lane, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and still travels with fans by boat. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to yell at him about getting some new jokes.

Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal: That Was Expected

Date Home   Away  
3/16/2016 Barcelona 3 Arsenal 1
2/23/2016 Arsenal 0 Barcelona 2
11/4/2015 Bayern Munich 5 Arsenal 1
9/29/2015 Arsenal 2 Olympiacos 3
9/15/2015 Dinamo Zagreb 2 Arsenal 1
2/25/2015 Arsenal 1 AS Monaco 3
11/4/2014 Arsenal 3 Anderlecht 3
2/19/2014 Arsenal 0 Bayern Munich 2
2/19/2013 Arsenal 1 Bayern Munich 3
10/24/2012 Arsenal 0 Schalke '04 2
2/15/2012 AC Milan 4 Arsenal 0
3/8/2011 Barcelona 3 Arsenal 1
11/23/2010 SC Braga 2 Arsenal 0
4/6/2010 Barcelona 4 Arsenal 1
5/5/2009 Arsenal 1 Manchester United 3
4/8/2008 Liverpool 4 Arsenal 2
11/27/2007 Sevilla 3 Arsenal 1
11/7/2007 Slavia Prague 0 Arsenal 0
3/7/2007 Arsenal 1 PSV 1
2/20/2007 PSV 1 Arsenal 0
2/22/2005 Bayern Munich 3 Arsenal 1
11/24/2004 PSV 1 Arsenal 1
9/29/2004 Rosenborg 1 Arsenal 1
4/6/2004 Arsenal 1 Chelsea 2
9/17/2003 Arsenal 0 Inter Milan 3
11/12/2002 Arsenal 0 PSV 0
10/22/2002 Arsenal 1 Auxerre 2
10/30/2001 Schalke '04 3 Arsenal 1
9/26/2001 Panathinaikos 1 Arsenal 0
9/11/2001 Mallorca 1 Arsenal 0
5/17/2000 Galatasaray 0 Arsenal 0
11/25/1998 Arsenal 0 Lens 1
9/16/1998 Lens 1 Arsenal 1
9/30/1997 Arsenal 1 PAOK Salonika 1
9/16/1997 PAOK Salonika 1 Arsenal 0
9/24/1996 Borussia Monchengladbach 3 Arsenal 2
9/10/1996 Arsenal 2 Borussia Monchengladbach 3

Man of the Match: That Messi guy is pretty good.

Preview by Numbers: Barcelona v. Arsenal, Champions League Round of 16, Second Leg

Camp Nou, Barcelona
Wednesday, March 16
3:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials from Russia
    • Referee: Sergei Karasev
    • Assistants: Anton Averianov and Tikhon Kalugin
    • 4th Official: Nikolai Golubev
    • Additional Assistants: Sergei Lapochkin and Sergei Ivanov
  • First Leg: Arsenal 0 - 2 Barcelona
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 1 Arsenal win, 5 Barcelona wins, 2 draws
  • Arsenal's European Form: L-W-L-W-W-L
  • Barcelona's European Form: W-W-W-W-D-W
We have officially, as a group, come to the point where this season is an absurdity.

To be fair, we probably should have seen this coming. This is a team that has lost to the likes of Dinamo Zagreb, Olympiacos (at home no less), and Sheffield Wednesday. This is a team that faced a club that had gone a month and a half without winning and managed to lose 4-0. This is a team that lost twice to a Chelsea squad that, for most of the fall, was excellent at apparently trying to lose to get its manager sacked. This is a team that conceded twice, in quick succession, to an 18 year old making his first Premier League start. There have been symptoms all season long to indicate that this Arsenal club wasn't good enough.

And so, I suggest we embrace this absurdity. Otherwise, it's just sad.

Case in point, here's an article from the Arsenal Web site that came up in my RSS feed on Monday afternoon (evening in UK time):

Ray Parlour travels with fans by boat

Now, usually, the little blurb at the bottom there would provide a little context for the article. But in this case, no, Arsenal couldn't be bothered. They just repeated the title over again without further explanation.

Ray Parlour travels with fans by boat. Let that sink in (no pun intended). There's an image from the FA Cup loss to Watford that goes with it and, if you click the article, that's not even the match he traveled with fans by boat to attend. This blurb doesn't even specify that it's a match they were going to. It could've just been a random boat trip.

This is the 2015/16 Arsenal season in a nutshell. Ray Parlour travels with fans by boat. To somewhere, I guess. Probably to some kind of Arsenal purgatory.

So, let's play the best team in the world shall we! Get on the boat! Ray Parlour might be there! Boat!

Of course, Barcelona's on the other side of Spain, so a boat trip from England would require going all the way around Iberia, which I suppose is the nautical equivalent of Arsenal passing the ball around the perimeter and not shooting.


Arsenal Squad News

Out: Ramsey (thigh,) Cech (calf,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Rosicky (thigh,) Cazorla (knee,) Wilshere (ankle)
Doubts: Koscielny (calf,) Boat (bow failure)

The boat is a doubt.
Laurent Koscielny, who is likely to return from his calf injury, has said that Arsenal have "nothing to lose" when they visit the Nou Camp tonight, which is probably because they've basically lost everything already this season.

He added "people always talk about the statistics and I think we have maybe a five percent chance to qualify." Five percent odds of winning by two clear goals at Camp Nou? Barcelona haven't lost at home by two goals since Bayern Munich beat them 3-0 to win 7-0 on aggregate in 2013 Champions League semis (and yet people still talk like Pep Guardiola made Bayern better, even though Bayern won the Treble that year under Jupp Heynckes.)

Anyway, there aren't really any other changes to the available XI, as Petr Cech remains out, Aaron Ramsey's season could be over, Ray Parlour's fan boat has bow failure, and the rest were already long-term.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Welbeck, Alexis, Ozil, Ray Parlour travels with fans by boat.

Barcelona Squad News

Out: Rafinha (knee) 
Suspended: Pique (one match, accumulation)

When you see the queen of diamonds, score an own goal.
Barcelona remain without Rafinha, who injured his knee on matchday one. He needed surgery on that knee and is still sidelined.

The big news is that Gerard Pique will serve a one match ban for yellow card accumulation. Jeremy Mathieu will likely take Pique's place at center back, but OMG what if it's Thomas Vermaelen? Do you think Arsene Wenger brainwashed him before selling him so that he unwittingly conspires to help us in the match? It'll be like The Manchurian Candidate but in Catalonia and with less assassination!

Up top, Arsenal would be advised to not let Lionel Messi score; he's put eight past Arsenal in five games, but he's scored all of those in three of the matches. In the two matches where he was held scoreless, Arsenal picked up a draw and a win, while they lost all three in which Messi scored.

So yeah, here's the game plan: 1) don't let Messi score, 2) benefit from the brainwashing of Thomas Vermaelen, 3) don't let any of their other forwards score, 4) and the midfielders and defenders for that matter, 5) don't let the goalie score because that would really suck, 6) try not to get sent off, 7) don't let Flamini play, 8) have Ray Parlour travel with fans by boat, and 9) oh yeah, score three goals.


Predicted XI: ter Stegen, Alves, Mascherano, probably Mathieu but hopefully Agent Vermaelen, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic, Suarez, Neymar, Messi.

Current Form

Is that a Stargate?
Arsenal went into last year's second leg with Monaco on a high; they had won five straight in the Premier League and had just won at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. As for this year, well, what's the opposite of all that?

Arsenal have won four of their last 14 across all competitions and two of them were cup ties against Championship clubs. They've lost three straight at home, which technically isn't relevant for this match, but it's worth noting that this is the first time that has happened since the fall of 2002.

Meanwhile, in Catalonia, Barcelona are on a 37-match unbeaten run, which is a Spanish record. They've won 31 of those 37 matches, to boot. They haven't lost since October 3, 2-1 at Sevilla. They haven't lost at home in over a year, since a 2-1 loss to Malaga on February 21, 2015. They have won eight straight since a 0-0 draw with Valencia, the second leg of a Copa Del Rey tie in which Barcelona already had a seven goal lead on aggregate. I don't know what else to add here, it's not like I'm going to scare you any more about this game.

Match Facts

Lionel Messi scored four against the likes of Manuel Almunia
and Mikael Silvestre in 2010's quarterfinal second leg,
which I guess is technically impressive, but come on...
For the fifth consecutive season, we're sitting here talking about Arsenal overcoming a large deficit in the Round of 16's second leg. In 2012, they lost 4-0 at Milan before storming back to win 3-0 at the Emirates. In 2013, they lost 3-1 at home to Bayern before winning 2-0 in Germany and bowing out on away goals. In 2014, on ten men, they fell 2-0 at home to Bayern and could only scrape a draw at the Allianz, bowing out 3-1 on aggregate. Last year, they repeated their 2013 performance, but against Monaco: they lost 3-1 at home, won 2-0 on the road, and lost on away goals. Here we are again, two goals down in the aggregate with two away goals allowed. Like clockwork. So, as in years past (so many years!), I'm going to spend this section writing about Arsenal's (poor) history at overturning these deficits.

Since 2003/04, when the Champions League switched to the 16-team knockout phase set-up, Arsenal have lost the first match of a two-legged tie nine times, including, as mentioned above, their last five first legs. Among the previous eight occurrences (i.e. prior to this season,) Arsenal came from behind to win the tie only once, against Porto in 2010, thanks to a 5-0 second leg win at the Emirates in which Nicklas Bendtner had a hat trick.

Interestingly, Arsenal have gone on to win the second leg match but not the tie as a whole on four occasions, including 2012, 2013, and 2015 against AC Milan, Bayern Munich, and Monaco, respectively. They performed that feat one other time against Bayern Munich as well, in 2005.

If you are curious about Arsenal's less than pleasant history against Barcelona, specifically, I would refer you to the preview for the first leg.

The Referee

He's certainly bald enough to pass as an English ref.
The match officials are from Russia and three of them are named Sergei; the referee is Sergei Karasev. This will be Karasev's 14th Champions League match and his first Arsenal game. He earned his FIFA badge in 2010 and has previously worked one Barcelona match, a 6-1 group stage win over Celtic in 2013.

No English side has ever won with Karasev in the middle. Fulham drew RNK Split 0-0 in the 2011 Europa League's third qualifying round. Tottenham drew 1-1 with Maribor in the 2012 Europa League group stage. Chelsea lost 1-0 to Steaua Bucharest in the 2013 Europa League round of 16. Finally, England's under-21 national side lost 3-1 to Italy in last summer's under-21 Euros group stage.

I was careful about saying no English side has ever won with Karasev, which is a bit of a bullshit technicality, because Swansea City won a 2013 Europa League playoff match 5-1 over Petrolul Ploiesti (?!) with Karasev as the referee.

Spanish sides have a mixed record with Karasev: Barcelona's 6-1 win was the largest, while Real Madrid picked up a 3-1 win over Schalke in 2014. Spain's under-21 side played a 0-0 draw with Serbia with Karasev in the middle and Real Sociedad lost 2-1 to Bayer Leverkusen in 2013.

Around Europe
  • Last Tuesday: Real Madrid 2 - 0 Roma
    • Real Madrid wins 4-0 on aggregate.
  • Last Tuesday: Wolfsburg 1 - 0 Gent
    • Wolfsburg wins 4-2 on aggregate.
  • Last Wednesday: Chelsea 1 - 2 Paris St. Germain
    • Paris St. Germain wins 4-2 on aggregate.
  • Last Wednesday: Zenit St. Petersburg 1 - 2 Benfica
    • Benfica wins 3-1 on aggregate.
  • Tuesday: Manchester City 0 - 0 Dynamo Kiev
    • Manchester City wins 3-1 on aggregate.
  • Tuesday: Atletico Madrid 0 - 0 PSV Eindhoven
    • Tie ends 0-0. Atletico Madrid wins 8-7 on penalties.
  • Wednesday: Bayern Munich v. Juventus; Allianz Arena, Munich
    • Tie level at 2-2 after first leg.
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and travels with fans by boat. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for boat dimensions.

Arsenal 1-2 Watford: HAHAHAHAHAHA

Nope. Not doing this. Not even looking up a picture - this doesn't deserve it.

The Daylight Savings thing and a super-late night coming home from a poker game meant that I DVRed this and had a lie-in. What a brilliant decision that turned out to be, huh? I had stayed away from spoilers right up until Giroud's goal (which was a goal, you fucking cunt of a lino) was pegged back for a phantom offside. Right away my "hiding to nothing" alarm went off, and I went straight to the Guardian for the score.

I wish I could say I was surprised.

It's amazing - after all these years, after all these "lessons learned", we still have Arsenal sides that turn up expecting teams like this to roll over and die because our shirts are red and white. Watford are no mugs, either. They spent a lot of money this off-season, and they have one of those sneaky-good managers that isn't a huge name but who damn sure knows what's up. This isn't a bad team, and they proved it today.

I did actually watch the first half though, and it seemed to be an endless loop of Chambers shanking crosses, Elneny blazing over crossbars from prime scoring areas, and Alexis doing his best Casper impersonation. I didn't even know he was playing until like the 34th minute. But, and I keep coming back to this, compare the general approach to this match compared to the NLD that just passed. I know that a derby is a derby and all, but there are gears between first and hell-bent-for-leather. I'd love to see us try them one day.

Now, fast-forwarding through to the goals. Let's discover the bullshit together, huh?

  1. Bizarro Frank Rijkaard takes a throw-in. Somehow one of their little dudes out-jumps Chambers and Per Mertesacker (I mean, are you serious?). Gabriel allows Ighalo to turn in the area, shot, goal. So easy. So preventable. 
  2. A million guys in the penalty area marking two attackers. Genius. That allows some no-mark loser who we'll never hear of again to stroll in and lash a thunderbastard into the top corner. Great shot but this keeps happening to us because we don't get the basics of defending.
  3. Ahhh the old Arsenal standard, the futile gesture. Nice back-heel by Ozil but frankly a better goalkeeper gets his body in front of Welbeck's finish.

That's it. That's your lot.

Man of the Match: HAHAHAHAHA not today.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Watford, FA Cup Sixth Round

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, March 13
9:30 a.m. EDT, 13:30 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Andre Marriner
    • Assistants: Simon Long and Matthew Wilkes
    • 4th Official: Stuart Attwell
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 12 Arsenal wins, 9 Watford wins, 1 draw
  • All-Time in FA Cup: 4 Arsenal wins, 1 Watford win
  • Arsenal's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Sunderland, 3-1
    • Fourth Round: Beat Burnley, 2-1
    • Fifth Round: Drew Hull City, 0-0; won replay 4-0
  • Watford's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Newcastle United, 1-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Nottingham Forest, 1-0
    • Fifth Round: Beat Leeds United, 1-0
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W-W-L-L-D
  • Watford's League Form: D-L-W-D-L-L
Well, this is a weird fixture. Arsenal's odds of winning the league are now at a paltry 2.7% and they are effectively fourth in the table, their comfort zone, thanks to Manchester City's game in hand. The Gunners are eight points out of first place with nine league games to play. If Arsenal win all nine of their remaining matches, they would still need Leicester to win no more than six of theirs. The Foxes' odds of winning the title clock in just under 70%, as they are five points clear of Tottenham.

As such, should Arsenal go all-in for a third consecutive FA Cup title, even if it might mean they can't run the table in the league? Would that be enough to placate the masses who haven't seen Arsenal win a league title in going on a dozen years? No, I don't think it would be. At the same time, you can't throw away a winnable competition to try to take your 3% odds at winning the league.

To put it in some perspective, Borussia Dortmund have better odds (9.4%) of overtaking Bayern Munich's five point gap in the Bundesliga than Arsenal have at winning the Premier League, and that's even after Dortmund lost a chance to make up ground last weekend as they played their rivals to a 0-0 draw at home.

Wide scope questions aside, Arsenal can only focus on one match at a time and that means Watford on Sunday, at home, and another trip to Wembley if they win. Worry about the league later. Worry about the other bogey teams still in the FA Cup once you've beaten Watford. Worry about the Champions League... well, I wouldn't. I think we'd all call that a lost cause, a detrimental extra fixture to their odds at winning either domestic competition.

You can't look past each individual game. What would be the point of winning the replay against Hull if it just meant capitulating at home to Watford? We'll talk about the league again next week.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Ramsey (thigh,) Cech (calf,) Koscielny (calf,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Rosicky (thigh,) Cazorla (knee,) Wilshere (ankle)
Doubts: Gabriel (hamstring,) Mertesacker (concussion)

Before getting into the bad news with Aaron Ramsey, there's good news from the three injuries Arsenal suffered on Tuesday: Gabriel and Per Mertesacker are both fit for the weekend, even though the former left with a hamstring injury (which would usually be three weeks) and the latter suffered, to quote Arsene Wenger, a "little" concussion. This is very welcome news, considering Arsenal have no other center backs available, as Laurent Koscielny is expected to still be too short for Sunday with his calf injury.

The bad news regarding Aaron Ramsey is that his thigh injury might keep him out six weeks, since he came off the bench cold (to replace Gabriel along with some rejiggering of the back line) and already carrying a knock. This could have pretty heavy ramifications for Arsenal's silverware hopes, since they're already pretty light in midfield; it'll still be a while before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, or Tomas Rosicky are available again.

The fixture congestion will not get any easier this week, as Arsenal play Sunday in the early afternoon, then travel to Barcelona for a Wednesday night disaster, then have to fly back on Thursday, travel to Liverpool on Friday, and face Everton at Goodison Park in the early Saturday fixture next weekend. At least here in the United States we will have changed our clocks forward, so all of these games start an hour later than normal, which means more sleep for us.

Nacho Monreal picked up a calf problem in the win over Hull too, because being a defender for Arsenal is an occupational hazard. There's been no word about his injury and he finished the match, so my guess is he's fine. Kieran Gibbs has started consecutive matches at left back for the first time in what feels like 600 years, so I guess we'll see who starts there Sunday.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi, Campbell, Welbeck, Giroud.

Watford Squad News

Out: Jurado (calf,) Ekstrand (something,) Gilmartin (knee,) Hoban (hip)
Doubts: Britos (hamstring,) Cathcart (calf)

Watford will still be without midfielder Jose Manuel Jurado, who has been out since February 6 with a calf injury; he could be back by next week. Elsewhere, defender Joel Ekstrand is likely to still be out with an injury I have seen referred to as a thigh problem, a hamstring problem, and a knee problem in different sources. In fact, the Daily Mail's preview of Watford's last match included both hamstring and knee as the injury in the same article.

There are longer term injuries for Watford in fringe players, like third string goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin, who has a dislocated knee, and former Arsenal academy product Tommie Hoban, who had hip surgery.

There are doubts over a few others, as Miguel Britos will be assessed over a hamstring knock and Craig Cathcart, the colonel from Catch-22, is 50/50 with a calf problem.

Predicted XI: Pantilimon, Nyom, Paredes, Ake, Holebas, Amrabat, Abdi, Watson, Capoue, Deeney, Ighalo.

Current Form

Arsenal's 4-0 win over Hull on Tuesday spared their blushes a bit; if Arsenal had failed to win, it would have been their first six match winless run since the fall of 1998. As it stands, Arsenal's winless streak was halted at five, their first such streak in five years. So, that's four wins from Arsenal's last 13 matches now. Much better!

Watford went into Boxing Day on a four match winning streak in the league and on the 26th of December, they played Chelsea to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge. The Hornets were flying high, seventh in the Premier League at the time. They proceeded to lose their next four league matches in a row and have only won twice in the league since the holiday period. Now, the Hornets sit 13th in the table. They're 13 points clear of relegation, so they have nothing to worry about there, but any pipe dreams of a European place they might have had in December have long faded. In the FA Cup, Watford have advanced through three 1-0 wins.

Match Facts

Arsenal and Watford met in the league back in October at Vicarage Road; Arsenal came out 3-0 winners, but it wasn't easy. It took Arsenal over an hour to find a breakthrough, but Alexis Sanchez fired a loose ball into the net on 62 minutes after Mesut Ozil was fouled in the area and the floodgates opened. Olivier Giroud doubled Arsenal's lead six minutes later and Aaron Ramsey made it three just six minutes after that. Watford were left frustrated by a match in which they had played so well for over an hour, but ultimately managed just one shot on target, a Troy Deeney shot in the 11th minute.

The Gunners and Hornets have met in five previous FA Cup ties; Arsenal have won four of them. On February 3, 1906, Watford faced Woolwich Arsenal at Manor Ground in the second round proper; Arsenal won the match 3-0 and went to the semi-final that year, where they lost to Newcastle. Arsenal were still in Woolwich when the sides met in 1910's second round, when Arsenal again won 3-0; they would lose to Everton in the following round that year.

The sides met in Watford in the sixth round in 1980, where Arsenal won 2-1. Arsenal advanced to the semi-final with that win, where they needed three replays to beat Liverpool, only to lose the final to second division West Ham. Watford's only FA Cup win against Arsenal came in 1987 in the sixth round at Highbury; the Hornets won 3-1, then lost to Tottenham in the semi-finals, who themselves lost to Coventry City in the final.

The most recent cup meeting between Arsenal and Watford came in 2002's third round, where Arsenal won 4-2 at Vicarage Road. Arsenal went on to win the Double that year.

As a consequence of not playing many top flight seasons, Watford has not won away to Arsenal since April 15, 1988. Watford actually beat Arsenal twice that year while simultaneously being relegated; it's the only time Arsenal has ever lost both fixtures to a side that would be relegated.

The Referee

The referee is West Midlands-based Andre Marriner. You may remember Marriner from such disasters as Chelsea 6 - 0 Arsenal, in which he sent off Kieran Gibbs for looking like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arsenal have had Marriner five times as their referee since that day and have won all five: 1-0 over Southampton at the Emirates in December of 2014, 2-0 over Everton at home last March, 1-0 at Newcastle (including a 16th minute red card to Aleksandar Mitrovic and six other yellow cards to Newcastle) in August, 2-1 over Tottenham in the League Cup in September, and 2-1 over Manchester City at the Emirates back in December.

Watford have seen Marriner on three occasions this season, drawing the first two and winning the third. They played Southampton to a 0-0 draw in August, played a 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day, and beat Newcastle 2-1 at home in late January. With Watford previously being in the Championship, you'd have to go back to September of 2009 to find the last time Marriner worked a Watford match prior to this season; that was a 3-2 loss at home to Coventry City. Henri Lansbury, on loan from Arsenal at the time, came off the bench for the Hornets that day.

Around the Sixth Round
  • Friday (night): Reading v. Crystal Palace; Madejski Stadium, Reading
  • Saturday: Everton v. Chelsea; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Manchester United v. West Ham United; Old Trafford, Manchester
Around the Premier League
  • Saturday (early): Norwich City v. Manchester City; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. Swansea City; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Southampton; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Sunday (late): Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Monday (night): Leicester City v. Newcastle United; King Power Stadium, Leicester
Out of Action
  • Liverpool, who would have played Chelsea
  • Sunderland, who would have played Everton
  • West Bromwich Albion, who would have played Arsenal
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and an optical illusion. You should follow him on Twitter @zorrocat before he vanishes! Abracadabra!

Hull City 0-4 Arsenal: Marching On

Photo: Reuters

This is gonna be a short one - I had to keep half an eye on this as I was doing the corporate-drone thing, so I don't have a huge sense about how this shook out tactically, or who played well over the entire 90. What I do know is that a bit of a makeshift side went into the home of a tough Championship-level out, fought through injury, and did well to book a place into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup.

Both sides rang in the changes - Hull apparently made six, while for us there were starts for Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Flamini, Theo Walcott, and Alex Iwobi.

The first half, as you might expect with so many changes to the team, saw the Arsenal struggle mightily for fluency. Seriously, it was like 40 minutes of watching a hamster run in his wheel - lots of effort and determination, but he's not getting anywhere. That probably does a bit of a disservice to Hull, though. They defended fairly well for a side that was sprinkled liberally with reserves.

As for us, the injury bug hit hard and often. Early in the first half, Per Mertesacker and Nick Powell ferociously clashed heads - a coming-together that resulted in our BFG going to Concussionsville and their lad looking like a UFC fighter who had a bad night. Per tried to stay on, but really, someone should have had a look at him and gotten him off the field much sooner. Sadly, it looks like football still has some lessons to learn about concussion protocol.

Hull, for their part, were mostly content to sit back and hope to catch us on the break. They did end up fashioning one decent attack, foiled by David Ospina's second world-class full-extension save in two games. There you go, Exhibits A and B in the ongoing investigation into 80ish% of Twitter being populated by lobotomized gobshites.

Meanwhile, somewhere along the way, Gabriel came off injured, to be replaced by Aaron Ramsey. Naturally, since this game seemed to be the distilled essence of Peak Arsenal, Ramsey himself had to come off after only 15 or so minutes. My god. Will someone find the voodoo priest sticking pins into a Gunnersaurus doll and tell him to fucking leave off already?

There was always a suspicion that the home side found this tie to be an absolute bother given their team selection and their fight to get promoted into the Premier League just ahead of the new insane TV deal. David Meyler perhaps had that in mind when, in the 41st minute, he sent a ludicrous square ball to no one across the face of his penalty area. It was a bit of a sitter in the end, but all credit to Olivier Giroud for recognizing the opportunity and firing home through the legs of Eldin Jakupovic. The Swiss keeper, for the record, probably could have done better on that. He was the only reason this went to a replay in the first place, but he definitely could have been more decisive and dove at Ollie's feet there. Whatever, no complaints here.

It could have been 2-0 a minute later when Gibbs, of all people, decided to have a lash from 30 yards out. I suspect that Jakupovic's crossbar is still rattling from that one.

Oddly, even when two of our defenders went down, the Tigers never seriously troubled Ospina's net. It didn't help their cause that they barely had any of the ball, but I've seen nursing-home bingo players with more drive and pep. Then again, we made a Champions' League final (Spuds fans, ask a Gooner what that is sometime) with Phil Senderos and Flamini in that back four, so what do I know?

Still, with only a one-goal lead, there was always that small sense of danger lurking in the background until the 71st minute. Walcott, who recovered from an anonymous first half to have a decent game overall, whipped in a cross that was deflected off of one of their guys. No matter, Theo probably deserves a bit of luck after going through such a horrid patch (for the record, I still think we can massively upgrade in the summer...we won't, but still). Giroud was on the end of it, and he fired home with a nice volley.

Game, blouses.

But, there was still 20 minutes left to play, and our guys started to get the party pieces out once the fight drained out of our hosts. Arsene took the piss enough to UNLEASH THE JEFF, the young Reine-Adelaide (who is ace after 3-4 seasons on Football Manager, for the record) replacing Rambo when he went off injured.

Since we were in the business of getting strikers off the schneid, the next order of business was getting Theo on the scoresheet. The goal was really made by an utterly glorious ball from Joel Campbell, who has frankly demolished my low expectations for him in recent weeks. Walcott still had the keeper to beat though, which he did with aplomb. Then, just before the end of normal time, he took a pass from Iwobi and fired on net. It took a deflection, which was enough to wrong-foot the keeper. Works for me.

So, the whole thing was a bit of a good news/bad news situation. We're one highly winnable game against Watford away from a third straight final, and two struggling forwards hit the net twice. On the other hand, we're heading into super-important games with a bit of a ratty back four. I can practically hear the cackles of delight emanating from Catalonia as we speak. Still, this is likely the only silverware that we can win this season, so we may as well go on and do it, yeah?

Man of the Match: It's down to our two-goal men, but Olivier Giroud didn't benefit from deflections, so it's got to be him.

Preview by Numbers: Hull City v. Arsenal, FA Cup Fifth Round Replay

KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
Tuesday, March 8
2:00 p.m. EST, 19:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Jones
    • Assistants: Mick McDonough and Darren Cann
    • 4th Official: Scott Graham
  • Fifth Round Tie: Arsenal 0 - 0 Hull City
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 15 Arsenal wins, 3 Hull City wins, 5 draws
  • All-Time in the FA Cup: 4 Arsenal wins, 1 Hull City win, 3 draws
  • Arsenal's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Sunderland, 3-1
    • Fourth Round: Beat Burnley, 2-1
  • Hull City's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Brighton & Hove Albion, 1-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Bury, 3-1
  • Arsenal's Premier League Form: D-W-W-L-L-D
  • Hull City's Championship Form: L-W-D-W-D-L
There are always moments in a given season that mark a watershed. These can be positive, like Arsenal coming back from 2-0 down to beat Tottenham 5-2 in 2012, the beginning of the end of Tottenham's 10-point gap. They can be negative too, like the draw at Birmingham City in 2008 that marked the beginning of the end of Arsenal's title challenge that year.

The thing is, it's impossible to recognize a moment as a watershed until the aftermath plays out. Danny Welbeck's winner against Leicester City certainly would have been one if the Gunners went on to win the league this season. It still might be, since that's not impossible yet. But Arsenal have followed that dramatic win with zero wins from five across all competitions, so it's not looking good for that to be the moment. If Arsenal do go on to win the league, there will have to be another watershed.

With that in mind, could Alexis Sanchez's equalizer for 10-man Arsenal in the north London derby be that kind of moment? You could argue that if Francis Coquelin could have kept himself on the pitch, maybe we're talking about an uplifting win instead of a middling draw. Arsenal's reversal of fortunes would have to come at some point if they still intend to do anything major this season, so maybe there's nothing wrong with baby steps back in the right direction. There are still 27 points available in the league, after all. Might as well win them all while we're at it.

Question is, can Arsenal balance a title challenge where they are eight points out of top spot in the second week of March while also juggling an attempt to win a third consecutive FA Cup? The two clubs ahead of Arsenal in the table are both out of the FA Cup. Leicester only have to worry the league, Spurs very well might crash out of Europe against Dortmund by next Thursday, while Arsenal are still fighting, perhaps very briefly, on three fronts.

So, Arsenal are damned if they do and damned if they don't tonight. Win and it's another fixture added to the list. Lose and it'll be six games without a win across all competitions. Pick your poison, but I suspect you, like me, are leaning towards the former.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Cech (calf,) Koscielny (calf,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Rosicky (thigh,) Cazorla (knee,) Wilshere (ankle)
Suspended: Coquelin (one match, two yellows)

Arsenal had to dig deep with ten men on Saturday to get a point at White Hart Lane, which could leave them a little long in the legs for this one. Aside from Francis Coquelin's suspension, Arsene Wenger should have the same players available to him for this one, as there are no new injuries and no returns for the others. Laurent Koscielny will still be short and could get moved into the "doubts" column for the weekend, while it'll still be another "four weeks" for Petr Cech, whose scans were "better than expected." Four sounds like worse than expected, but there is an international break that would delay his return to the Arsenal side, in that Arsenal won't be playing for about two weeks.

In terms of rotation, Wenger said "we'll play a team that has a good chance to qualify," while also noting that he had made 10 changes to his squad for the first encounter between the sides. You can bet that Alex Iwobi will come into the side and I would imagine that Wenger will retain David Ospina between the sticks. Without Koscielny available, there's not much room for movement in the back four; Calum Chambers can come in somewhere, but your guess is as good as mine as to where. My guess is at center back, just to let you know.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Chambers, Monreal, Flamini, Elneny, Iwobi, Campbell, Walcott, Giroud, or something...

Hull City Squad News

Out: Akpom (loan terms,) Hayden (loan terms)

Hull City have a clean bill of health in advance of this cup replay, but manager Steve Bruce has promised that he will still maintain his policy of squad rotation for cup ties. The only absences are, of course, the Arsenal players Hull have on loan, in Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden.

With rotation probable, I wouldn't be surprised if Bruce selected the same XI that started at the Emirates in the first meeting between these clubs.

Predicted XI: Jakupovic, Bruce, Taylor, Davies, Maguire, Tymon, Meyler, Maloney, Powell, Elmohamady, Diomande.

Current Form

DDLWDWWDLLLD. That's Arsenal's form since mid-January, when they were top of the league and had just advanced past Sunderland in the third round of the FA Cup. Draws against Liverpool and Stoke, a loss to Chelsea, a cup win over Burnley, a 0-0 draw with Southampton, wins over Bournemouth and Leicester, and then five without a win across all competitions. It makes for truly painful reading, just abysmal form.

It's five without a win for the first time since, technically, March of 2014, but the last match in that string was the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan, officially a draw which was won by Arsenal on penalties. So, I guess you could make a claim that that was really four without a win. The last time Arsenal truly went five without a win, it was in the aftermath of the League Cup Final loss in 2011. After that crushing defeat, Arsenal went on to win just three of their remaining 14 matches. If Arsenal fail to beat Hull tonight, it will be six matches without a win for the first time since 1998, a streak that started with Alex Manninger's 5-0 loss to Chelsea in the League Cup.

Hull City have had a weird stretch of fixtures since the 0-0 draw with Arsenal, as they played on Tuesday, then Friday, then Thursday. They only scored once in the three fixtures, beating Ipswich Town 1-0 in the first match, before playing a 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday, then losing 1-0 to Birmingham City. Jon Toral, on loan from Arsenal, scored the winner for Birmingham.

Hull have now fallen to third in the Championship, four points behind first place Burnley, though they and second place Middlesbrough have a game in hand on the Clarets. Hull are three points behind Boro for the final automatic promotion slot. Since the start of the month of February, Hull City have won just twice (the same as Arsenal!)

Match Facts

Many times when writing this section of the preview, I'll copy and paste significant swaths of what I said the last time Arsenal played whatever opponent they are playing next, then change around a few of the relative numbers. When attempting to do that here, I found that in my preview for the original match, I failed to change one of the references to "last year's final," which I had clearly copied from the 2015 third round tie match preview. So now, I feel like I need to be real super careful here from now on.

Seventeen days ago, the clubs met at the Emirates and played a 0-0 stalemate, forcing this replay at the KC Stadium. Arsenal failed to capitalize on their chances (they took 24 shots, finding the target with 11 of them) and Eldin Jakupovic made a number of critical saves, including one with his fingertips, to preserve Hull's clean sheet to earn the replay. It snapped a 14-game winning streak for Arsenal in the FA Cup and was Hull's first clean sheet against Arsenal since 1915.

Of the five previous meetings between the clubs in the FA Cup, Arsenal have won four of the ties (1930, 2009, 2014, and 2015) and Hull won the first (1908.) Two of Arsenal's four wins required more than 90 minutes; they won the 1930 semi-final in a replay and won the 2014 final in extra time.

The Referee

The referee is Chester-based Mike Jones. At the time of the original appointments, the referee was supposed to be Kevin Friend, but he passed out and hit his head while serving as the fourth official during a match at Bournemouth a week ago. He was released from the hospital a day later, but is still going through concussion protocols. He's not currently on the slate to work this weekend.

Arsenal have seen Jones twice so far this season and the Gunners scored three in both matches; they weren't both wins, though. Jones was in the middle for Arsenal's 3-0 win over Watford in October as well as their 3-3 draw at Liverpool in January.

Hull City have seen Jones once this season, for their other domestic cup exit. Jones was in charge of Hull's 4-1 loss to eventual League Cup champion Manchester City for their fifth round tie of that competition on the first of December.

Around England

This is the only FA Cup replay of this round, so there are no other domestic fixtures involving a top flight team this week. There will be a round of league fixtures this weekend for teams not still involved in the FA Cup; if Arsenal win this replay, they'll play Watford on Sunday in the sixth round, at the Emirates. If Hull City win the replay, Arsenal will play a league game against West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates in the late time slot on Saturday.

There are midweek European fixtures this week, however. Chelsea host Paris St. Germain in the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie tomorrow night, as the Blues try to overturn a 2-1 deficit at Stamford Bridge. The Round of 16 in the Europa League kicks off on Thursday, as well; Tottenham face the unenviable task of traveling to Dortmund, while Liverpool will face Manchester United at Anfield. Astonishingly, this is the first time these two rivals have ever faced each other in European competition.

John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a lion. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat which sounds like it could be a type of lion.