Hull Preview: Ring The Changes

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It’s the FA Cup, it must be Hull City. For the third consecutive season, the two sides face each other at a London venue and with home advantage, Arsène is seeking to avoid a pratfall in what is his 100th FA Cup tie. A win as comfortable as last season’s third round will be most welcome.

With half an eye on the midweek meeting with Barcelona, the lunchtime XI will be rotated as Wenger looks to confirm fitness in some whilst preserving others. Petr Cech, we know, won’t play today with Arsène confirming that Ospina is set to get a rare outing.

There biggest decisions though concern Danny Welbeck and Laurent Koscielny. Having scored the winner last weekend, there is something of a clamour for Welbeck to start yet that is almost contrary to the decisions Wenger has taken with other players who have been absent for some time. I’d be concerned that anything more than a substitute appearance is pushing Welbeck too far too soon.

Gabriel’s injury should mean Koscielny is rested today. Whilst the Brazilian is running outside according to Wenger, playing his first choice central defensive pairing is a huge risk with injury offering the potential of the inexperienced Chambers facing Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Perhaps Mathieu Flamini can get his new company to take a break from saving the planet and get them producing some replacement limbs for injured colleagues.

The prospect of changing the FA Cup is a step too far for the usually forward-thinking Wenger. His first cup final was in monochrome and even if it reduces the number of games clubs play, Arsène doesn’t want to do away with replays,

I have been vaccinated by the FA rules after such a long time here and become a very conservative Englishman. So I am nervous about changing the rules because I like them as they are now.

If we get rid of the replays it looks like we get more money and play less games and that is a bit of a contradiction. Next season we have even more money coming in so every Premier League club will have 25 top level players.

I am convinced that we can all compete with the number of games we have to play so there is no real need to change the rules.

“25 top level players”? At least he didn’t say all of them would be fit…

I’m not sure what more money from the Premier League broadcast deal has to do with restructuring the FA Cup but to find Wenger opposed to change is surprising. I can see why disposing of replays in isolation is window dressing; it has to be part of a wider, more significant package of changes. Those which genuinely benefit player health such as reducing the number of clubs in the Premier League, won’t happen; turkeys won’t vote for Christmas.

Steve Bruce has threatened wholesale changes with a derby at Elland Road on Tuesday night. When the underdogs are reducing the status of the FA Cup, you wonder what exactly it is that Wenger is protecting. The romance of the cup is a thing of the past, destroyed by apparent progress in other competitions and money. The world we remember is long gone and the joy of the likes of Hereford, Colchester, Sunderland dumping on bigger clubs is lost in the mists of time.

More important to him though, is recognition of his achievements. And consistency. Definitely the consistency. Which is either creditable or meaningless, depending on who you talk to. Wenger noted that Arsenal “are the only one club who, for such a long time, has always been at the top.”

It’s a bone of contention that a decade of that spell was without seriously challenging for trophies and stagnation or lack of ambition in the league. That Wenger regularly reduced his FA Cup sides to a reserve XI undermines his notion of love for the competition. However, let’s not confuse success with consistency. Finishing in the top four was always his target, the priority for the club and he achieved that consistently.

I don’t think anyone has doubted his claim that “it demands very hard commitment and work.” Indeed, I don’t think anyone has ever accused him of shirking his responsibilities as Arsenal manager and nor should they. Yet there is a feeling that more could have been achieved in that time and this season remains on the cusp of being another one cast as a missed opportunity.

Retaining the FA Cup would mitigate that to some extent but the Premier League is the key target and not being crowned champions this season would in my view be as disappointing as losing a cup final that we were expected to win. Watching the midweek European matches, it’s baffling how we haven’t put ourselves in a position where we are clear at the top of the table.

All of which is a pre-amble. The crucial aspect of today is winning and I expect the XI to be similar to:

Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Chambers, Gibbs; Flamini, Elneny; Campbell, Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide; Walcott

And win they ought to. Arsène reflected on how close the 2013 final came to slipping away from Arsenal. This time, at home and like last season, ought to be more comfortable. Mind you, I remember thinking that about Blackburn in the last cup tie we lost. Not an afternoon I care to see a repeat of.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

261 thoughts on “Hull Preview: Ring The Changes

  1. consolsbob says:

    To be honest, I didn’t think we played pootly today, rather well in fact. We could have won by three goals on another day.

    No, the performance was alright, given the make up of the team with some interesting performances. We play the percentages it seee,s to me these days. Keep possession, pass around the middle and edge of the box, look for indise runs to creat the chance that someone will, sooner or later, put away.

    It’s sterile and predicated on the fact that we are just not very good at finishing. There is no clinical finish, no directness and no real expectaion of an end product. Honestly, the players largely did what was expected of them today. They lacked the roll of the dice that we need to score in the absence of a predatory strike force.

    We are what we are. A tecnically gifted team low on finishing power.

  2. Limestonegunner says:

    CA, interesting stuff. I have just started as an assistant coach for a competitive league team my son is on for 8/9 year olds. I think they are quite a ways away from mastering such tactical complexity but hopefully by 12-14 they will be ready. Technique is the real issue–receiving the ball reliably, using the first touch to put the ball into advantageous space, using the weaker foot, looking up and around before and after receiving, being confident to keep the ball but aware enough to pass quickly before the defenders close you down. The basics. I like working with the kids but patience is in order because very few work with the ball very much outside of our two training sessions a week. And then there are the parents! No clue about the need to develop technique–they want the kids to kick, run and score so they win matches. I love when we win but am thrilled when I see a kid beat the first man and look up to find a nice pass forward.

  3. Wavey says:

    Lukaku hits his 21st goal of the season. Walcott couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.

  4. Limestonegunner says:

    Bill, my logic may not be sound but I did say last season that I expected Alexis to have a less dominant second season for these reasons: he does the same thing from the left and defenders seem to have adjusted, and that he would lose form through exhaustion and injury. Alas, he has missed two months and has few goals for us this season. Hopefully he’ll spark back to like but he shouldn’t be sitting out a game like today mostly to be fresh for Barca–he should be plenty fresh now–he just isn’t sharp when shooting and is being fairly well contained by defenders to put him off his shots.

  5. Phil says:

    Didn’t know about the honor guard, but truly fitting,
    I have a different view to Bill. 9-14 yo are quite capable of learning all sorts of things.
    So I would use both at different times, so they are comfortable with either , or a combination of both.
    Rest assured with the different coaches they will have as they develop, there will be different styles adopted by the various coaches. So the earlier they are comfortable with both, the better.

  6. Phil says:

    Wavey,
    Be careful mentioning banjos whilst our US cousins are in the house.
    Don’t want to excite them on a Saturday night.

  7. Phil says:

    Henry,
    I thought your comment was pretty good actually

  8. Limestonegunner says:

    But if you are right, Bill, in echoing SV about our club culture affecting Alexis’ fierce drive for football success, that would be quite tragic. But I think it does have more to do with the predicted disruptions, overly predictable approach, and so forth. Like you, however, I think the horizons have been too low and the urgency has not been there at the club which does affect our team. In a general sense, this has contributed to a problem we need to overcome. I just think Alexis seems just as motivated but out of form since returning. I think Phil is right that he might play in deferent places to give defenders something different to deal with.

  9. Limestonegunner says:

    Always think of the Deliverance theme–yikes!

  10. Wavey says:

    A slow build up makes the possession stats look good, but also makes it easy for a packed defence handle any threat.

    Iwobi looked neat and tidy on the ball, but there was no sense that he was controlling the midfield and driving us forward. He needed movement in front of him so that he could thread the passes, but there was precious little of that.

    Elneny did well overall and was always making himself available. Flamini was too far up the pitch too often.

    Walcott was awful, Alexis was disappointing, but doesn’t strike me as an impact sub. Giroud was ok and Welbeck was probably the main threat. Not overly impressed with Campbell today.

    So once again too many of the forward players were AWOL at the same time. I can understand one or two players, but all of them?

  11. HenryB says:

    Bob,

    And if the ref, Mr Dean, had awarded us the penalty, against Bruce Jnr for hand ball, which most fans and the pundits alike agreed was valid – we would have won, and all would have been sweetness and light. 😀

  12. Limestonegunner says:

    How would we compare this match to Soton? Both cases we had many shots and a fair number on target but often right at the GK.

    I think we have had trouble playing fluidly for a while. Nevertheless we get a few chances that we can’t take.

  13. Limestonegunner says:

    We had lots of possession but we haven’t consistently played that way. We’ve been much more direct recently, it seems to me. Mostly because without Cazorla, TR, Wilshere we have difficulty building up through the midfield. Many more crosses from wide areas. Fullbacks very involved out wide. But no matter how we play, the finishing is quite weak. The striker who can create his own shot or clinically take decent chances. No RvP replacement. A real flaw despite our adjusted style of play.

  14. Limestonegunner says:

    Talk about a schedule. A scoreless home draw to a fully changed championship side has now given us MU away, NLD away, Barca away, Hull replay away, and Swansea in 14 days. Squad depth. Let’s hope the defenders stay fit.

  15. SV says:

    Some talk today about sticks to beat Wenger with.

    I unerstand a “stick” as a topic you would use to critisize someone you dislike anyway.

    I do not think this applies in this case.

    I can speak only for myself personally of course.

    I do not feel any cultural or other dislike for a guy from Elsass. I’m not a big fan of some aspects of his world view such his love of a socialist wage structure, and I find his know-it-all tendency rather bizzar. But I could not care less about the above if the results on the pitch were OK.

    For me the only issue with Wenger is that the club is underperforming under him, in my opinion. That’s all. If he wins the league this year I’ll happily change my mind. I do not expect this to happen though. With that in mind, Wenger himself is providing all the sticks to be beaten with.

  16. Bill says:

    Limestone

    It’s been my theory that our players lose a bit of the sense of urgency when they play for us because of the culture that has developed over the last 10 years. For lack of a better term the 4th place is a trophy mentality”

    Alexis has not played anywhere close to as well this season. I am sure the reason is multifsctorial and I honestly have no clue how much the clubs culture has to do with it. I think all of us would agree that the culture at Barca was much different then ours and in his first year he seemed to have more of a Barca mentality.

    The one thing I disagree with is using overplayed as one of the reasons for his current struggles. He has certainly not been overplayed this season. It just does not make much sense to me to blame over playing when I don’t see any evidence to suggest that our players are asked to do more then players on the worlds other big teams.

  17. Bill says:

    Miami.

    I just read your posts a bit more slowly and I missed the fact that you have been coaching for several years already. I tried coaching youth teams and I am reasonably certain that I could not have held the attention of 9-12 year olds long enough to teach them zonal marking. If you had success then I am very impressed.

  18. Limestonegunner says:

    Inter-Moratti’s sis says Mou on his way to MU. Might have been on the cards for a while but leaking this now might hasten the move in time for our visit. Hoping Mou is as divisive there as he was at Chelsea.

  19. Limestonegunner says:

    I’m in agreement with what you are saying, Bill. But I was not arguing that his current lack of form is due to being overplayed right now. I am saying the opposite that he should be playing more as he should be rested and full of energy.

    I think he was not managed well earlier this season which arguably led to his injury. Since returning he hasn’t been as sharp.

  20. SV says:

    So, which game was more important: Hull or Barca?

    What are the gains or losses from the Barca tie apart from a shopping window for a few players? I do not see too many.

    The Hull encounter on the other hand had a potential to add another away fixture to our busy schedule and so effect our league campaign. Which made Hull the more important game.

    But when approaching CL ties, Wenger seems to lose all clear thinking and goes irrational instead, often playing a weaker side in the games before. I think he will regret it.

  21. Harry says:

    “Wenger himself is providing all the sticks to be beaten with”.

    Just what “some” said then.

    The wider culture of Arsenal is separate thing, Bill. I don’t happen to disagree with the main, er, thrust of your argument there btw. We’re too “nice”, and yes, lack a sense of “urgency” (certainly off the field and perhaps that feeds down into a mentality within the team. I dunno. All roads eventually lead back to Arsene I s’pose).

    All mere conjecture on our part of course, but no harm in it.

    To somehow lay the blame on AW for Alexis’ form (a player who’s been out for months) seemed to be straining the point though, and smacked of looking for something to moan about. Or indeed, a baguette with which to beat him. That’s all.

  22. SV says:

    So, Wenger buys a world class player and in the second season turns out to be incapable of managing him.

    I would not want to be beaten with a stick of that size.

  23. Limestonegunner says:

    I do need to update my position on Ramsey wide right vs centrally. Unfortunately we have not see either goal scoring really increase or the overall game improvement I hoped for. He is good on the right and similarly so centrally I’d say at this point. We needed more goals from him. But now I would prefer Welbeck on that side as a genuine forward and possibly bigger goal threat than Ramsey, Ox, or Campbell. But that’s early to conclude perhaps.

  24. Harry says:

    Incapable of managing him.

    Okey-doke.

  25. SV says:

    If Sanches is not fit or not in the right state of mind, he should not be relied upon to save us in an importaant competitive game with far reaching consequences.

    Whether you give him a few minutes on the pitch to boost his confidence when you are two goals up and cruising is another matter, which has not been the case today though.

    The only person who really knows what is going on with the player is Wenger. And unlike us poor time wasters, one would expect Wenger to make an informed decision about the player’s involvement. Didn’t work out today.

  26. Limestonegunner says:

    I certainly didn’t say AW was incapable of managing him. I think not buying a goal scorer this summer led AW to rush him back early in the league And to depend too much on him leading to his overplaying Alexis who wasn’t on his best form. Then he got injured and just has come back but is not up to the sharpness he’s had in the past yet. That’s why I wanted him playing today to help get him sharper for the league. Finally I do think that league defenders have now played him twice or more and can expect him to always cut in onto his right. I think changing up his position once in a while is a good idea. I thought the same last year. Okay wide left mostly but give defenders something new to think about every so often.

  27. Limestonegunner says:

    SV, even AW acknowledged that he gambled with Alexis when he had a muscle strain and still played him this Fall. The player wanted to play. AW really needed him because we had injuries.

  28. SV says:

    Wenger:
    >>> The Barcelona game was not in my mind today.

  29. SV says:

    @Limestonegunner

    You described perfectly the circumstances that led to the drop in Sanches’ form.

    I would only add AW did not really need to rely on him in the West Ham game. This one was unforced and on the manager.

    Whether our pile of injuries every season is a result of bad luck or something else is a topic of another discussion. But if you start your season with three long term injured players with a minimal chance to have an impact, to blame bad luck only may be a bit simplistic.

  30. SV says:

    Wenger:
    >>> The Barcelona game was not in my mind today.

    Wenger:
    >>> I want to go home now because they [Barscelona] play at 5.30 and I want to watch it.

  31. Bill says:

    Harry

    You could argue it’s taking things a bit to far to blame team culture and Arsene for Alexis’ form but I still believe it has had some affect. Physical ability does not go up and down but form certainly does which argues that the main determinant of form is mental. Sanchez has not really been in top form this whole season and I would argue that it’s reasonable to theorize that he never really has been mentally switched on this year the way he was when he started last season, which I attribute at least partly to the Arsenal culture. That is just my opinion.

  32. Bill says:

    Suarez has been arguably the best attacking player in Europe this season. What does it say about a teams culture and mentality and how would it affect the attitude of the team as a whole when someone like him comes almost straight from Copa america to join his teams USA tour and plays in a meaningless preseason game against the LA Galaxy and scores a goal. Messi scored a brace in the Spanish super cup on August 11 and he has been the best player in the world for years now

    Alexis tried to do that for us last year but our other big players and the rest of the team decided to take their extended post World Cup mental holiday and drop out of the title race by October. He would never admit it but on some level that would have to affect the way Alexis thinks. No?

  33. Harry says:

    You may be right, Bill (I doubt it, but you might be).

    One things for sure…I’m certainly not going to dissuade you from that opinion.

    I’m sometimes still guilty of a knee-jerk reaction in defending Arsene. Old habits I suppose. I like him, I’m well aware of his myriad maddening faults, he’s been at the helm too long now, but I still like him. He was a great manager for us, he’s a decent man, and I have no doubt, despite the hefty pay packet, that he loves the club and desperately wants to another major trophy. And I hope he does so this season, obviously.

    His FA Cup record is remarkable in itself, and despite todays little bit blip, we can cope with another game.

    So, er, Onward, etc etc.

  34. dukey says:

    SV

    Wenger could shit gold but you’d still just complain about the smell.

  35. mattgoonerknight says:

    My sentiments exactly, Harry☺

  36. Bill says:

    Messi played in last years World Cup played in all 38 La Liga games and then in Copa America and he has been playing like that his entire career yet he scored twice and Suarez scored in a league cup game on August 11. Higuain started his teams first league game. However somehow it was unreasonable to play Alexis for 20 minutes on our first league game on August 13. That does not make any sense to me.

  37. dukey says:

    I have been a critique of Wenger in the past , mostly because the skinny French bastard would not spend any money and was looking like he didn’t give a fuck about winning and sooner or later he was going to lose his dressing room….none of these things happened , quite the opposite in fact, so i’m happy to plod along with him for a few more years until he decides to sack himself!

  38. mattgoonerknight says:

    Just read back through the comments.
    Keep up the good fight, dukey! !!!

  39. mattgoonerknight says:

    “Harry on February 20, 2016 at 10:18 pm”

    To be specific, I meant this post. Top stuff, Harry. Keep it up!

  40. dukey says:

    Matt,

    the truth is once wenger does decide to hang up his puffer jacket its only then he will be truly appreciated by the high maintenance gooner faithfull. his fa cup record is remarkable. his premier league record is good considering the budgets he has had to fight against, the cl record, again on the face is poor but its a fukin hard trophy to win, is it such a crime to not have picked it up. its his only so called crime.

  41. SV says:

    @dukey

    Wenger still does not care about winning. My personal opinion.

  42. Bill says:

    Harry

    I don’t know if you have been around this year but I am about the only person on the blog defending Arsene when he has been criticized for over playing players, some of his tactics, using Flamini/Ramsey, playing players out of position and a bunch of other things. The goal of any discussion should not be to defend or criticize someone but to get the right answer even if it’s not the answer we want to hear.

  43. SV says:

    @dukey
    >>> his premier league record is good considering the budgets he has had to fight against.

    This season may be an eye opener though.

  44. Bill says:

    Dukey.

    This is big part of the problem. IMO

    Rather then searching for the right answers we divide ourselves based on our whether we defend or criticize Arsene.

  45. dukey says:

    Sv would that be an anomaly ?

    it would be a first for wenger to finish behind a poorer team.

  46. dukey says:

    and we haven’t finished behind the yids(sorry spuds) or leicester city yet.

  47. dukey says:

    anyway that’s enough optimism on this bog for one day, yogi will ban us all….

  48. Bill says:

    Dukey

    “it would be a first for wenger to finish behind a poorer team.”

    That is quite a statement when a lot of people and Arsene have told us every season for the last 10 years that this is a squad that can win a league title, yet we have not finished above 3rd during that time.

  49. Bill says:

    We must have had some really good squads in those years because I cant count the number of times have we heard that there are no players available who are good enough to improve our team. Either the players were not as good as Arsene thought or he didn’t do as good a job of managing as he should of. There aren’t any other options

  50. dukey says:

    Bill, cash rich teams, its no secret we have been the 2nd, 3d or 4th richest team in the last 10 years. we have been hitting par in the league in cash terms..we should have had a few more cups, a couple of league cups , an fa cup and maybe one or two leagues but the leagues would have been against the financial grain .

  51. Harry says:

    Cheers, Matt!

    I mostly talk bollocks, to be fair. Mind you, even a stopped a clock…

    Wasn’t having a pop at you back there, Bill. I read YW’s posts but don’t always manage to follow all the conversational threads in the comments section (don’t know where some of you find the time to be honest) so I don’t know who said what and when. Not that I would remember anyway.

    Let’s be honest, you always have been a bit of a moaning sod 😉

  52. dukey says:

    The league near misses we were financially weaker, but we were close, would have been a great achievement to beat the oil men. no justice in football. a leg break away in 09. surely our manager gets some credit back then for assembling a squad to take on the big spenders.

  53. Bill says:

    Dukey.

    If you are going to go just by money then we were always the 3rd or 4th richest team in the league in which case consistently finishing 3rd or 4th was not that much of an accomplishment.

    In reality he does get credit for what he did in the early Emirates years but that is irrelevant now. We can’t live in the past. We have to move forward based on what is happening now and IMO Arsene is not the best person to lead us through this era f uber prosperity.

  54. dukey says:

    Bill doesn’t come across as a moaner to me , just someone who likes to put his point across again and again but who’s point just so happens to be of the negative, doomy glass half full, ying not yang, darkside, black and white persuasion.

  55. dukey says:

    Bill,

    we are two points off top. and on for a hat trick of fa cups. If Wenger is not cut out for the job, he is going out doing a good job.

  56. Bill says:

    Dukey.

    No way to prove it but I suspect there are several managers who could have taken this squad and $200M in the bank at the start of this season and be leading the league by double digit points by now. Arsene deserves all the credit for what he has done in the past but what’s important is whether or not he is the best manager for the team now.

  57. Wavey says:

    Cbob

    Missed a comment you made earlier about our performance. I agree we didn’t play badly at all. We had a similar discussion in the pub afterwards. We didn’t think that anyone played really terribly (barring maybe Walcott’s continuing poor spell), but no one was great either. We played at a slow pace all game, as if the aim was not to lose. Possession stats were great, but we tried predictable triangles down the flanks all of the time which were easy to break up and we seemed to lack movement across the forward line to try to break down a packed defence. In fact, it reminded me a lot of our last lose in the FA Cup against Blackburn. When Hull suddenly lifted their game for 5 minutes before the end and were playing in our half I was concerned that we would do something stupid at the back and concede. What is so surprising is the lack of movement from the front players though. They seem to have no interest in getting behind the line, or making the near post runs when we broke down the flanks. When we did get into good positions out wide, there just wasn’t anyone one busting a gut to get on the end of it. Early Wenger teams were always making those runs as players such as Ljungberg would always be an option in the box. Now we seem to line up on the edge of the box instead. When the ball comes back to players in those positions there are generally too many bodies in the way for a shot (especially when the opposition pack the defence) so we push the ball from side to side again.

  58. SV says:

    @dukey

    >>> would that be an anomaly ?
    >>> it would be a first for wenger to finish behind a poorer team.

    Being top in January and then fading away would not be an anomaly. It has happend 4 times in the new stadium.

    Wenger deserves credit for keeping us in the top four in the transition years.

    Now, on the other hand, money is less of an issue, but the league campaigns still look similarly deficient.

    The league is the most important thing (a statement with which Arsene would himself agree I’m sure). And there is no progress whatsoever in our league competitiveness.

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