Hull v Arsenal
Live on Sky Sports 1
Match Odds: Hull [5.5], Arsenal [1.75], The Draw [3.9]
Arsenal have encountered significant problems against Hull over the last year, going 2-0 down in last season’s FA Cup final before coming back to win 3-2 in extra-time, and needing a last-minute Danny Welbeck equaliser to draw 2-2 at the Emirates back in October. This will be a difficult test for the away side, on a wet Monday evening in Hull.
The home side are in good form, having won back-to-back matches for the first time this season, and Steve Bruce is therefore likely to name the same side for a third consecutive match. Having chopped and changed between a four-man defence and a three-man backline, he’s enjoyed more success with the latter shape in recent weeks, the formation which caused Arsenal so many problems in the FA Cup final.
Hull’s three-man defence should be comprised of Paul McShane, Michael Dawson and James Chester, all solid in their own penalty box but lacking outright pace. Arsenal must attack down the outside of this trio, drawing them out of position and exposing their lack of speed. Olivier Giroud is in fine form, but Welbeck could be a better bet.
One of the benefits of using three centre-backs, though, is the increased attacking set-piece threat. This was what caused Arsenal so many problems early in last season’s FA Cup final, and Bruce’s side will hope to force set-pieces in the early stages, putting David Ospina under immediate pressure.
In midfield, Tom Huddlestone will sit deep and probably find space away from Mesut Ozil, who isn’t the most diligent player in a defensive sense. Hull depend on his passes out to the wing-backs, Ahmed Elmohamady and Robbie Brady, to launch their attacks. Huddlestone, like the centre-backs, isn’t particularly mobile though, so Ozil might be able to scamper either side of him to launch quick breaks.
Stephen Quinn and Jake Livermore will battle against Arsenal’s surprisingly effective midfield combination of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin, but you’d expect the away side to get the upper hand in the midfield zone, and control the match with short passing.
Therefore, Hull might be most effective when breaking directly. The recent strike partnership of Sone Aluko and Dame N’Doye has been working well – both players liking attacking on the outside of the centre-backs, and might find space as Arsenal’s full-backs are drawn up the pitch to shut down Hull’s wing-backs.
In particular, Laurent Koscielny will probably be dragged out towards the touchline to battle against N’Doye, who has been working the right flank nicely. Koscielny loves hunting down opponents in the corners, so this should be a fascinating battle. Aluko will play a little deeper, probably hoping to find space in behind Coquelin.
Arsenal are predictably odds-on for this fixture, but I’m keener to find something a little more specific to back.
There’s been an interesting pattern with many Arsenal away fixtures in 2015: they’ve often gone 2-0 up, conceded a goal, and held on for a nervy 2-1 victory. That’s been the case at West Ham, Crystal Palace, QPR and Newcastle – four times in Arsenal’s last eight away league matches.
Of course, that’s not remotely a guarantee something similar will happen, but it’s tough to ignore the feeling that there’s a reason for the similarity of results – Arsenal easily outplay inferior opposition, before losing concentration and becoming a little complacent.
I don’t usually back anything in the Correct Score market, but I’ll take another 2-1 Arsenal victory at around [10.0].
Back Arsenal to win 2-1 at [10.0]
The Betfair Trader’s View: Alan Thompson
An interesting match-up and a game that both sides will be keen to win for very different reasons. Arsenal will travel to the KC Stadium on Monday evening looking to extend their unbeaten run to 10 games in their efforts to finish in the top three and ensure they gain automatic Champions League qualification. However, Hull City are fighting for their lives winning their last two and looking for a third successive win for the first time this season.
Arsenal are the current form team in the league picking up an impressive 25 pts from their last 10 starts, but while they have kept four clean sheets in that sequence only one of them came away from the Emirates at Turf Moor. When they have faced sides from the bottom half of the league they have been very effective, they are unbeaten home or away winning 15 of their 17 games against such opposition.
When Hull City have faced top half opposition at home this season they have won two of their eight games, both wins were to nil and when they entertained the teams from Merseyside, beating Everton 2-0 and of course Liverpool 1-0 last time out. Hull still have Manchester United to welcome to the KC after this game but so far when playing the top six sides at home this season they have managed to score on each occasion, scoring twice against Manchester City (2-4) and Chelsea (2-2).
The Gunners have conceded only once before the break in their last eight away starts (Southampton 1-0 HT) and have been leading in six of those games at the interval. I will be backing Arsenal/Arsenal in the Half Time/Full Time Market @ [2.8].