Hull City 0 – 4 Arsenal
0 – 1 Giroud (41)
0 – 2 Giroud (71)
0 – 3 Walcott (77)
0 – 4 Walcott (88)
All good things must come to an end, bad things as well. Olivier Giroud ended his goal drought whilst Theo Walcott doubled his goal tally over the last sixteen games in eleven minutes, sending Arsenal into an FA Cup quarter-final this weekend with Watford.
Progress on that front, distress over injuries with Mertesacker, Gabriel and Ramsey all falling by the wayside. The former pair, according to Arsène, are not serious and expected to be fit for the weekend. The Welshman is more serious, a thigh injury, whilst reportedly, Nacho Monreal left the stadium limping having aggravated his calf injury by coming on as an emergency centre back.
Ending the night with Mathieu Flamini as emergency right back made little difference, Hull were limp in their approach to the game, not requiring Arsenal to get out of first gear all evening. For most of the first half, this replay had extra-time and penalties written all over it until Meyler arced the perfect pass into Olivier Giroud’s path and the Frenchman finished with some aplomb, belying any hint of a lack of confidence following his eleven-match barren spell.
A half-time lead that no-one could argue with in the sense that there was only ever one team going to win this tie, making you wonder how we even required a replay. Giroud’s goal was followed by a super effort from Kieran Gibbs, curling his shot onto the top of the bar and denying us a spectacular goal to talk about.
Giroud and Walcott finished the game off between them in the last twenty minutes and that is probably the most welcome aspect of the evening. You’re never quite sure if this is a blip on their part, willing to sink back into the non-descript form which has haunted them most of 2016, without warning.
Hopefully not but a brief interlude on Humberside is no genuine indication that anything better is on the cards. We can live in hope and a wretched few weeks needs a bright spot.
We got more than one. Ospina, not seriously in contention for a first team spot when Cech is fit, proved a capable deputy, saving well in the first half in a brief moment when Hull threatened but overall, he looked comfortable. Which is better than some of the times when he appears edgy.
Equally, Calum Chambers, untroubled on the right for once, looked more assured in the centre indicating that his long-term future really is as a central defender. There was some griping that we are down to the bare bones in defence with injuries but the outlook isn’t as bad as it seems.
Mertesacker and Gabriel should be fit for the weekend, if not Chambers will deputise for one of them. Koscielny, drawing inference from Arsène’s pre-match update, should be fit for Barcelona. We have the numbers and in most reasonable eyes, four centre backs is enough to go into a season with.
Crucially, the point at Tottenham and the manner of gaining it, has not been wasted. From the kick-off, we took control of the game and never relinquished it. Too often in the past, the first goal would have seen energy levels drop, inviting opponents back into the match and making the evening harder than it should have been.
The injuries suffered last night lend themselves to a stronger XI being fielded at the weekend than we might normally have expected. A central partnership of Coquelin and Elneny with Walcott on the right, Sanchez and Özil supporting either Giroud or Welbeck treats Watford with the due respect of being a Premier League side. Not so bad if Ramsey isn’t there in that sense.
Wenger made a fair point regarding the timing of the Watford match. Hull, had they won, were scheduled to play the quarter-final on Saturday yet we play on Sunday? As he observed,
We sell football and we give it to the media to dictate the timing because we take the money so I won’t complain at all. I would rather look from our side.
And from our side, the FA in common with football authorities took the money and sold the clubs short. Mind you, the Barcelona tie is all but over with Arsenal’s only realistic chance of progress being Barcelona not turning up, with the match then automatically awarded with a 3 – 0 result. The minute we step onto the pitch alongside the Catalans, it’s a damage limitation exercise.
Nonetheless, by then, we should be happy to have booked a Wembley return. With Chelsea and United facing tough ties, retaining the FA Cup for a third time, whilst not straightforward, is a real prospect. As the season has evolved, that will be no bad thing. Winning trophies is the bottom line in football. Yes, there are more prestigious but the FA Cup and a spot in the record books is a bright thought on which to start the day.