Arsenal have a hard task on their hands in crucial clash at Hull
Very rarely do you get second chances in elite football. Arsenal’s season has had more twists and turns than a Dan Brown novel. Away to a Hull side that have proved hard to break down in the league, the Gunners may have a better chance cracking the Da Vinci Code, rather than unlocking the Tigers’ enclosure.
To add to the size of Arsene Wenger’s task, this is a Hull team that boasts the fifth best Premier League defence this term; a mere 40 goals conceded in 33 games. Despite that, Arsenal are still odds-on 2/9 favourites to finish in the top four.
Their Champions League credentials will be seriously put to the test on Humberside. In what is also a dress rehearsal for the FA Cup final, the script could certainly change over the next month or so.
While Steve Bruce’s side have won their previous two matches on home soil, Wenger has a revitalised Olivier Giroud, who re-discovered his scoring touch against West Ham in spectacular fashion. Nine of his 14 league goals this season have come against outfits in the bottom half going into Easter, but he has yet to be unleashed on the Tigers.
At 7/2, Hull are clear underdogs, yet that hasn’t deterred them from taking the game to top challengers this campaign – including Liverpool, who they beat 3-1 in December, and the Manchester clubs, albeit less successfully.
Surprisingly the visitors are odds-on at 17/20; however they do have returning players. Mesut Ozil and Nacho Monreal have recovered from injury, while Mathieu Flamini is back from a two-match suspension.
Bruce, meanwhile, could pick son Alex in a three-man defence, and is boosted up front by the availability of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, who were cup-tied against Sheffield United. Both are 2/1 to score at anytime, and 12/1 to net two or more.
Giroud, who will be hoping to boost his chances of starting in the World Cup for France, is 11/2 to strike first, while Aaron Ramsey, who had such a prolific start to the campaign until suffering injury, is 13/2 to notch the opener, and 2/1 to score anytime.
With time running out, Wenger knows what needs to be done. If his team can gun down the Tigers, they put the pressure back on Everton, who host Manchester United immediately after.
Arsenal’s Holy Grail is still in their sights. The FA Cup can wait for now.