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.