Hull v Arsenal
Live on Sky Sports 1
Despite winning back-to-back league games for the second time in a few months, Hull are still very much in danger of being relegated after wins for Aston Villa, Leicester, and Sunderland on Saturday. The Tigers sit 16th in the table, just one point ahead of Sunderland in 18th, though Steve Bruce‘s men do have a much better goal difference which is effectively worth a point at this stage of the season.
Hull will go into Monday night’s huge game at the KC Stadium in confident mood then having defeated Crystal Palace and Liverpool without conceding in the last week, and perhaps in a slightly more relaxed mood too given that they are the big underdogs for the visit of Arsenal.
Bruce’s men have been largely inconsistent however in 2015 and their record against teams in the top half of the table is extremely poor – Tuesday’s victory over Liverpool being their only win in 18 attempts against such sides, the other 17 resulting in five draws and 12 defeats.
TEAM NEWS: Senegal midfielder Mohamed Diame is expected to miss the game with a sore knee though midfielder David Meyler is back from suspension and defender Andy Robertson is fit again following an ankle injury. Bruce also has Nikica Jelavic back in training following a knee injury though the striker will probably have to settle for a place on the bench.
Following Manchester United’s surprise defeat at home to West Brom on Saturday Arsenal now have a firm grip on one of the two remaining Champions League automatic qualifying positions. The Gunners are two points ahead of fourth-placed United with a couple of games in hand, the first being Monday night’s trip to the KC Stadium.
Arsene Wenger’s men will arrive in Hull full of confidence following a run of nine straight Premier League victories prior to holding champions Chelsea to a goalless draw last weekend. They’ve also won their last six away games in all competitions, showing a ruthless streak that wasn’t there in the first half of the season.
But perhaps more significant is Arsenal’s record against bottom of the table sides. Wenger’s men have so far played 17 such fixtures (home and away) with a return of 14 wins, three draws, ad not a single defeat.
TEAM NEWS: Midfielder Mikel Arteta remains sidelined with an ankle injury and Wenger is also likely to be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain because of a groin strain. Full-back Mathieu Debuchy could miss out with a hamstring problem.
It’s no surprise to see Arsenal available to back at an odds-on price of [1.76] on Monday night (Hull, [5.7], Draw [3.9]), and knowing that a victory will secure their 18th consecutive top four finish with four games to spare they have all the incentive they need to return home will all three points.
In addition, a win at Hull will move Arsenal five points clear (effectively six taking into account goal difference) of Manchester United with a game in hand, and that’s also pivotal as it means the Gunners can guarantee a top three finish (automatic qualification to the Champions League group stage) with a few games to spare, allowing them to focus fully on the FA Cup final at the end of the season.
True, Hull have their own needs, but I can’t help but feel that they’ll be a bit deflated following results at the weekend and they might just have half an eye on next week’s massive home game against Burnley – a match that will go a long way to securing The Tigers’ Premier League status should they win it.
I can see Bruce setting his side up for a draw here, which will be a huge ask in itself, but should Hull fall a goal or two behind I don’t expect them to chase the game too vigorously given the amount of possession Arsenal will enjoy. I fully expect a straightforward away win.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Over 2.5 Goals, to my surprise, is the outsider in this market at [2.1] and it’s a price I’m very interested in taking.
Arsenal have been terrific in 2015, especially away from home, scoring in all of their last 10 games away from the Emirates Stadium. They generally concede though, more so when they have a comfortable lead and for some reason tend to lose a bit of concentration, and that has resulted in seven of their last nine away games going over the 2.5 goals mark.
I’m not totally convinced that Hull can get on the scoresheet but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if they did, but my main thinking is that should Wenger’s men go a few goals up then with Hull having that massive game next weekend they’ll effectively ‘concede’, perhaps opening the door for more Arsenal goals.
Arsenal -1 and To Score
In line with my thinking above I can easily see Arsenal overcoming the -1 goal handicap. Wenger will be able to field a very strong line-up at the KC Stadium and his men will be fully motivated to put Champions League qualification to bed as quickly as possible.
I just sense that Hull won’t bust a gut should the game start to edge away from them and that a comfortable away victory is on the cards.
Should that be the case then Olivier Giroud has every chance of getting on the scoresheet and is worth a punt at around [2.4] to score at anytime. The Frenchman has been in fine form since returning from a long injury absence and away from home he has netted six times in his last seven games.
Back Arsenal -1 to Win @ [3.2] (best bet)
Back Over 2.5 Goals @ [2.1]Back Olivier Giroud To Score @ [2.4]