Preview by Numbers: Hull City v. Arsenal

KCOM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
Saturday, September 17
10:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Roger East
    • Assistants: Darren Cann and Matthew Wilkes
    • 4th Official: Paul Tierney
  • This Match, Last Time: Hull City 1 - 3 Arsenal (May 4, 2015)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 16 Arsenal wins, 3 Hull City wins, 5 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W // L-D-W-W
  • Hull City's League Form: L-W // W-W-L-D
  • Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 65 °F / 18 °C
Here's a tiger-shaped cannon.
We're a month into the season and it's hard to really figure out what has gone on. I think the general consensus is that Arsenal have not been good enough, but they also haven't really been bad enough to warrant massive complaining either. They've been decent, but don't exactly look the part of title contenders. They've dropped five points in the league and, as such, are five points out of first place at this early juncture of the campaign. Not ideal, but, come on, there are 34 games left.

So, Arsenal head to Humberside this weekend to face a Hull City team that have surprised many to start their return to the top flight; the Tigers have beaten Leicester and Swansea and gave Manchester United a difficult match in the rain a few weeks back.

It goes without saying by this point that there are no easy fixtures in the Premier League. Hull City have given Arsenal fits in the past (surprisingly, largely at the Emirates) so tomorrow's match should give Arsenal an interesting test to see if they can start to right the ship a little bit.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee)
Doubts: Walcott (knee,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Gabriel (ankle)

Okay, I've decided to only post pictures of tigers
in this preview.
We're on track for some returns soon, as Gabriel returned to first team training at the end of last week. This weekend will mark six weeks since he injured his ankle in a pre-season friendly against Manchester City.

On the other hand, Theo Walcott was kept out of Arsenal's traveling squad to Paris this week with a "mild" knee injury. Aaron Ramsey, out since the opening weekend, is still a doubt as I don't believe he's taken part in training.

Petr Čech will return between the poles after David Ospina got the start in the Champions League. The move was controversial, of course, until Ospina put in a performance I've only seen from him before when Colombia plays the United States (warning: annoying music on YouTube video in link).

The other issue is in the holding midfield, as Granit Xhaka was left on the bench on Tuesday as well. Listen, I understand why you might want to have one keeper in the league and another as your cup keeper; that's pretty en vogue right now. But when you keep your £30-35 million signing on the bench in the league ahead of a European match and then don't even start him in that match? That's baffling. Xhaka was unused against Southampton and came on after 71 minutes on Tuesday.

Olivier Giroud was sent off in the closing minutes of Tuesday's Champions League tie, so this serves as your reminder that that applies only to Europe. He's out for Basel's matchday two visit to the Emirates on the 28th.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Cazorla, Lucas, Alexis, Özil, Giroud.

Hull City Squad News

Out: McGregor (back,) Dawson (knee,) Odubajo (knee,) Bruce (Achilles,) Luer (knee,) Lenihan (knee)

In late July, Steve Bruce resigned as manager of Hull City, claiming he was frustrated by the lack of transfer activity at the club. At the time, a spate of injuries had left the club with only 13 fit first-team players. Mike Phelan was named caretaker manager, then went on to be named Premier League Manager of the Month for August. The club had to make four player purchases in the final two days of the transfer window, but still broke the club's transfer record for the purchase of Ryan Mason from Tottenham.

Against Burnley last weekend, Hull City became the first Premier League team in six years to name an unchanged XI for their opening four fixtures (the last club to do it was Newcastle, themselves recently promoted at the time, in 2010/11.) That's not expected to continue, as I would expect at least Mason to work his way into the lineup, now that it's been a month since his sale from Spurs.

Hull have had the same crew of six players out injured all season: Alex Bruce, no longer being managed by his father, had surgery on his Achilles that will keep him out until December. Goalkeeper Allan McGregor won't be back to training until January after back surgery. Michael Dawson is out for another month with an MCL injury. Greg Luer is out until January with a cartilage injury in his knee. Moses Odubajo also has a knee injury that will keep him out until January. Brian Lenihan has a knee injury as well, but he may be back next month.

Predicted XI: Jakupović, Elmohamady, Livermore, Davies, Robertson, Mason, Huddlestone, Meyler, Snodgrass, Diomandé, Hernández.

Current Form

Across all competitions, Arsenal's form this season reads LDWWD. Hey, unbeaten in four!

It certainly hasn't felt that optimistic, has it? Arsenal responded to their season opening 4-3 loss to Liverpool by thankfully not allowing four again, but failing to score themselves in a 0-0 draw with Leicester City. Arsenal finally found their winning boots a week later, blitzing Watford for three first half goals, but they took their foot off the gas and made the second half just a little uncomfortable. After the international break, they came from behind to snatch all three points from Southampton in injury time, then traveled to Paris and somehow came back with a point from their most difficult, on paper, Champions League group match. This might be the clumsiest four match unbeaten streak in history.

Hull City have had a bright start to their return to the Premier League; like Arsenal, they have seven points from four fixtures. The Tigers opened the season with consecutive wins, first shocking Leicester City 2-1, then beating Swansea 2-0 in Wales. After a League Cup win over League Two's Exeter City, Hull hosted Manchester United, who needed a 92nd minute Marcus Rashford goal to escape with all three points. Hull did not get back to winning ways last weekend, but they did snag a goal at the death themselves, as Robert Snodgrass curled in a free kick in the 95th minute to get Hull a point at Turf Moor against Burnley.

Match Facts

Oh! This one's relevant! It's at the 2014 FA Cup Final.
Hull City spent last season in mid-yo-yo, as they were relegated from the Premier League in 2015 and won promotion again via the Championship play-off in May. They still played Arsenal twice last season, in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The Tigers earned a hard-fought scoreless draw at the Emirates, thanks in part to Mike Dean denying Arsenal two penalties and Eldin Jakupović making 11 saves.

There was no such luck for Hull in the replay, as Arsenal won 4-0 to earn themselves a sixth round date with Watford, which they went on to lose. Both Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott had braces in the win.

When Hull was in the Premier League in 2014/15, they earned a 2-2 draw at the Emirates; Arsenal needed an injury time goal from Danny Welbeck to take a point. On Humberside in May of 2015, the last time this corresponding fixture was played, Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners: Alexis Sánchez scored twice and Aaron Ramsey had another to give the Gunners a 3-0 halftime lead; Stephen Quinn had a consolation goal for the hosts before the hour mark, but Hull could not pull back any further.

Hull's surprise 2-1 win at the Emirates in September of 2008 is the Tigers' only win against Arsenal in the modern era. Hull's other two wins against Arsenal came in 1908 and 1915; that 1915 win was Hull's most recent clean sheet against the Gunners until February's 0-0 draw.

The Referee

The referee is Wiltshire-based Roger East. East worked three Arsenal matches last season, all of which were at the Emirates. East was in the middle for Arsenal's 2-0 win over Bournemouth in late December, the 2-1 win over Burnley in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and their come-from-ahead 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace in mid-April.

Since Hull were in the Championship last year, East did not work a Hull City game in the 2015/16 season. His last Hull City match was, incidentally, their 2-2 draw at the Emirates in October of 2014.

Since East has not worked a lot of matches for either of the two clubs involved, there's very little to say here of interest. East is the oldest referee in the Select Group, at 51. That's something, right? Good for him! This comes after Arsenal had the youngest ref, Robert Madley, last weekend.

Around the League
  • Friday (night): Chelsea v. Liverpool; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Leicester City v. Burnley; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Saturday: Manchester City v. Bournemouth; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. West Ham United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Everton v. Middlesbrough; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Sunday (very early): Watford v. Manchester United; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Sunday (early): Crystal Palace v. Stoke City; Selhurst Park, London
  • Sunday (early): Southampton v. Swansea City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Sunderland; White Hart Lane, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and mascot of the Denver Broncos. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat,which means "fox cat" and has nothing to do with horses. Or tigers.