Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Arsenal v Hull City Preview

Arsenal won 3-0 away to Cardiff at the weekend to maintain their lead at the top of the Premier League. The two late goals gave them a slightly flattering victory margin, but it was a very important win. With four really tough games coming up in the next two weeks they need to get another win at home to Hull City tomorrow night. 

I'm not knocking Hull but they should not provide as stern a test as Everton, City, Napoli and Chelsea in the following four games. Points in the bag are very important and Arsenal have become very good at beating teams they should beat. In recent seasons they have dropped too many points to teams they should not be dropping them to, but not so much so far this season.

Besides the opening day defeat at home to Villa and the draw at West Brom they have won every other game with the exception of the 1-0 defeat at United. That was a game which could have gone either way and they most certainly weren't outplayed on the day. Their total of 10 wins in 13 league games is fantastic and it's given them a four point cushion at the top of the table.

The general concensus among the "so called" experts is they they will fade come March and it will be left to Chelsea and City to fight it out for the title. Both of those teams have struggled with form away from home with four points and eight points respectively from six away games. They both face tricky away trips tomorrow night and those results might give an indication as to how strong their challenge will become. 

Meanwhile Arsenal have a chance to heap more pressure on them with a home game against a Hull team who have lost five of their six away games so far. They got a very good win at home to Liverpool on Sunday and they have taken 14 of their 17 points at home this season. Away from home they have struggled though and have found it very hard to score goals with the exception of their 3-2 win at Newcastle.

Arsene Wenger has said he is going to rotate the squad with so many games at the moment and he made three changes from the Marseille game to the Cardiff game. Those changes only made the team stronger and showed the importance of having real quality back up. He could make a few changes for the Hull game without affecting the flow or shape of the team and he probably will do.

It could be hard for him to leave Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil or Olivier Giroud out though as the three of them seem so crucial to all that Arsenal are at the moment. The sight of any or all of those three on the bench would give Hull some hope and fill Arsenal fans with just a little doubt. If the players need a rest those three are no different though and the temptation must be to avail of the chance in a home game Arsenal are strong favourites to win. 

In team news Bacary Sagna seems set to miss out with a slight hamstring injury and Carl Jenkinson will fill in for him. Otherwise all the players from the weekend are available again and Lukas Podolski will be back to full training after tomorrow night's game. He could be available to play within a week and might just have a say in a few of the games between now and Christmas. 

I expect the defence to be unchanged with the exception of Jenkinson and hopefully he can fit right in with the rest of the recognised first choice defence. He hasn't looked overly impressive when he has got a chance already this season, but he always gives his all for the team. He's at an age where he probably needs more game time to progress but that's not easy to get with Sagna as the first choice right back. With Sagna's current contract situation Jenkinson could possibly find himself promoted to first team duties next season unless Sagna agrees a new contract or the club splash out on a new right back.

In attack I would be surprised if Giroud doesn't play again and I just don't see how he can be left out as he is so important to Arsenal's attacking play as well as a defensive rock at set pieces. I think Theo Walcott might get a chance on the right hand side and maybe Tomas Rosicky will come in on the left. The defensive role could well be switched back from Mikael Arteta to Mathieu Flamini and the other two players will probably come from Ozil, Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla. 

As I said I can't see how Ramsey and Ozil can be rested but if they have to be any of those players can fill in very well. What it might do to the fluidity of the team is another thing, but I think they can win with any midfield combination they put out. It will take patience and hard work to break Hull down and Arsenal have shown that in abundance so far this season.

They will face some very tough games after this game and it's very important the players focus is fully on the game in hand and not on the games to come. If they can go about their task in the right manner the three points are there to be won and then the games to come can be considered. I think Arsenal will be good enough to win by a few goals and continue to lead the Premier League by at least four points. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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