Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Hull City

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, February 11
7:30 a.m. EST, 12:30 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Jake Collin and Adrian Holmes
    • 4th Official: Roger East
  • Reverse Fixture: Hull City 1 - 4 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Time: Arsenal 2 - 2 Hull City (October 18, 2014)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 17 Arsenal wins, 3 Hull City wins, 5 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-W-L-L
  • Hull City's League Form: D-L-W-L-D-W
Listen, I know I promised this would be funny if Arsenal lost at Stamford Bridge, but that tone doesn't feel quite right yet. The circumstances still feel more dire than comical at this point.

On the other hand, I discovered that Marvel's Website lets you create your own comics, so please allow new TalkSPORT pundit Iron Man to tell you why he thinks Hector Bellerín should've played on:

Fuck you, Iron Man.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Ramsey (calf,) Debuchy (match fitness,) Cazorla (Achilles)
Doubts: Bellerín (having his head smashed,) Elneny (Africa Cup)
Suspended: Xhaka (fourth of four, serious foul play / second red card)

This guy's back, which is good, because Arsenal currently
have negative three players who play his position.
Mohamed Elneny has returned from the Africa Cup of Nations and could be available for selection; Elneny scored to put Egypt up 1-0 in the final, but Cameroon came from behind to win 2-1. Granit Xhaka will serve the fourth match of his four match ban, meaning he will be available domestically against Sutton United in next weekend's FA Cup tie; he would have been available in Europe for Arsenal's trip to Munich on Wednesday, anyway.

With Aaron Ramsey out two more weeks at the least, Arsenal will need Elneny to slip in sooner rather than later, which might be easier said than done, since he did pick up a calf injury while on international duty. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has performed well in the central role over the last few weeks, but in my opinion, Francis Coquelin has been struggling since his return from injury.

Arsenal have a lot of interchangeable options up top: Lucas Pérez was mysteriously not available in the 18-man squad at Stamford Bridge last week, which was explained as an ankle problem. There has not been any further mention of Pérez since that explanation, which leads me to believe he's available again. So, who starts along with Mesut Özil in the forward quartet among Pérez, Alexis Sánchez, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, and Alex Iwobi?

Elsewhere, despite errors in previous games, I would be stunned if Petr Čech were dropped. I would also be surprised if Hector Belleriín were fit to play, but the team doctors have more information than I do.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Alexis, Özil, Welbeck.

Hull City Squad News

Out: Henrikson (shoulder,) Odubajo (knee,) Davies (thigh,) Hernández (thigh,) Luer (knee,) Keane (knee,) Mason (head)
Doubts: Lenihan (knee,) Elmohamady (Africa Cup,) Dawson (calf)

Deadline day loanee Andrea Ranocchia was forced into
action immediately and ended up BBC's Man of the Match.
Like Elneny, Egyptian midfielder Ahmed Elmohamady is returning from the Africa Cup of Nations, meaning his inclusion in Marco Silva's XI is a doubt.

There are a number of long-term injuries in the Hull City squad, so let's go through this slowly, shall we? Obviously, there is no timetable yet for the return of Ryan Mason after he suffered a fractured skull at Chelsea, in what is apparently a very dangerous end of that pitch. On the backline, captain Michael Dawson picked up a calf injury during warm-ups last week and is expected to miss a few weeks; Andrea Ranocchia, on loan from Inter, will deputize. Curtis Davies is out for another eight weeks with a thigh injury, while Moses Odubajo, with a fractured patella, will be back in late April or early May. There's no timetable that I can see for Brian Lenihan, who had knee surgery.

In the midfield, in addition to Mason's injury, Markus Henrikson is out with a separated shoulder. He's close to having full movement in the joint again, and should return in March. Up top, Will Keane and Greg Luer as both out long-term with knee injuries. Lazar Marković is available again; he was ineligible to play last week against Liverpool, his parent club.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernández has a slight tear in his hamstring which will keep him out for three to four weeks. Senegalese forward Oumar Niasse, on loan from Everton, came off the bench to replace him last week and scored.

Predicted XI: Jakupović, Robertson, Ranocchia, Maguire, Elabdellaoui, Huddlestone, N'Diaye, Clucas, Grosicki, Marković, Niasse.

Current Form

Clap Your Hands Say Hull.
The managerial position at Hull City has been a bit of a saga this season, after Steve Bruce resigned over the summer. Mike Phelan was named caretaker manager, then was promoted to full manager on October 13, then he was sacked on January 3. Hull then signed Marco Silva as head coach and since that date, the Tigers have won more points in the league than Arsenal, seven to six.

After their 3-1 loss at West Brom which saw Phelan sacked, Hull have two wins, a draw, and a loss in Premier League games. They lost to Manchester United in the League Cup semifinals (but won the home leg) and lost to Fulham in the FA Cup (which isn't the worst result in the world for a club fighting relegation.) Arsenal, over the same time period, have advanced in the FA Cup, but have two wins and two losses in the league.

It's the second time this season that Arsenal have lost consecutive league games, with both of these strings coming in a nine-match span. That long unbeaten run between August and late November seems like such a distant memory now. As I mentioned back in December, it's very rare for Arsenal to lose three straight; they have not lost three straight in the league in five years.

It's worth mentioning here that Hull manager Marco Silva earned a surprise win at the Emirates last season, when he managed Olympiacos. The Greek side won 3-2 on Champions League group matchday two last September.

Match Facts

This goal would've given Alexis a hat trick in the reverse
fixture, if he had not missed an earlier penalty.
Arsenal won the reverse fixture 4-1 in September. Alexis Sánchez opened the scoring on 17 minutes and looked to double the lead just before halftime when Jake Livermore was sent off while conceding a penalty. Alexis, however, missed the spot kick. Theo Walcott doubled Arsenal's lead on 55 minutes, but Robert Snodgrass pulled a goal back from the penalty spot on 79 minutes. With a nervy finish looming, Alexis smashed an insurance goal into the roof of the net four minutes later, then Granit Xhaka scored from the fucking moon in injury time and now everyone keeps yelling for him to shoot from distance even though that's stupid.

Hull City have taken a draw from the Emirates on two of their last three trips. Last year, Eldin Jakupović made 11 saves in an FA Cup tie that ended 0-0; Arsenal won the replay comfortably. Arsenal did beat Hull in an FA Cup tie at the Emirates in 2015, winning 2-0. However, that came two and a half months after Hull earned a 2-2 draw in the league fixture in London; Arsenal had led 1-0, but needed a Danny Welbeck goal in the 90th to take a point.

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

I have a new game called "Referee Signal or Macarena?"
The referee is Tyne & Wear-based Mark Clattenburg. I used to think Clatts was one of the best referees remaining in England (I mean, there's a reason he worked the FA Cup, Champions League, and European Championship finals last season.) However, Arsenal have won just one of their last six with Clattenburg in the middle.

There's two sides to this story, though. With the exception of some annoying results against Tottenham, Arsenal historically had Clattenburg for some very enjoyable wins: 3-0 at Manchester City and 3-1 over Chelsea in the fall of 2010 come to mind as the basis of that sentiment. He worked two of Arsenal's FA Cup ties in the run up to their 2014 trophy win.

Things started to turn last year. Arsenal lost 2-1 at the Hawthorns with Clatts in the middle, though he did give Arsenal a controversial late penalty, which Santi Cazorla proceeded to miss. Then, he worked a home loss to Chelsea last year, in which he sent off Per Mertesacker (correctly, mind you.) He worked Arsenal's 2-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park last year as well. Then this year, he worked the 0-0 at Leicester, in which he denied the Foxes an injury time penalty. He worked the North London derby back in November as well, which was a pretty garbage 1-1 draw.

But in that match, he handed Tottenham a penalty early in the second half that changed the game and it's worth noting that that was the first time, in 38 matches, that Clattenburg had ever given a penalty against Arsenal. But his decisions in the second half of Arsenal's 2-1 loss at Everton in December officially brought me to the point where I couldn't defend him the same way I used to. Everton scored their winner in the 86th minute after a weak free kick was given, then Arsenal were denied an obvious penalty in injury time. Then again, you could argue that Arsenal got the tactics all wrong in that game, too. I talk about trends with officials all the time, but they're still one man among 22 players on the pitch.

Hull City have only won five of their 17 matches all-time with Clattenburg in the middle and it's two wins from 12 in the Premier League. He's only worked one Tigers match this year, a 3-1 loss at West Bromwich Albion on January 2. The two Premier League wins, by the way, were 2-1 over Wigan in 2009 and 2-0 over Crystal Palace in 2015. Only one of their five wins with Clattenburg came away from home; that was the aforementioned Palace game.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Watford; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Middlesbrough v. Everton; Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Crystal Palace; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. Southampton; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. West Bromwich Albion; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Saturday (late): Liverpool v. Tottenham Hotspur; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Sunday (early): Burnley v. Chelsea; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Sunday (late): Swansea City v. Leicester City; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Monday (night): Bournemouth v. Manchester City; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is covered in snow. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to turn him into a snowman. Don't forget the pipe!