Arsenal v Hull – FA Cup Final Preview
Hull City take on Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday hoping to cause a huge upset and earn the first major piece of silverware in the club’s history. Ciaran Bonass previews.
Since beating Sheffield United 5-3 in a thrilling semi-final last month Hull have been on auto-pilot with boss Steve Bruce admitting his players have been distracted by the final ever since. The Tigers picked up only one point from their remaining five Premier League games after reaching the FA Cup final for the first time – a 2-2 draw which all but condemned Fulham to the Championship next season – safe in the knowledge they were very unlikely to get dragged into the relegation dogfight. A tally of 37 points represented their best haul ever in the top flight and saw Bruce’s side finish 16th in the Premier League.
Wins over Middlesborough, Southend, Brighton (following a replay), Sunderland and Sheffield United in that remarkable tie in the last four put Hull in the final.
Arsenal’s results since reaching the final could hardly be in starker contrast to their opponents, as the Gunners finished the season on a run of five successive wins – with clean sheets in each of their last four – to cement a comfortable fourth-placed finish seven points ahead of Everton.
Arsene Wenger’s side also boasted the best away record in the division while an impressive FA Cup run has seen them earn wins over Spurs, Coventry, Liverpool and Everton before a nervy penalty shootout victory over Wigan in the semi-final gave them a great opportunity to earn their first piece of silverware since lifting the cup in 2005.
The Tigers will be without both of their first choice forwards as Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long are both cup-tied having played for their former clubs in earlier rounds. Defender James Chester and winger Robbie Brady are both in contention for a spot as they step up recoveries from hamstring and groin problems respectively. Goalkeeper Allan McGregor made a welcome return to the side in their final league game against Everton following a serious injury and should line out from the start.
Thomas Vermaelen and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both face late fitness tests to determine their involvement for Arsenal but neither is expected to make the starting line-up regardless. Serge Gnabry and Theo Walcott are both definitely out but Jack Wilshere should feature after coming off the bench against Norwich in their last outing to play for the first time since the midfielder suffered a broken foot on international duty.
Serial injury victim Abou Diaby is also available as the Frenchman also made a substitute appearance in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over the Canaries.
Arsenal won both meetings between the sides this season – 2-0 at the Emirates last December before running out easy 3-0 winners at the KC Stadium last month. The Gunners have won nine and lost only one of the ten fixtures these clubs have played in since 1978.
The Gunners are big favourites to end their nine-year trophy drought at 4/9 with Hull a massive 13/2 to earn a win in the biggest game of the club’s history. Only Crystal Palace scored fewer goals than Bruce’s side in the Premier League and stayed up so Long and Jelavic will be sorely missed up front.
A low scoring game looks likely then as the Tigers hope to keep it tight with 5/6 on Under 2.5 goals a good shout but an Arsenal win with a clean sheet seems the best bet on offer at 11/10. Aaron Ramsey’s scored in their last outing and in the recent defeat of these opponents so the Welshman is a good shout at 13/8 to repeat the feat here.