For the third consecutive year, Arsenal have been drawn against Hull City.
Some take it as an omen, as the two previous years this has occurred, The Gunners have gone on to win the famous trophy – most memorably in 2014 when they defeated the very same opponents in the final at Wembley.
Arsene Wenger intimated in his Press Conference that changes would be afoot for this tie – but treading carefully when it seemed as if he was taking the opponent lightly. Going to great lengths to reinforce his claims that the Tigers aren’t to be disparaged, Wenger stated that he sees Steve Bruce’s side as a Premiership team still, regardless of their current placing.
Indeed, sitting proudly at the top of the ultra-competitive Championship, Hull City retained most of the squad which was relegated last campaign. Tom Huddlestone, Abel Hernandez and on-loan Nick Powell are thought to be included, but Steve Bruce must also amend his side – Isaac Hayden and Chuba Akpom are on loan from Arsenal and are ineligible to take part.
Hull have a crucial match against Ipswich on the following Tuesday, but Arsenal can’t claim an easy fixture list either – Barcelona visit The Emirates on the same day. With obviously one eye on this gigantic test, Wenger has stated he will also change the side.
Mohamed Elneny – the Egyptian new boy who has been missing recently as his wife gave birth – is expected to line up in the centre and prove his worth. Also mentioned was the inclusion of David Ospina as he was the ‘ Cup Keeper’, at the expense of Petr Cech. Mesut Ozil will also be given a reprieve as well, with young Nigerian Alex Iwobi given another shot after impressing in his recent cameos.
Any other changes are mere speculation, but Keiran Gibbs will also look to feature, along with Theo Walcott, Calum Chambers, Joel Campbell and Danny Welbeck, the hero of last weekend’s titanic 2-1 over Premiership leaders Leicester City.
Alexis Sanchez has scored five goals in six games against the Tigers, but will the eager Chilean get another crack at an opponent who has served him so well in previous games? Will he be wrapped in cotton wool to face his former side in the Champions League?
Aaron Ramsey has scored in his last two games versus Hull City, and has just begun to find his form after a shaky few weeks, but it is unclear whether he will be included.
Perhaps the biggest factor that has the ability to sway proceedings is the choice of match official. Mike Dean. This referee, when in charge of matches involving Arsenal, leaves the Gunners win ratio at a depressing 42% ( figures were correct from September 2015. ). It is common knowledge that Dean isn’t exactly keen on Wenger’s men and you can be sure any contentious decision will be met by a chorus of boos – at least from me as I have been lucky enough to grab a ticket.
The Gunner haven’t been beaten in fourteen consecutive FA Cup matches, only two behind the record of which they jointly boast. With nine wins and one draw in the previous ten games between the two sides, Arsenal start as favourites. They will also remember the torrid start Hull City gave them in the 2014 Cup Final, and would do well to make sure they don’t take this match for granted.
Arsenal under Arsene Wenger have only lost one FA Cup game to lower league opposition – let us hope it stays that way as the Gunners look to continue their battle on three fronts. Three FA Cups in a row for Arsenal?