Hull Review: Action Replay. Not Quite Sure When Though…

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Arsenal 0 – 0 Hull City

A thousand words on that match? Can I climb Everest instead? It’s bound to be easier, I’m sure.

I suppose it was inevitable that this would be a draw. The football gods like nothing more than looking down with a mischievous grin and asking, “Oh really?”, that Arsène’s open support for replays would require Arsenal to travel to Humberside for a game which it must said, vexes our minds more than the manager’s.

Wenger, publicly at least, took the view that it’s better to be contemplating, albeit with a furrowed brow, where to fit an extra game in than be navel gazing this morning over an FA Cup exit. And in all honesty, the expectation will be that Arsenal will face a quarter-final tie at the end of that game. Tempting as it is to ninety minutes, the absence of goals yesterday makes you wonder whether it will involve extra-time and penalties.

There was a proviso, of course. Arsenal can cope with the replay provided, “we don’t have injuries we can cope with it, if we get two or three injuries we can’t cope with it.”

Which makes you wonder why he supports replays. Arsenal’s recent history is built upon a strong foundation of suffering injuries which cause the squad considerable problems and undermine a season. Without the investment many of us believed necessary in transfer windows, Wenger has left himself a hostage to fortune although defeat in Tuesday’s match against Barcelona may – ought to – see the emphasis shift from Europe to domestic cups.

It’s staggering that the replay date wasn’t set before the original tie took place, that we’re waiting for television to dictate when it is played. The Football Association used to be able to incorporate live coverage of replays into a set date and television obliged. Now with so many tournaments to cover, the broadcasters can’t decide which one to relegate to the dusty shelves of history, first.

How we’ve gone from holding replays three days later to this shambles is a damning indictment of those who run football.

Yesterday’s match followed an all too familiar pattern, to the extent that I almost prefer the opposite. Twenty-four shots on goal, seventy-odd percent possession, a couple of outstanding saves from the opposing goalkeeper means no goals for Arsenal. Not that Hull offered any sort of alternative as an attacking force but defensively, they earned and are well due, praise for the discipline of their performance.

It helps having Mike Dean preen on the pitch. He got it right in denying Hull and Welbeck penalties but Bruce’s handball and the foul on Chambers? No, wrong call not to point to the spot. I suspect he wasn’t warning Laurent Koscielny about the consequences of another foul either. He’s too egotistical; it was probably a brag about how his marks for the match would be higher than any managed by an Arsenal player.

Which is true. It wasn’t a bad performance, it was just distinctly average. The footballing equivalent of being told you’re nice. Unthreatening, lacking a cutting edge. There was plenty of creativity, you can’t have that many shots without there being a creative force at the hub but genuine danger was noticeable by its absence.

And when you have to complain about a referee, it always feels like you’re making excuses for something being missing in the team’s performance.

A much-changed XI it must be acknowledged. Not a disjointed one so some credit to the players for that but not one where understandings were almost instinctive. And when the changes were rung, Sanchez, Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain ought to have built on the hints of promise from the first hour.

Except only Giroud turned up, with Ox leaving his shooting and passing boots at home whilst Alexis was in “I’ve got to win this on my own” mode which is frankly no use to man nor beast, and certainly not Arsenal.

Arsène bemoaned the lack of efficiency in front of goal yesterday and there were certainly good opportunities spurned. Welbeck performed well as he seeks to return to full fitness and was the most potent attacking threat with Theo Walcott fading in and out of the game. Jakupovic denied Welbeck with some fancy footwork whilst a header directed straight at the ‘keeper should have been buried. Fine margins.

There were frustrations, of course. Joel Campbell on the right is wasted; he’s more instinctively one-footed than Nigel Winterburn, continually forced inside through a lack of belief in his right foot. A genuine full back supporting him might have worked better; Chambers natural game does not involve regularly overlapping in the way Bellerin or to a lesser extent Monreal, do. Something for Arsène to bear in mind.

That’s not say Campbell or Chambers were poor, far from it. Defensively, Arsenal were rarely tested. Apparently Hull had a shot on goal but it escapes my memory. Ospina drew criticism for not being taller, as per usual, and can expect to be busier on the banks of the Humber when the two sides meet again.

More than anything, Arsenal missed Mesut Özil’s creative spark. There was some sharp passing and movement from Elneny and Iwobi but end product was lacking. The Egyptian was unfortunate when Bruce stuck his arm to the way of a shot but was generally comfortable holding court on the edge of the Hull area when Arsenal hemmed their opponents in.

Iwobi, learning his trade, well, that says it all. Signs of promise but to expect a youngster in his third start to perform as well as Özil is setting the bar too high.

So it’s all back to yours. A reminder of days gone by when a weekend away seemed like a good idea but nobody could quite find the time to fit it in. The sort of ‘good time’ which inevitably never happened. This one will but don’t worry about pencilling in the date just yet…

’til Tomorrow.

65 thoughts on “Hull Review: Action Replay. Not Quite Sure When Though…

  1. How the fa have got into this pickle is unbelievable. After just 1 replay and no matches postponed arsenal are now having to face a fixture pile up. If as expected the match is going to be played on quarter final day and arsenal were to win. Not only would they need to find a date for the quarter final, but also the league match v West Brom. Then what if arsenal reach the semis? And miraculously beat barca, what then?

    Yet earlier this season there has been many weeks where we have not had a midweek game and there is soon to be a league shut down for international friendlies. Good job we aren’t in the capital one cup too!!!

  2. A pretty accurate summary there YW. Welbeck played well, especially for a man who had been out for so long. Chambers at RB is a bad choice, something we’ve known for over a year but which Arsene still thinks can work. Theo has his moments but they are too few and far between, and Alexis hasn’t really shown any form since he came back from injury. All of which suggests we may as well give Barca a bye into the next round if we’re going to carry on like this.

    It begs the question: have we played consistently well for more than a couple of games all season? I certainly can’t recall three good games on the trot.

    With the replay sandwiched between the two CL legs and a NLD thrown in there as well the period of March 5th to 16th has the potential to be this season’s disaster zone where we could effectively be out of all competitions within a few short days. Like the ‘good old days’. A win at United might leave us with lingering hopes in the league regardless of a poor NLD result, but we need to pull together and not repeat the meltdowns we’ve seen many times before we it comes to the crunch.

    And that means someone has to start putting the ball in the net again.

  3. Would that be the guy we tried to buy but screwed the deal up YW? It’s certainly not the other guy we failed to sign in the same window as I hear he’s doing rather well over in Naples…..

    Still, who needs either of them……. Oh. 😉

  4. A good match report, Yogi.

    While watching the game, I find it all too easy to get swept up in the thrill or frustration of the moment, and somehow fail to see the wood for the trees. Watching the highlights it became obvious that Hull’s intentions were literally to ‘park’ a minimum of 6 across the penalty area and sometimes 7 or 8.

    Inevitably Arsenal’s style of play, known to all our opponents, is to dribble down the wings, and then to repetitively pass backwards and sideways across the penalty area to probe for an opening.
    With all the bodies in the area sticking to their instructions not to come out, this made it difficult for our strikers to make any space, and even so, if the ref had given the 2 clear penalties that Hull committed, we would have won easily and today everyone would be whistling Dixie.

    The other problem is that on a number of occasions, the only bodies in the area were Hull defenders, until Giro came on the penalty area was conspicuous by its absence of Arsenal players. This meant that dribbles by Iwobi or Welly had to overcome massed ranks of defenders with no ‘out’ ball to a better placed teammate.

    likewise with crosses, they were largely ineffective for much the same reason.

    Finally, someone said that if we did not put out the best xi and ‘go all out to win’ we could fall to a sucker punch breakaway goal, or be held to an unwanted draw – and that all this namby-pamby ‘resting’ malarkey was as likely to be unproductive, and cause its own problems, rather than be successful strategy.

    Oh, wait — that ‘someone’ was your devoted smart assed ‘told you so merchant’ — me! 😀

  5. There’s an interesting interview with Thomas Vermaelen in the Sunday Telegraph. From what he says we can expect a highly efficient pressing game from Barca, they train hard and regularly at regaining possession and not allowing their opponents time on the ball.

    But then we would expect nothing less, would we?

  6. @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. We are still a two thirds of a season team.

    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.

  7. YW (about the replay):
    >>> And in all honesty, the expectation will be that Arsenal will face a quarter-final tie at the end of that game.

    Yogi tried to be positive, and he managed to. Nobody can accuse him of dooming.

    Me on the other hand… I’ll try to be realistic.

    I think we’ll lose.

  8. Btw, Dukey, Liverpool under Rogers finished second well ahead of us a couple seasons ago and had a substantially lower wage budget and net spend than us. So it has happened once.

  9. Great review Yogi

    There are exceptions to every generalization but whenever the stats say that we had 70% of the ball possession it’s easy to predict that the game played out a lot like the one yesterday did. Iwobe and our midfield did a wonderful job of pinging the ball around midfield and the fullbacks overlapped and we sent in a lot of crosses but we just could not score. I really thought we would find a way to nick a goal in the end but the breakthrough never came.

    We have been arguing about this endlessly for 3-4 years now. There is no strategic magic bullet to break down an organized and well drilled defensive team that is intent on parking the bus. We have argued about width and pace and creativity but what you need is a player who can take advantage of the few openings you do get and actually score a goal. We have a whole bunch of nice players and as a club we have as much pace and technical skill and creativity as any club in the world. However, there is a huge difference between running fast and being a good technical player and being a scorer and we just don’t have enough scorers.

  10. Alexis has had a disappointing season. Limestone was spot on last summer when he predicted that Alexis would struggle would struggle in his sophomore season. We can speculate all day as to why it’s happened but he has never really found decent form this season and he is one of the players we really counted on to be a match winner this season. We need him to refocus and find some sort of form. Giroud has had a nice season but the fact that he has been by far our biggest and only really goal scoring threat for much of this season says all that needs to be said.

  11. Certainly agree that Alexis’s form is going to be a key factor for us in the next few months.
    Giroud is probably going to finish with somewhere between 16 and 20 goals this season. We really need someone else to step up and Alexis is the most likely. Starting against Barca would be bloody handy, and hopefully he’s even more highly motivated than usual.

  12. @Bill

    You are consistently sticking to your view that we need more goal scorers which is worth every respect.

    Yes, we do. But we can not play our best players in all games. Which is to say in some games the result will be defined not by an individual, but by our overall quality.

    In which case Wenger’s game philosophy is sometimes exposed as one-dimensional and predictable. There have been half a dozen teams this season who came to our house and got the results they had wanted. Because they knew what to expect and how to deal with whatever Arsene would throw at them.

    I think the results like today or against S-Ton are down to Wenger overemphasizing technical skills and passing and neglecting physical strength, pace, set plays. It would be much harder to park the bus against a better ballanced team than Wenger’s ideal lineup.

    I would also add that Wenger’s game philosophy is at a disadvantage in England because of the refs. Rotational fouling, physical approach, aggressiveness are more tolerated in England than in other countries.

    All in all, Wenger’s training methods and his team’s set up would be may be perfect for France, but are not promising for England. After 20 years on the island, one would expect Wenger to be more fine tuned to the competitions he takes part in.

  13. Top summation Yogi.

    Were chances created, yes, but the one thing that is and has been evident is the lack of a consistent goal scorer. Giroud, Sanchez and all our goal scorers are simply not consistent but score in burst. I would rather a goal scorer truly be 1 in 2 than a goal scorer who scores 7 in 4 and then no goals in 7.

  14. SV

    I have argued the same points that you made in the past and I agree with some of what you say. However I have also come to believe that some of it is over thinking. What you need to change a game like yesterday is having someone score a goal for us. None of the other philosophical stuff matters if someone scores that first goal for us. All the other is contributory and makes for interesting blog fodder. However, the single biggest philosophical issue for Arsene is he does not want to spend the money it would take to buy a couple of scorers. IMO.

  15. @Bill

    Is it Arsenal that don’t want to pay the money or Arsene? The narrative it seems has been the reluctance of Arsene to spend the millions we have. I’m really interested to see the post Arsene Arsenal when it comes, because I have a sneaking suspicion that the next manager will not be splashing the cash either. Time willtell I guess.

  16. I think the pace and power that SV is referring to is something akin to the earlier great AW sides with examples such as Petit, Vieira, Overmars (pace), and even Dennis who had strength as well as sublime skill. Even Parlour could scrap with the best of them. So it’s certainly not about lumping the ball and chasing after it. And for all the pretty patterns woven by our multitude of small technical players I preferred by far the earlier style of play. Substance over style for me every time.

  17. You may be correct, MA, but there is evidence on file that Arsene would not spend a little more to get the player we need. Pre Kroenke as we as post.

  18. What makes you think that MA? Certainly I would doubt that any top manager would be interested in taking a job where there were significant funds available but which they were unable to spend on the team.

  19. Miami

    Nothing wrong with lumping the ball if it works. There is no one right or wrong way to play. Any style works as long as you have scorers.

    C

    The problem is we don’t enough enough players who can score 1 goal every 2 games. We will probably finish this season with only one player in double figures in league goals.

  20. I agree with SV that a scruffy ugly goal scored from a set piece is just as valuable as a beatifully worked goal after a great passing move.

  21. It does not matter if you prefer to lump the ball forward and score on set pieces or play attractive football you need players who are good at scoring goals to make either system work

  22. Honestly? I just like to win.

    All this ‘beautiful football’ stuff is a new thing for Arsenal fans. A luxury.

    First you have to be able to win games consistently.

  23. @Bill

    We all want one but the question is as to be honest it has been since the break-up of the Invincibles, we are mostly dependent on one main goal scorer and the odd pitch in from others. At this point though we know and have what we have; we just have to hope that they all or at least a couple go through a hot spell together until the end of the season starting on Tuesday.

  24. @Bob

    Because I think it works both ways, Arsene may lead the ship but he does not own the club. I have no doubt that Arsene makes decisions related to money and the acquisition of players but if you believe as say Bill does that he has the open wallet to spend every red cent per window then I think he are in lala land. Arsenal now look exactly like every other franchised owned by Stan, portfolio cash cow being an appreciating asset. If Stan wanted money spent he would ensure it was, however, this is not the portrait of the owner that we see here in the US at all. The recent move by the Rams was done for financial benefit to the owner nothing to do with fans. Honestly, if it was financially rewarding enough he would have Arsenal playing in Spain or Italy if he could.

    I understand all to well that Arsene remains a stubborn old goat.

    @Andy

    To your point, as I said earlier only time will give us that answer. Wouldn’t be the first time a manager would have gone to a club with certain promises only to have them unfulfilled. The revenue stream in the EPL due to the TV money is why Stan is there, no competition, or history or Arsenal winning silverware. He has no passion for the game, no passion for any of his clubs from what I can discern. Again, only time will give us a true answer.

  25. On a positive note…….

    I though Elneny was superb in the middle of the park both attacking and defending. He was tidy and neat in possession, clean tackler but always closing down opponents, always made himself available to receive and recycle the ball. I also really liked his discipline, Flamini was often times acting or trying to act as a CF and Elneny was often times in the middle left by himself.

    I know Ramsey will start against Barca so lets start him on the RW and play a pivot of Elneny and Le Coq.

  26. MA, I expect that the best managers are not that daft and in football word has a way of getting around if the club’s owner is a bit ‘difficult’ or tight with the funding. So if we did get a top class replacement then I would expect him to be able to compete at the very top financially, BUT if we get a second tier or up and coming manager from one of the smaller clubs that might confirm your point that Stan has absolutely zero interest in sport other than seeing his clubs as a low-risk way of building a portfolio of appreciating assets.

  27. C, yes I thought that Elneny did a neat and tidy job in the middle and played pretty well. Against the top sides I think that he’ll find it a lot more difficult that than he has in games he’s played so far. I think that he can develop physically a bit more, the premiership will certainly be more demanding for him that he has been used to. Barca at this point may be a little to much of an ask, and could set him back if he has a difficult time. So I would stick with Le Coq and Ramsey.

  28. It’s my suspicion Andy I cannot prove it nor am I trying to ram it down anyone’s throat. Time will offer us the only answer. The Walmart fortune is coming under increasing strain here in the US, closing stores and whatnot due to the online shopping craze. Whilst Stan does not get his money from that avenue his wife does and I’m all to sure he is keenly keeping tabs on his portfolio, which really only appreciates due to broadcast rights escalating year on year.

  29. Miami

    “if you believe as say Bill does that he has the open wallet to spend every red cent per window then I think he are in lala land.”

    Hyperbole can be used to make a point but that mis represents what I have said. My point has always been that Arsene spends a lot less then he could. I doubt that even you would believe Stan would have stopped Arsene from buying a couple of outfield players last summer. Stan would not let Arsene or anyone spend the club into oblivion but Arsene would never do that. Arsene would not stick around if he really had someone telling him what to do.

  30. Bill to be fair, I said that because you often spout having 200m to spend whenever the accounts come out. So whilst it is certainly Hyperbole, it used in context to your own.

  31. I Stan is really dominating the way our club is run then we need a manager who is willing to go battle to get what he thinks he needs. Somehow I just don’t see Arsene as a shrinking violet who would just shrug his shoulders and do what he is told.

  32. He hasa,ways een aloyal company man, Bill. Remember when his friend Dein was sacked?

    Many thought he would walk then. Reasons? Pehaps just a loyalty to Arsenal, perhaps some selfish reason, we just don’t know.

  33. Miami.

    The point of saying we have $200M in the bank is that we have more then enough that we could afford to spend some of it. No one has said that Stan would let Arsene spend every cent but Ivan has said many many many times that the decision not to spend a lot more of it is made by Arsene.

    CBOB. When David Dein left it gave Arsene the chance to put his plan into place without having anyone around who could second guess him.

  34. @Andy

    Generally I would agree with you, but he is a player that played for a Basel side that is a constant in the CL and has played and starred for that Basel side for the past 3 seasons(yup started at 20 years old) and often times has been praised for his performances. He might need a bit more time to get caught up to the physicality of the PL but certainly not against the tops sides in Europe. Plus, sitting next to Le Coq there job against Barca will be to patrol thr midfield closing down space and being neat and tidy in possession and quickly get the ball to Ozil, Sanchez and the rest of our attacking players.

    The strange thing is people will say that Barca might not be good but he has more European experience than Le Coq, Ramsey and some others.

  35. Off topic, what is the impression in the UK since Klopp arrived at the ‘Pool? Are they playing better than under Roger’s? I know they are not his players persay, but has the team improved under his coaching?

  36. I think so, MA.

    It’s a different style of play. The players are still mediocre but he has them working harder. Better organised.

  37. Miami.

    “Spending free for all” is hyperbole but I suspect that any other manager would have done more then Arsene did last summer. Buying one or may be even 2 difference making players would not have put us into a bad spot financially. No one stopped Arsene from buying ozil and Alexis and we have even more money in the bank now then we did when we bought ozil and more cash is flowing into the coffers everyday. My guess is that real difference between 2013 and now is that Arsene thought he needed to do something different to be confident we could hang on to a CL spot back then. IMO.

  38. I’d rather the Spuds stayed in or had a replay C. I know they have the Europa, but I didn’t want them to be able to ‘concentrate on the league’ just yet. Fewer games and a clearer focus will help them in the run-in.

  39. @andy

    It would have been nice but they are certainly not through in the Europa so hopefully they will focus on that. Tend to agree though, luckily we know that we only have 2 matches left in the CL 😉

  40. @Bill

    >>> However, the single biggest philosophical issue for Arsene is he does not want to spend the money it would take to buy a couple of scorers.

    Wenger spent some money and bought a goal scorer in Alexis. After a season you would not know it’s the same player.

    Which points to the second philosophical issue: what does Wenger do with the scorers he does have?

    I would certainly trust Wenger with spending money, but sometimes I think someone else would do better with the players Wenger has bought.

    Which is to say we have a director of football and the coach in one person. Not ideal.

  41. When we visit Hull again, Arsene should forget rotation and play Monreal at left wingback.
    Gibbs simply must learn to use his right foot when it’s natural and obvious to do so.
    Time and time again at the Ems, he would join in the attack, receive the ball, cut inside and then be “forced” to pass it back and away from the forward momentum of play, with the frustrating result that the attack then breaks down.

  42. @Nicky

    There are quite a few like that including one of my favorite in Campbell plus others like Sanchez, Ramsey and a couple others. Its a shame and a flaw of modern futbol that so many players are exclusively one footed.

  43. This really is shaping up for a very good FA Cup run should we get past Hull. Chelsea v Everton and West Ham v Manure/Shrewsbury plus Palace v Reading.

  44. Potentially a good draw, should we manage to dispose of Hull, we couldn’t really hope for better than a home tie against Watford.

    All that though has to go on the back burner, only one game matters now Barcelona on Tuesday.

    Thankfully there have been no reports of new injuries and Ozil should have recovered from the cold that kept him out of the squad for the cup game.

    It will be interesting to see if Welbeck keeps his place, or will Wenger not risk playing him in two games with only a couple of days between them.

    A couple of thoughts to sleep on.

    Good night folks.

  45. @C,
    You are quite right of course.
    The thing about Gibbs is that he is so good at getting to the by-line and crossing with the left boot. If only he would learn to use the other foot, what a player he would turn out to be.
    Hope he reads this!

  46. @nicky

    I hope he reads it to because he does have the attacking instincts and becaus3 of his pace he does get to the by-line, shame he just has to right leg other than to stand on. Continue to work on the defensive side of his game and we are set at LB when Nacho departs.

  47. Yeah, a good draw. Another home tie. Certainly getting the luck of the draw there if we get through.
    First, the small matter of Barca though.
    I imagine AW will play….
    Cech
    Hector, Kos, Mert, Nacho
    Le Coq, Ramsey
    Ox, Ozil, Alexis
    Giroud
    But maybe he’ll surprise us with
    Theo and I’m not sure if Gab is out.
    C’s point on Elneny’s CL experience was well-made I thought but it’d be
    a real surprise if AW did that.

  48. Gibbs is 26 I believe but the point is valid. He’s not a young developing player anymore. Nacho turns 30 this week but if he maintains his level he could continue for maybe a couple more seasons. Tough decision for Kieran at the end of the year. To be honest if I was him I’d probably look for a better opportunity elsewhere, Nacho has just been too solid and consistent.

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