The North Londoners controlled the play for the majority of the game on Sunday afternoon at the KC Stadium taking 58 per cent of possession over the course of 90 minutes and taking all three points from the Tigers in the Premier League.
As Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said in his post-match press conference, the FA Cup Final at Wembley on May 17th will be an entirely different encounter between the two sides – the question is whether that game will be influenced by Sunday’s clash and, if so, what will be the upshot for the final?
"The Cup final is a completely different game," Wenger stated.
“We have beaten Hull twice but are not going to take them lightly," he said. "They are a well-organised team, get crosses in and we can't rely on our previous performances against them."
Contrary to Wenger’s comments, Hull were not particularly well organized on Sunday – Steve Bruce’s side may have a few bones to pick with the referee Jonathan Moss but they were caught on several occasions with a lack of defensive awareness.
Aaron Ramsey’s 31-minute strike earned the Gunners the lead initially through some typically Arsenal build-up play in and around the penalty area to set the Welshman through one-on-one with goalkeeper Steve Harper.
No one tracked his run from deep, Hull failed to get close enough to the likes of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla in the build up and the Gunners’ attack was granted far too much time. The backline (and midfield) were simply ball watching like they’re waiting for the bus. They stand off and stand off and no one attempts to make a tackle or even block the path of the passes or the shot.
For Lukas Podolski’s first of his brace, the fans at the KC Stadium and the players felt Hull should have been awarded a free kick prior to Arsenal’s break but, whether or not they should have, the fact remains that Hull allowed the Gunners to break up field on the counter and no one felt the urge to stop them.
I’ve counted 14 seconds between the contentious decision not to stop play when Mikel Arteta appears to go into the back of the Hull attacker just outside the Arsenal penalty area and Podolski firing the ball into the back of Harper’s net at the other end. There are five passes in that time – Olivier Giroud alone is allowed to take five touches, Ozil is granted two touches before him, and Ramsey is allowed to chest the ball down for Podolski without one Hull player even attempting to intercept the ball.
The ball travels 40 yards and is on the ground for the most part and Steve Bruce will surely have a few things to say about the midfield not helping out the two centre-backs (who are caught two against two in the build up) and allowing Ramsey to run into the box completely free then followed in by Podolski also unmarked. Their markers are the wrong side to intercept a pass and they simply don’t do enough to stop the Gunners from playing.
Regardless of whether it’s a foul or not the other end, there can be no excuses for how slowly and insufficiently Hull reacted to the break and, as for the third goal, Podolski’s second of the afternoon, no one tracks the run of Cazorla towards the byline for the initial cut-back pass into Ramsey just coming into the area (also unmarked yet again) and no one blocks the initial shot from the Welshman and likewise no one picks up Podolski for the rebound after Harper parries it.
On the basis of this performance, I believe Steve Bruce will set his side out to defend for the best part of 90 minutes at Wembley – there’s no way Hull will attempt expansive football after Sunday’s defeat and especially with so much at stake next time around.
He will organize them and instruct them to defend, hoping to catch the Gunners on the break. Hull will be infinitely more difficult to break down in the Final.
Meanwhile, the Gunners may feel a certain sense of comfort from this result but they must guard against complacency and they should certainly expect a more combative game and I would expect a much more compact Hull unit.
The pockets of space Ramsey and Ozil were allowed to find on Sunday will likely be occupied at Wembley and any lack of motivation on Arsenal’s part will be capitalized on by Hull. Arsene Wenger is one hundred per cent right, it will be a completely different game and he needs to prepare his players mentally for that challenge.