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…