Saturday 18th October
3:00pm Kick Off
Arsenal V Hull City
So another Interlull (copyright Arseblog) comes to an end and thankfully we have only one more this side of Christmas to disrupt us. The international games haven`t been kind for us as first of all we`ve picked up our usual round of injuries (Ozil, Rosicky and Kos) but also because it`s allowed us to stew for a bit longer in the disappointing juices of defeat, and more particularly the non-performance, against Chelsea. With Ozil now out until around Xmas Wenger has a choice to make in how the team will line up for the next couple of quite winnable games. It would be somewhat ironic, and also very Wenger like, were we to go back to playing a system that supports a natural #10 type player at the precise point when our best #10 is out injured! But Wenger`s tactics (or lack of them) and his squad management (or lack of) is maybe a discussion for another day. For the time being let`s look at our next opponents – Hull City.
Ahh Hull City, I`ve so many great memories of playing them. Well actually only one memory and that`s of the win at Wembley last May, beyond that I genuinely struggle to remember a game of note against them.
They come into the game in a similar position to us sitting one point and two places below us in the league with a less than impressive 9 points after playing 7 games. They haven`t quite found any real run of form and their 2-0 win last time out at home to Crystal Palace was their first league win since their opening day victory at QPR. Their form tailed off quite badly last season once they reached the FA Cup Final and so far this season it looks like they haven`t quite found their rhythm. 11 goals have been scored (the same as us) and 11 goals have been conceded (two more than us) in their opening 7 games. Bruce seemed to be building a decent team last season yet despite the cup final and qualifying for Europe it should be noted that they only finished the season two spots above the drop with only 4 points separating them from relegated Norwich City. Two wins from the last eleven games of the PL season (including 8 losses) shows the form of the team that will struggle to pull themselves above those scrapping at the bottom of the league. Bruce will have his work cut out this season with difficult games away to Liverpool and home to high flyers Southampton to follow this weekend`s run out against us.
Formation wise Hull seem to be favouring a 5-3-1-1 using wing-backs to help support the midfield and attack. At home they use two more defensive minded midfielders in the wide positions as opposed to more attacking minding defenders (if that makes sense) but away from home I think they`ll use more natural right and left backs in their line up. Unlike us they have a gaggle of centre backs with a pretty decent (if somewhat mid-table) collection to select from. On form it will be Davies central with Dawson and Chester either side. McShane and young Bruce are both options but I think these are the three older Bruce will go with. While none of these are by any measurement top class they are all solid pros and if Dawson and Davies have certainly Chester is a player with a bit of potential. He`s a good age at 25 and would be the perfect type of player that we should be looking at for a backup centre back; young enough that he can improve, good passer of the ball, tall, strong in the air and competitive. While not the perfect solution I think he`s a good example the type of players that are out there, not every signing has to be at Hummels level. Maybe it`s just luck but both league wins for Hull have come when Chester started and his pace, an attribute that neither Dawson or Davies are blessed with, is a valuable asset to have.
Hull have used Elmohandy as an attacking wing-back but he picked up a knock recently and is listed as a doubt, even if he was fit I think Hull would have started with Rosenior. Rosenior is an experienced player who is still prone to switching off at times. An alert Alexis can certainly get the better of him and he is one we should be targeting. On the opposite flank the impressive Figueroa takes up the left-back position. He`s been a good signing for them and even now into his 30s shows no sign of slowing down, a good player and an excellent athlete.
With McGregor likely still out Harper will continue in goal. Harper`s not a great keeper and their backline will be worse for losing McGregor but this will be no walk in the park. With an effective back five the penalty area will be crowed so it`s vital that we entice their wing-backs forward so that we can use our greatest asset, speed, against their weak point.
Midfield three will be made up of Diame, Huddlestone and Livermore. I was genuinely surprised when Sam let Diame leave West Ham and even more so for the low price of only around £4m. I know that there were issues with him extending his contract and Fat Sam isn`t the most understanding of people who have a different opinion to his but Diame is very much a Fat Sam type of midfielder. He`s strong , has great on-field commitment and is purposeful going forward (I`m talking about Diame here not Fat Sam by the way). Diame had a trial with Arsenal many years ago and while he didn`t quite make the grade Wenger told Martinez, Wigan`s manager at the time about him and they signed him. Diame has played with a new lease of life this season and already has 3 PL goals to his name. He`s an excellent player and another one that would have been a good fit at our club. I expect him and Jack to clash. Alongside him the old Spuds brigade is complete with Livermore and Huddlestone. They both looked out of place at Spurs but have done well since they arrived at Hull. Huddlestone is severely lacking in speed but has a lovely style of play and is an excellent passer, if he had that extra yard of pace he`s be a top player but he doesn`t so he`s not. Livermore provides more of the energy and certainly has the better engine of the two but I think Huddlestone is the better player. Without Diame in the middle you`d think we could boss their midfield but he brings a lot of energy and direction to the team. They are not massively creative and if the game moves fast Huddelstone`s effectiveness is dramatically reduced but we shouldn`t underrate them.
Few teams play two up front but Hull do, sort of. Jelavic will float around the front line while Hernandez will work the penalty area. They are both good strikers in their own right but haven`t quite clicked yet as a partnership which is understandable when you consider that Hernandez only recently joined. There`s lots to like about Hernandez and I think even at the high price they paid (around £12m mark) for him he`ll prove to be an astute acquisition for Hull. He`s only 23-24 and boasts a very impressive scoring record at club and in particular international level (8 goals in 16 games for Uruguay). He`s lightening quick around the box and a natural finisher, our weakened backline , without Kos or Chambers, may struggle to keep up. Jelavic career has stalled somewhat and he hasn`t lived up to his early promise at Everton. He`s a big guy who`s actually better with the ball on the ground but does tend to do a lot of nothing for long periods of time.
Hull will be a tough game for us. They will likely sit very deep for the first 30 minutes to make sure they keep the game scoreless and as disrupted as possible. Rotational fouling may be an issue and we will have to be very patient (unless we score early which is unlikely). Their back three can be exposed with pace but getting them to come forward enough will be the challenge. It may take someone like Alexis and his dribbling skills to really create openings. Having said all that provided our defence can play switched on and Flamini (or maybe Arteta) stays sitting in front of the back four I don`t see them causing us too much trouble.
It won`t make comfortable viewing but we will eventually win out in what could well be a stuttering home win.
Arsenal win, 2-0.
Scouting Report Hull City
Saturday 18th October