Saturday 11th February 2017- 12:30-Sky Sports 1HD
Although this game represents a clash between a side near the top of the table not necessarily out of the title race, against a side who are sitting in the relegation zone, the mood around both clubs is drastically different from their suggested places in the league.
It must feel like déjà vu for Arsenal supporters, as the familiar routine of settling for 4th place has started to come to fruition again. Arsenal’s 3-1 comprehensive defeat at the hands of Chelsea last weekend, leaves them 12 points off the league leaders. This was the second defeat in a row, and their fourth in their last 10 games. No other team in the top 6 has lost that many games inside their last 10. Although he admitted, it would be hard to catch Chelsea straight after the loss, Wenger seemed more positive in his pre-match press conference for the Hull game:
“It is never over—at least, we have to behave like that. If you think it is over, I don’t—we are in a pack that is tight. If it is over for us, it is over for everybody else.”
However, supporter unrest at Wenger’s position is once again palpable. Popular Arsenal fan forum, Arsenal FanTV was awash with people calling for Wenger’s head after the Chelsea game. Wenger who is currently in his twentieth year in charge of Arsenal was coy when discussing his future in the Hull press conference, refusing to comment if there is a contract offer on the table for him, in a week in which Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri was linked to the Arsenal job.
If results don’t go Arsenal’s way this weekend, they could find themselves out of the top 4. Wenger will also continue to serve his touchline ban. Despite not being on the touchline, there are rumours he will be making a big call, and dropping Petr Cech. Cech has been Arsenal’s No 1 since joining the club in summer 2015, but his performances this season have come under scrutiny.
The 34-year-old was partially at fault for the first two goals in the 3-1 defeat to Chelsea, and mis-kicked directly to Cesc Fabregas in conceding the third. If Cech is dropped, then David Ospina would likely come into the team. Hector Bellerin is “recovering well” according to Wenger, from a suspected concussion suffered against Chelsea, though it remains to be seen whether the right-back will be passed fit for the Emirates clash.
Wenger’s midfield options are still limited with Aaron Ramsey (calf) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles) out, although Mohamed Elneny is returning after defeat in the Africa Cup of Nations final with Egypt.
The contrast with Hull, and manager Marco Silva, couldn’t be any different than the mood at Arsenal. Ushered in at the start of the year to take charge of a side seemingly at rock bottom, it is fair to say that not a great deal was expected of relative unknown Silva.
A former manager of Estoril, Sporting Lisbon and Olympiacos, Premier League rookie Silva has enjoyed relative success at each club he has managed and is on course to add another impressive mark to his CV at Hull.
Silva has won half of his eight games in charge overall, including that hugely impressive victory against Liverpool last weekend, that was built on true grit and determination, as well as a bit of fortune as their opponents can no longer seem to find the net.
All the more impressive is that three of the Portuguese’s league games in charge so far have seen him come up against Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, with four points from that run, and all three from his first match at the helm against Bournemouth, enough to take City to within one point of safety.
The Tigers’ new boss has also had to contend with losing two of his better players in Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass, the latter of whom directly contributed to 10 goals in 20 league games before departing for West Ham United in January.
Eight players have been brought in, however, including a couple very much with a point to prove in the Premier League. Oumar Niasse and Lazar Markovic joining on loan from Everton and Liverpool respectively and both already leaving a good impression.
Two clean sheets have been recorded in his side’s last two league outings – as many as in the previous 26 combined – but not since October 2008 have they gone three in succession without conceding. Do so in North London on Saturday and Silva will take another step towards keeping Hull in the Premier League.
Michael Dawson is out, after pulling his calf in the warm-up before the Liverpool game. Dawson will join fellow centre-back Curtis Davies (hamstring) on the sidelines. Abel Hernandez has also been ruled out for up to four weeks with a hamstring injury.
Ryan Mason remains out with a skull fracture, while Markus Henriksen (shoulder), Will Keane (ACL) and Moses Odubajo (patella) complete a lengthy Tigers injury list.
By Rich Lee @RichLee2202