The Big Match Tactical View: Arsenal v Hull

Can Steve Bruce frustrate Arsenal at the Emirates?
Can Steve Bruce frustrate Arsenal at the Emirates?
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Sunday's last FA Cup tie is a repeat of last season's final - can Arsenal triumph again? Michael Cox looks at the tactics, while Alan Thompson considers the betting...

"Arsenal might need substitutes to break down a defensive Hull side"

Back Draw/Arsenal in Half-Time/Full-Time at 5.04/1


Arsenal v Hull
Sunday 17:30, BBC One.
Match Odds: Arsenal 1.374/11, Hull 10.09/1, The Draw 5.79/2.

When the draw for the Third Round of the FA Cup was made - in Hull - this was the first tie out of the hat. It is, of course, a repeat of last season's FA Cup final, which Arsenal won 3-2 after extra-time, thanks to an excellent Aaron Ramsey finish.

Arsenal's eventual victory is remembered fondly in north London, but Hull excelled themselves that day, and started brilliantly by going 2-0 up inside 10 minutes, with two goals from centre-backs James Chester and Curtis Davies in the aftermath of corners. The third centre-back, Alex Bruce, then had a header cleared off the line by Kieran Gibbs - there might have been no way back for Arsenal at 3-0 down, and it's worth considering whether set-pieces will be a major part of Hull's approach this weekend.

That said, they also have more attacking options. At Wembley both Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic were cup-tied, meaning Matty Fryatt - who barely featured all season in the league - played upfront alone. Long has since departed for Southampton, but Jelavic formed a good partnership with Uruguayan Abel Hernandez for the 2-0 victory over Everton at the weekend, and they could continue here if Bruce is feeling brave.

Ultimately, Bruce's team selection will count for a great deal here, and it's worth holding back on entering this market until the teamsheets are unveiled. Most importantly, Bruce played a near-reserve side in the Third and Fourth Rounds last season - so it's worth waiting to see whether he'll continue with that approach considering Hull are still fighting relegation.

Then, we'll have to assess Hull's formation. Continuing with the 4-4-2 we saw against Everton would be a brave move and would create an open game, while 5-3-2 suggests Hull would be a little more cautious, and 5-3-1-1 - another possibility - perhaps the most conservative approach. Nevertheless, playing conservatively against Arsenal is probably the way to go. Soaking up pressure before counter-attacking and maximising set-piece opportunities is the only way Hull can realistically provide a shock here.

Any fine moments in open play are likely to come from Tom Huddlestone, who should return having missed the entire Christmas period through suspension. He can play some tremendous long-range passes, although his lack of mobility is a concern and often causes Hull problems with being overrun in open play. Considering they won twice without him, in a 4-4-2 format (Huddlestone doesn't really suit that system) he might actually be playing for his place in the side for Hull's next league game, against West Brom next Saturday.

Arsene Wenger also has plenty of selection decisions to make. David Ospina will start in goal - and, after Wojciech Szczesny's errors against Southampton on New Year's Day, could get an extended run in the first team.

Wenger wants to take this competition seriously. He's won it five times - only Aston Villa's George Ramsey has triumphed more as a manager - but needs to rest players after a hectic Christmas period. Considering he was already down to the bare bones in some positions, particularly in midfield (where Calum Chambers and Francis Coquelin started at Southampton), it's tough to see how many changes he can make.

Theo Walcott could make his first start a year since his injury against Spurs, though Wenger seems more likely to use him from the bench. Similarly, Mesut Ozil has resumed full training but this match could be too early for him. Lukas Podolski is yet another injured, and possibly on the verge of a transfer.

Therefore, it could be the likes of Joel Campbell and Chuba Akpom who are given surprise starts upfront. Both are exciting, direct, pacey young forwards who could cause Hull's immobile backline problems.

Arsenal have a fine record in home FA Cup matches. In their last 38 ties at Highbury and the Emirates, they've won 28, drawn nine and lost just once. I think they'll get the job done here, but 1.374/11 isn't too tempting in the overall market.

Considering they might need some top-class substitutes to rescue them against a frustratingly defensive Hull side - as was the case at Wembley - I'll back Draw/Arsenal in Half-Time/Full-Time at 5.04/1.


Recommended Bet
Back Draw/Arsenal in Half-Time/Full-Time at 5.04/1


The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

The rerun of last year’s final where Arsene Wenger claimed his first silverware for nine years but it wasn’t easy, the Gunners had to come from 0-2 down to eventually win a classic final 3-2. Steve Bruce will be happy with six points from the three games played over the festive season, which has moved Hull out of the relegation zone to 15th. Arsenal also picked up six points but will be bitterly disappointed with their last game away at St Mary’s where their defending at times was comical.

No doubt Hull City’s fans would have enjoyed their trip to Wembley last season, but give them the choice of another Wembley day out in May or Premier League survival and I am sure most would pick the latter. They have been to the Emirates in the league already this term and got a point in an entertaining 2-2 game. However, with only four wins this season and all four coming against sides in the bottom half, it’s hard to see the Tigers progressing to the fourth round.

Arsenal, have scored in every home game this campaign and have suffered just the one defeat (Manchester United 1-2). When they have faced teams lower than themselves in the League they have scored at least twice in each game, clean sheets though have been a bit scarce, they have achieved only two home clean sheets against Southampton and Burnley.

It's always difficult to predict team selections for the FA Cup but I think Arsenal will field a side strong enough to take them through to the next round. I will be dutch backing Arsenal to win 2-0 @ 8.0 and 2-1 @ 9.6 giving approx odds of 4.3.

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