It’s often rare in the Premier League that such a large gap in the table will be reflected by opposing emotions from both sides. Whilst Arsenal may be in the top four and Hull fighting relegation, it is most definitely the latter team that are the happiest at present.
Marco Silva has had an immediate impact on a Hull City squad who have been struggling for any sense of consistency since their return to the Premier League. Despite losing a key player in Robert Snodgrass, some crude moves in the transfer market have ensured the quality of squad improved overall. Hull have now completed the giant killings of Liverpool and Manchester United (in the FA Cup) and will be relishing the chance to take down another title-chasing side.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have suffered back-to-back defeats against Chelsea and, more embarrassingly, Watford. The latest round of disappointing performances has awoken the sleeping ‘Wenger Out’ beast, which makes an appearance at some point throughout each season and is normally tamed by a decent Champions League performance or an FA Cup win. This time, however, it seems the fans are demanding a decent domestic showing, something which they haven’t witnessed for a while.
As previously stated, both of these sides have been in a run of form incomparable to their league positions. However, looking more closely at the away and home statistics of these sides, the match appears to be a foregone conclusion in favour of the Gunners. Hull have not only failed to win any of their last 11 away matches in the Premier League, they have also failed to score in seven of their last eight attempts.
In stark contrast, Arsenal’s recent defeat to Watford was an incredible anomaly considering that their only other home defeat they have suffered this season was against Liverpool – a 4-3 loss in the opening game of the season. Prior to last week, Arsene Wenger’s outfit went on a five-match winning streak at home, although it can be argued that over half of those victories weren’t convincing and all came against weaker opposition (Stoke, Burnley, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Bournemouth).
With the upcoming Champions League fixture against Bayern Munich fast approaching, Wenger will see that as his priority despite admitting that his team’s title chase isn’t over. He’ll be boosted by Mohamed Elneny’s return from the African Cup of Nations, who is likely to slot right back into the side in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Giroud wasn’t able to make much of an impact when he came on against Hull, meaning Alexis Sanchez will surely start as the lone attacker.
Lazor Markovic and Oumar Niasse will be strong contenders to break into the starting XI at the Emirates. Markovic missed out on the Liverpool game due to the terms of his loan agreement and could come in for Clucas, whilst Niasse replaced the disappointing Hernandez in attack and scored in under 20 minutes after coming on in the previous match.
Arsenal predicted starting XI Hull predicted starting XI
Hector Bellerin faces a late fitness after being forced off 17 minutes into the Chelsea game, meaning Gabriel is the more likely starter. Lucas Perez is also in contention but is unlikely to get a starting XI place over Alexis Sanchez or Giroud
Aside from long-term injuries, Hull don’t seem to have any fresh concerns for the upcoming game. Ryan Mason is recovering well from his head injury suffered against Chelsea last month.
Statistics show that Arsenal should be able to scrape a victory. Just. But there’s no denying the difference in the morale of these two sides following on from their previous respective matches. However, Hull will be determined to show that their recent performances were no fluke, and with home side under immense pressure, one simply cannot see them winning convincingly – if at all. The Tigers would appear unlikely to pull off two shock victories in quick succession, but they will be determined to frustrate from kick-off.
Score prediction: Arsenal 1-1 Hull