Monday, 7 March 2016

Arsenal's FA Cup Replay With Hull Previewed

It's been a tough time for Arsenal fans recently, but the team at least managed to stop the rot by taking a point from their trip to Spurs on Saturday. Unfortunately they really needed a win in that game and they now have to try to make up eight points on Leicester with only nine league games to go. It's a huge task for them and it looks like the FA Cup is probably their best route to a trophy yet again this season.

Of course Arsenal have won the cup for the last two seasons and would be the first team to win three times in a row for 130 years if they were to retain it. In a strange quirk of fate they have beaten Hull in the cup in each of the last two seasons also and they're looking to make it a hat trick. It would have been a lot easier to get that win when they played at home a couple of weeks ago, but this Arsenal team are not fond of doing things the easy way.

Arsene Wenger put out a lot of fringe players in the drawn game as he has done in every round of the cup so far this season. They dominated the game and had by far the best chances on the day, but they couldn't put any of them away and drew 0-0. It was a result neither team wanted with Arsenal trying to win the Premier League and Hull chasing promotion from the Championship, but they have a replay to face regardless.

With the league almost out of touch and a huge hill to climb in the Champions League it will be interesting to see how the boss treats this game. He might be tempted to put out his strongest team, but I think we'll see a similar amount of changes to the previous rounds. I wouldn't be surprised if Hull went down the same route too as they did in the drawn game.

With Petr Cech injured I would be surprised if Matt Macey got the nod and I think David Ospina will play in goal. He did nothing wrong against Spurs and made some very good saves, but he still doesn't fill the rest of the team or the fans with confidence in his ability. He's first choice for the next month though and we have to hope he can continue to play as well as he did on Saturday.

In defence I think Kieran Gibbs will play again as he did on Saturday. He replaced Nacho Monreal as Monreal was fatigued and I would imagine he'll play again. Monreal has made the left back slot his own and rumours abound of Gibbs impending departure this summer.

If Hector Bellerin is to get the rest he probably needs it would mean Calum Chambers will fill in at right back and the central defensive partnership of Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista will have to play too. Neither of them has played too many games recently as they have quite often taken turns to play alongside Laurent Koscielny who is injured for this game.

In midfield I think Mathieu Flamini is the obvious replacement for the suspended Francis Coquelin and he probably would have replaced him anyway. I would be surprised to see Mikel Arteta get a game from the start and Mohamed El Neny will probably play from the start again. Alex Iwobi has done well in the midfield so far in the cup this season and I expect him to continue in that role.

The forward trio picks itself really as Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell were all on the bench on Saturday and all should start this game. Walcott and Giroud are going through rough patches at the moment, but I thought Campbell was very unlucky to lose his place against Spurs after being the best of a bad bunch and scoring in the 2-1 defeat at home to Swansea. Walcott and Giroud might be going through a bad run at the moment, but surely a game against a team from a league below them offers them a chance to get a confidence boosting goal. 

If Arsenal win they will play at home to Watford in the last eight on Sunday and they will play at home to West Brom in the league on Saturday if they lose. Either way things will come to a close tonight even if it has to go to extra time or even penalties. Desite home advantage Hull will still be the underdogs tonight and it will probably be up to Arsenal to make all the running again.

Whatever team ends up getting picked they should be good enough to get the win needed to progress to the last eight and within one game of a trip to Wembley. It's rarely that easy with Arsenal though and it's hard to have confidence in them against any opponent. Maybe that comeback against Spurs is just what the players needed to regain some of their fragile confidence and kick on for the rest of the season.

I have no doubt Hull will be just as resilient as they were in the first game and will play in a very similar way. The team have to find a way to open them up and when they do they have to be more ruthless in front of goal. Arsenal's goal return this season just isn't good enough and I'm hoping this is the game where their finishing finally reaches the level of a team with real aspirations to win trophies.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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