Editor’s preamble: I am thrilled to announce that Phil Gregory has been found, dusted down, and has provided his pre-match analysis. My match review will (snow willing) be appearing in the Observer on Sunday.
Now Phil’s piece…
Arsenal “welcome” Hull to the Emirates Cup for a clash that has plenty of controversy surrounding it, despite Hull’s promotion only last season. With the FA Cup tie culminating in the Fabregas “spitting scandal” (what a surprise he didn’t do it) and the infamous “who is he to sit in a JACKET and come onto the pitch at the end of the game! Outrageous!” from a member of the Hull City backroom team.
Oh, and the small matter of a 1-2 defeat at the Emirates in September.
I can remember the fateful day, and the exact spot I was standing in Headingley on the way to the pub when I said “we could just play the kids”. How very, very wrong I was. With the stage set, it promises to be a cracking match.
Most importantly for Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas is out for the game against Hull, with his injury said to be short-term, but no date set for his return. Traore is still out, expected to be back for Aston Villa, though Denilson has returned to the squad.
Rosicky and Bendtner are out until early in the New Year, while Van Persie and Djourou are long term absentees. Leftbacks Clichy and Gibbs are out, so Wenger will have a decision to make as to who is his 4th choice leftback.
Hull City are without their talismanic midfield player Jimmy Bullard. The likeable English playmaker is a vital component in the Hull City midfield, linking play and working hard and seeming to inspire his teammates to greater levels of performance.
Ian Ashbee is a long-term absentee for Hull City and will not be involved at the Emirates.
Aaron Ramsey’s performances for Wales have been headline-grabbing, and now the young Welshman has an opportunity to impress the Emirates faithful.
Deputising for Cesc Fabregas is a task few would be able to manage, but with the crowd behind him and an undoubted natural talent, I’m looking forward to seeing the playmaker unpick the Hull defence in the manner of his Spanish mentor.
With an out-of-form front line, Andrei Arshavin will be expected to rise to the task. An early goal will force Hull to come out and play and make them easier to break down.
Hull City without Jimmy Bullard are a team with very few standout names. Geovanni was in inspired form on his last league visit to the Emirates so should be carefully marshalled by Alex Song. Stephen Hunt impressed in the Premier League with Reading, but him and Geovanni having a mere six league goals between them (less than Gallas and Vermaelen have managed from centreback) I don’t foresee much goal threat from Hull.
Arsenal Predicted line-up:
Sagna Gallas Vermaelen Silvestre
Walcott Arshavin Nasri
Subs: Fabianski, Denilson, Eboue, Emmanuel-Thomas, Vela, Eduardo, Wilshere
Fairly self-explanatory, given the lack of options in some positions. I presume Silvestre will continue at leftback, but I would go for Eboue personally, given he will offer much more going forward.
I’d expect Diaby to continue in central midfield given that Denilson is just back from injury and Ramsey will deputise for Cesc.
The front three is a little trickier, you could make a case for Eboue’s inclusion over Walcott but personally I see Arsène persevering with the young Englishman. Dropping him at this stage would only damage his confidence further and after all, it is only Hull at home.
Arshavin could continue at centre forward, but when Eduardo came on, the Croatian took over in the middle. Could we see him restored to the central berth? We shall see.
With a mere two points away from home, Burnley shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Arsenal, even given our depleted side. Bullard is an enormous loss for them; expect them to struggle to get a foothold in the midfield.
Much will depend on how Aaron Ramsey copes with the pressure, but if he is going to fulfil his potential he has to take these sorts of chances to shine. With five goals scored away in the league all season, Hull shouldn’t trouble Almunia too much, and the clean sheet will be a welcome boost for the Spaniard. 3-0 to the Arsenal, solid home win.
What has happened to Senderos? Against Burnley, our only defensive substitute was Eboue, who could feasibly cover the fullback positions but not centreback. I know Emmanuel-Thomas’ versatility is well-documented, but centreback? Surely not!
And yet we had two strikers on the bench, both of whom could play wide as well as two young wide players. Seems to me Senderos is picking up his wages yet isn’t even in consideration. Given the importance Wenger places on mentality, I can only presume his mindset is all wrong after his loan spell at Milan.
Untold Arsenal announcement service from the editor.
On www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk we trace Arsenal’s form 100 years ago, and as the year end approaches the problems grew. We’re now only a month from the moment that MAKING THE ARSENAL takes up the story. Meanwhile, as I mentioned at the top, with luck I should be contributing the Arsenal’s fans’ view column in the Observer tomorrow. It generally also appears on line as well. Bloody cold isn’t it (sorry that’s only relevant if you are in a cold place, but if you are in the UK or northern Europe you’ll know what I mean).
Finally, if you missed the last post – in which Billy the Dog gives his view of the forthcoming match, you can get to it via this handy link-type-thing.
(c) Untold Arsenal 2009