Saturday, 20 February 2016

Arsenal Looking To Hand Hull An Unwanted Hat Trick

It's the FA Cup again for Arsenal this weekend when they play Hull Ciry in the fifth round of the competition they have won for the last two seasons. Hull must be sick of the sight of Arsenal in the cup after going out to them in the third round last season and losing to them in the final the previous season. Hull's first priority has to be promotion and they're top of the Championship at the moment, but surely they can't want to lose to Arsenal in the cup for the third season running.

The draw has been pretty good to Arsenal so far with home games against Sunderland, Burnley and Hull. Sunderland and Burnley were both despatched after a bit of a struggle and more of the same is expected from Hull this afternoon. With the Premier League and Champions League still to play for the FA Cup gives Arsene Wenger the chance to rest some first team regulars and play some fringe players.

Mesut Ozil hasn't played in the cup yet this season and the chances are he won't play any part in this game either. With Barcelona coming to town on Tuesday night the boss could be tempted to rest Alexis Sanchez too, but his current lack of form might well mean he gets a chance to play his way back to full match fitness. Those two players will surely have a huge part to play against Barcelona if Arsenal are going to have any chance and we need to have them at their best. If that means resting Ozil and playing Alexis then so be it.

The boss could pick a completely different 11 from the one which came from behind to beat Leicester last Sunday and still put a very good team out there. I would imagine David Ospina, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers, Mohamed Elneny and Theo Walcott are certain starters and I think Mathieu Flamini, Alex Iwobi, Joel Campbell and maybe even Danny Welbeck might be in the team too. Welbeck made his comeback after 10 months out last Sunday and scored the crucial last minute winner only 10 minutes after coming off the bench. I'm not sure if he's fully match fit yet, but his return to the attack could be very important for the rest of the season.

The only positions where there might be a problem making a change is at the back with Gilberto Paulista injured for the next week and Mathieu Debuchey having departed to Bordeaux on loan for the rest of the season. Laurent Koscielny has recovered from the dead leg he picked up against Leicester, but I suspect Chambers will play in the centre of defence with Per Mertesacker and Hector Bellerin will probably have to play at right back.

I was impressed with Iwobi's contribution in the previous two rounds and hopefully we will see more of the same from him today. Hull won't be easy to break down as they have been very solid at the back this season, but the two substitute heroes from last Sunday will hopefully have gained some confidence from those crucial goals. The boss is often criticised for his predictable subs, but they proved to be inspired against Leicester.

The attacking options have improved greatly as players have returned from injury recently, but the goals have yet to follow. Arsenal's goal difference is a lot worse than it should be in the league at this stage of the season and it's something they need to remedy. The amount of goals scored today won't be important as long as victory is achieved, but the more game time our attacking players can get the better for the team.

As holders of the cup Arsenal will of course want to progress and they will also want to become the first team to win it three seasons in a row in 130 years. The league still has to be the first priority for me and getting anything from Barcelona in the Champions League will be a monumental task while the FA Cup still offers s very real path to glory. It's far too early to talk of the league and cup double, but a win today would put Arsenal one game from another Wenbley semi final and two games from the final.

They can't afford to pass up such a good chance to get within touching distance of a final and I expect them not to pass it up. I have no doubt Hull will make it far from easy just as Sunderland and Burnley did and Arsenal might have to bring some of the more established players off the bench to get the win. I think they will get that win and then we can look forward to a very interesting quarter final draw with so many of the top clubs still in the competition as of today.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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