Arsenal face Hull City to round off an exciting FA Cup and a great season of football. The Gunners, searching for their first piece of silverware since the 2005 FA Cup win, would be on their toes as they wouldn’t want to slip up in a final, where they are considered the favourites.
It was a long and hard road for Arsene Wenger’s men as they faced Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton and last year’s champions Wigan Athletic en-route to the final. On the contrary Hull City faced only one top flight opposition, which was Sunderland in the quarter-finals. As the form guide goes by, as well as team fitness, Arsenal are comparatively much fitter and in form than Hull City, and having beaten them 3-0 earlier last month, the Gunners have a natural confidence that they can clinch this title and end their trophy drought.
The team news for both the teams are way different. Apart from Theo Walcott, Arsenal have almost their full strength squad apart from stars Thomas Vermaelen and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, who are recovering from knee and groin injuries. Both these players might still make the squad as they race to get fit in time. Hull City on the other hand will be without two of their main players Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, who are cup-tied having already played for West Brom and Everton. Other Hull players in Allan McGregor, Sone Aluko and Paul McShane can be rusty having been out injured recently, despite them being reportedly fit to play the final. One major injury absentee for Hull City will be defender James Chester as he his reportedly still nursing his hamstring injury.
Style of Play expected:
Arsenal will hold the onus to break down the opponents in the final. Hull City have not been in such big final situations and would want to be compact and defend for their lives. Arsenal will have to be assured and creative with the colossal possession that they are expected to have. Hull City are expected to press in their own half and Arsenal would have a lot of time and space in their own defensive and central positions, which means playmakers Arteta and Ozil will have to be at their sharpest best to spot players in good positions.
Hull City do not have speedsters to hurt Arsenal in the central areas like many top teams did. The Yorshire club will need to do its best to win the possession when the ball is in their half, and hold on to the ball as long as possible, slowing the tempo down. The Gunners play their game on a high tempo and particular slowing down can frustrate them. Hull City can execute the proverbial “parking the bus” tactics and make it extremely tough for Arsenal. Hull have rarely played ultra-defensive before as they do like to maintain a balanced approach. But, the final will be a different ball game altogether. They wouldn’t want another 3-0 drubbing.
Drawing Arsenal forward can be a good ploy by Steve Bruce. If he does manage to frustrate the Gunners to an extent that Mertesacker and Koscielny are left exposed with a lot of space between them, the direct approach of El-Mohamady, Jake Livermore and Matt Fryatt. As we have seen previously Arsenal were perturbed by Wigan’s strong defensive performance and almost lost the game if it wasn’t for a late equaliser from Mertesacker. We can expect a similar match up today.
Ozil will have to be at his best. He would be required to break down Hull City using his pin point passing and sharp vision. He would have to be alert on the pitch against a team which would be waiting on one lapse from the gunners. As he plays in a crucial position, there is chance that he can get mauled over by physical players if he’s having a rough day, which he has had during his mid-season slump in form.
The Welsh engine will need to make cutting box to box runs for the Gunners. Arsenal have had an excellent record this season whenever Ramsey has played with the team and he was a major force in the first half of the season. He would need to make himself available for key passes from comparatively less energetic players like Ozil who loves to have a runner in the team. Also when we consider Olivier Giroud, as a striker who likes to hold the ball and set up an overlapping opponent, Ramsey will have to be on his toes to do the job that Walcott would do.
The former Spurs midfielder will know all how about how tough it is to face Arsenal and Hull City will require him to be at his best form. He would have to lead his midfield partners to combat Ozil, Ramsey and Arteta in the centre while ensure that the defensive structure of the Yorkshire club remains strong and compact. He would also have to accurate in his passing as he would hold the responsibility of starting counter attacks.
The Egyptian is a key player for Hull City’s offensive game-play. He is known for his crossing and would be one of the most important players when Hull will look to counter. When we consider Arsenal, a team which doesn’t hesitate to commit men forward, there is a good chance that the central area will have a lot of space which can be utilised by Hull players. Elmohamady’s crossing would have to accurate and menacing as he would easily be Hull’s go-to guy.
Author’s Prediction: Arsenal 1-0 Hull City