Afternoon all! Our Premier League coverage continues on Sports Mole
as Hull City
to the KC Stadium. The Tigers are not yet safe from relegation, but sit six points clear of the drop zone after 33 matches. Arsenal, meanwhile, face a battle with Everton to secure fourth position in the table and that elusive final Champions League position. The team news is expected in the next 10 minutes.
In total, the two sides have met on 17 occasions in all competitions, with Arsenal winning 11 times and losing just three. The Gunners have also been victorious in four of the five Premier League meetings between the pair and were 2-0 winners in the reverse match at the Emirates earlier this season.
As touched upon, the two sides will meet in the final of the FA Cup next month. Hull overcame League One side Sheffield United last weekend to book their spot at Wembley on May 17, while Arsenal needed penalties to beat Championship outfit and holders Wigan Athletic in the semi-finals. The Gunners will attempt to end their nine-year wait for a major trophy in what will be Hull's first-ever FA Cup final appearance.
However, this afternoon is all about the Premier League. Hull have lost two of their last three in the league, including defeats on the road to Stoke City and West Ham United, but they did beat Swansea City 1-0 in their last league game in this stadium. As it stands, Steve Bruce's side sit 14th in the table on 36 points, six points outside of the relegation zone. The team news is imminent at the KC Stadium.
BREAKING TEAM NEWS:
We are still waiting for the confirmed team news from Hull, but it is imminent. However, Arsenal have record-signing Mesut Ozil available following an injury lay-off. Aaron Ramsey
also starts in central midfield, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is named on the bench. There is no place in the squad for Thomas Vermaelen, however, with the Belgian struggling with a hamstring injury.
What's more, Hull have only played 33 league games this season. Cardiff City and Fulham, who are both in the relegation zone, have played 35 times, as have 13th-place Swansea City and 12th-place West Ham United, who sit just one point and two points above Hull respectively. Victory for the home side this afternoon would move them into 12th and all but secure their league status. However, Arsenal will have other ideas.
Hull have been fairly solid on their own patch this season, winning seven of their 17 matches and losing just six times in the process. They have struggled on the road, however, losing 11 of their 16 games. To put that into context, only Fulham (12) and Norwich City (13) have lost more away league games this season.
HULL: Harper; Rosenior, Davies, Chester, Elmohamady; Huddlestone, Livermore, Meyler; Boyd, Jelavic, Long
ARSENAL: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Ramsey; Cazorla, Ozil, Podolski; Giroud
So there we have it. Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic return to the Hull XI this afternoon, while George Boyd keeps his place in the team. The rest of the side is as expected, with Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone and David Meyler in midfield. As mentioned, Ozil returns to the Arsenal XI. Monreal is in at left-back, while Ramsey also starts for the Gunners. Two attacking teams on display at the KC Stadium that is for certain.
Incredibly, if only the second half of games counted in the Premier League this season, then Hull would be bottom of the table, which is an indication of how this match could go if Arsenal are leading at the interval. What's more, only Crystal Palace (two) have earned fewer points from losing positions (three) than Bruce's side this season. Not exactly a welcome statistic for the home supporters.
Hull also have a favourable goal difference in relation to the teams around them, which is worth another point at this stage of the season. That said, central midfielder Tom Huddlestone is still keen for his side to reach 40 points as quickly as possible. He told the club's official website: "The 40-point mark is usually the marker, although it has been lower than that in recent seasons. We know it's tight down there, but I think Fulham are third-bottom and six points off us and we still have to play them. It's all still to play for and no team is guaranteed safety, so we still have work to do."
In terms of what is still to come for Hull, following this match, they travel to Fulham next weekend before making the trip to Aston Villa one week later. Their penultimate match of the season is away to Manchester United, before returning to the KC against Everton on the final weekend of the season. They will not want to enter that fixture still in need of the points. Victory this afternoon would be a major boost.
Hull's defensive record this season has been impressive, meanwhile, with the Tigers boasting the fifth-best tally in the league. They have conceded just 40 times in their 33 matches, which is one less than Arsenal. Down the other end, however, Hull have struggled with just 34 strikes. Arsenal, meanwhile, have registered 59 times, 14 of which have come from Olivier Giroud, who leads the Gunners attack once more this afternoon.
Arsenal have won just one of their last five games in all competitions, but victory over West Ham United last Tuesday allowed the Gunners to regain fourth position in the Premier League table. Everton, who beat Arsene Wenger's side 3-0 on April 6, slipped up at home to Crystal Palace two days later, with that result leaving the Toffees two points behind the capital outfit with just four games of the campaign remaining.
Everton welcome Manchester United in the late start this afternoon and also have Manchester City to come before the end of the season. As a result, Arsenal will feel that victory this afternoon would leave them in a strong position as they battle to secure a top-four finish. The title has gone for the Gunners, but it could yet be a successful end to the campaign with the FA Cup final also to come next month.
Arsene Wenger's side have won just four of their last 12 league games, however, taking just 16 points from the last 36 available. What's more, they have lost four of their last five away league matches, conceding 15 times in the process. The London outfit flirted with the title earlier in the season, but once more they have alarmingly dropped off the pace. Now, a top-four finish is an absolute must.
That said, overall, Arsenal's away record in the league this season is strong. Only Manchester United (10) have won more games on the road and only United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have taken more points. On the reverse side, Arsenal have conceded 30 times in their 17 away games this season, which is the highest total in the top half of the table.
At home, draws have been a problem for Arsenal. They have lost just once at the Emirates in the league this season, but have drawn five of their 17 matches. It is still a strong record, but Everton, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have all performed better on their own patch this season.
Arsenal's character has been called into question this season following heavy defeats at Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton. The Gunners have won 18 of their 20 league games this season in which they have scored the first goal, which is a clear indication of their troubles.
Here's a word from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger ahead of the match. The Frenchman told reporters at a press conference: "Hull have had a remarkable season and done well at home so we know a big performance is needed. He [Bruce] has done extremely well, one of the remarkable managers of the season. He has maintained Hull in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final, it is remarkable what he has achieved."
PREDICTION: Hull are not mathematically safe, but one more win should be enough to secure their Premier League status for another season. Arsenal could take a big step towards fourth with all the points, but I am struggling to separate the two teams. My score prediction is 1-1 at the KC Stadium.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the first period. The pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. You just get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - could be vital this afternoon. Right, the away side get the first half underway.
Bright start from the home side as Rosenior finds some space down the left before delivering a low cross into the box, but Sagna is across to clear the danger. Moments later, Monreal is forced to concede a corner following a deep cross from Huddlestone. Sensational noise inside the stadium this afternoon.
Good pressure from the home side as Szczesny is forced to place his clearance straight out of play following good running from Long. Arsenal break down the other end with Ozil, but Meyler is across as the end-to-end intensity continues in the opening four minutes. Moments later, Arteta picks up a head injury in the middle of the park following a clash with Huddlestone. It does not look too good for Arteta.
STOPPAGE IN PLAY! Play has been stopped at the KC Stadium due to the advertising boarding being blown onto the pitch. Incredible scenes! Someone is going to be in trouble!
Plenty happening in the middle of the park at the moment as Huddlestone battles with Ramsey before finding Boyd, who delivers a deep cross into the Arsenal box, but Szczesny is on hand to claim at the vital moment. Arsenal have not been allowed to settle in the early exchanges as Hull continue to force the issue.
Half-chance for the home side as Huddlestone slides a through pass towards Long, who beats Mertesacker for pace before driving into the Arsenal box, but Szczesny is out to clear at the vital moment. Arsenal want a penalty moments later as Ozil goes down inside the Hull box, but the referee is not interested.
Arsenal threaten once more as Ozil picks up possession outside the Hull box before sliding a through pass towards Monreal, but the offside flag is raised at the final moment. The end-to-end period of the match continues as Jelavic meets a pass from Huddlestone, but the offside flag stops the play once more.
BOOKING! Mertesacker has his name taken for Arsenal following a really poor challenge on Jelavic in the middle of the park. Moments later, Long had clashed with Arteta, but the referee saw it as a fair challenge. Plenty happening at the KC Stadium, but no real chances for either side thus far.
SAVE! Wonderful chance for Hull as Huddlestone slides a low pass into Jelavic, who turns on the edge of the box before striking one towards the bottom corner, but Szczesny is on hand to make the save.
BOOKING! The challenges continue to arrive in the middle of the park and Meyler is the first name in the book for Hull following a poor tackle on Monreal. Feisty affair that is for certain.
CHANCE! Opportunity for Arsenal on the break as Podolski picks up possession inside the Hull box, but his effort is saved by Harper, who pushes to his right. Chances at either end at the KC Stadium.
Hull continue to threaten from wide positions, but Szczesny has been strong in the air thus far. The challenges continue to arrive in the middle of the park, meanwhile, as Davies clashes with Giroud, which brings a free kick for the away side. Still goalless with 21 minutes on the clock.
Hardly time to take a breath at the moment as the play continues to flow from end-to-end. Long collects a pass from Livermore before turning past Monreal, but Mertesacker is on hand to clear. Moments later, Long's cross is over the head of Jelavic. Plenty happening as Arsenal launch another break with Ramsey.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for the home side as Livermore finds Long, who drives into the Arsenal box, but his final effort is high and wide of the target. The opportunities are arriving.
Hull's threat continues to arrive from wide positions, but the Arsenal defence has been strong in aerial positions thus far. Rosenior and Elmohamady take it in turns to deliver once more, but the danger is cleared as Arsenal launch another counter. This opening 26 minutes has flown past, but still no goals to report.
Nasty moment for Boyd as the Hull attacker picks up an injury to his nose, but it does appear that he will be fit to resume following a period of treatment. Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of moments, but the intensity remains with both sides tenacious in the middle of the park.
Hull look like the team fighting for a position in the top four at the moment as the Tigers continue to dominate possession. Arsenal remain a threat on the counter, but Podolski is too slow when faced with Elmohamady. The challenges continue to arrive, meanwhile, as Huddlestone bits at the heels of Cazorla.
GOAL! Hull 0-1 Arsenal (Ramsey)
Arsenal take the lead with 31 minutes on the clock as Ozil finds Cazorla, who slides a low pass into Ramsey. The Welshman takes control inside the penalty box before sliding his effort into the bottom corner.
Ramsey has now scored 14 goals for the season, which is even more impressive when taking into account the amount of time that he has missed through injury. It is the Arsenal fans that can now be heard as the Gunners take control of the ball. Hull need to stem the flow of traffic before the half-time interval.
POST! Hull come within a whisker of levelling as Livermore strikes one from the edge of the box, but his effort smashes against the inside of the post. So unlucky for the on-loan Spurs midfielder.
CHANCE! Strong response from Hull as Elmohamady finds the head of Boyd at the far post, but his effort is over the crossbar. Little over five minutes of the first period remaining at the KC Stadium.
Arsenal have a free kick on the edge of the Hull box as Elmohamady fells Giroud with a shoulder challenge. The resulting set piece is taken by Ramsey, but his effort is straight into the wall. It rebounds to Arteta moments later, but his effort is blocked by Huddlestone as the home side clear the danger once more.
Nervy moment for the Hull defence as Davies's back-pass is a bit short for his goalkeeper Harper, but the experienced stopper does manage to clear under pressure from Giroud. Not too much to report in terms of clear chances in the last few minutes, but the home side are still very much in this match at the KC Stadium.
Another half-chance for the home side as Elmohamady finds the head of Long at the near post, but his header is wide of the target. It has been a strong response from Hull, but still Arsenal hold onto their sheet. I suspect that there could be a minute or two added at the end of the first 45 minutes this afternoon.
CHANCE! This time Rosenior finds Long inside the Arsenal box from the opposite side, but his chested effort is straight into the arms of the Arsenal goalkeeper. Long continues to look the most likely.
GOAL! Hull 0-2 Arsenal (Podolski)
Arsenal have their second of the match in first-half stoppage time as Podolski fires a stunning effort into the bottom corner following a chested pass from Ramsey. Brilliant strike from the German international.
Hull are incensed, however. The home side believe that they should have had a free kick in the build-up to that goal after Arteta seemed to fell Jelavic. The referee was not interested and Arsenal have a two-goal lead. Giroud attempts to find a third, but his effort is high and wide of the crossbar from close range.
HALF-TIME: Hull 0-2 Arsenal
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to an end with Arsenal leading 2-0 courtesy of goals from Ramsey and Podolski. Hull are incensed as they leave the field, however, with the home side feeling that they should have a had a free kick before Podolski struck Arsenal's second. The Gunners are in control.
STATISTICS: Arsenal have had more of the ball with 58%, but they have had just six attempts to Hull's eight. It has been a feisty half in terms of challenges, but the referee has issued just two yellow cards thus far. As it stands, Arsenal will take firm control of fourth position in the league table.
BENCH WATCH: The home side have a number of attacking options on their bench this afternoon in the shape of Fryatt, Koren and Sagbo. Meanwhile, Arsenal have the likes of Kallstrom, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky and Sanogo in reserve. Bruce especially could look to alter proceedings at the interval.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second period. You just get the feeling that Hull need to score the next goal if they are to stand a chance of taking something from the match. Arsenal, however, will feel that one more puts the game to bed. Arsenal get the second half underway.
SUB! One change for Hull at the interval with Fryatt replacing Long. It must be an injury for the former West Brom striker. If it is tactical, then that is a very strange decision.
No changes in the Arsenal XI at the interval, which is not much of a surprise at this stage of proceedings. It does not take too long for the first late challenge of the second period to arrive as Huddlestone dives into the back of Giroud, but the England midfielder escapes a booking from referee John Moss.
CHANCE! Opportunity for Hull to open their tally for the afternoon as Huddlestone finds the run of Fryatt inside the Arsenal box, but the striker cannot loop his header into the back of the net. The pressure continues from a corner, but it breaks down at the vital moment, allowing Arsenal to counter.
Good pressure from Arsenal in the last couple of moments as Sagna breaks down the right before attempting to find Giroud, but Davies is on hand to clear the danger. Hull break down the other end with Huddlestone, but his pass is too long for Fryatt, who has been heavily involved in the early stages of the half.
GOAL! Hull 0-3 Arsenal (Podolski)
Arsenal have their third of the match and Podolski has his second as the German international finishes from close range after Harper had denied a shot from Ramsey. That is game, set and match at the KC Stadium.
Podolski has now scored eight league goals for the season, including four in his last two games. It is a long way back for Hull from this position that is for certain. Little over 30 minutes remaining and you would not back against the Gunners adding to their tally as Hull continue to struggle in defensive areas.
As it stands, Arsenal are moving four points clear of fifth-place Everton, who welcome Manchester United in the late start this afternoon. The end-to-end period of the match continues at the KC Stadium as both sides continue to force the issue in the final third. It has been an enthralling afternoon of football.
Half-chance for Hull this time as Jelavic meets a corner from Huddlestone, but his header is straight into the back of Koscielny. The resulting corner also causes problems inside the Arsenal box, but Monreal is on hand to block a low cross from Boyd. Still 3-0 Arsenal with little under 30 minutes of football to play.
SUB! Arsenal make their first change of the match as Flamini replaces Ozil, who has only recently returned from a long injury lay-off.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last few moments as Arsenal continue to control the tempo of the match. In truth, Hull have been extremely disappointing this afternoon. In fairness to the home supporters, however, they have stayed with their side, which is very good news for boss Steve Bruce.
CROSSBAR! Wonderful chance for Arsenal to score their fourth as Harper is closed down by Giroud, who blocks the goalkeeper's clearance, but it smashes straight against the crossbar!
Slightly untidy period of the match in the last couple of moments with both sides guilty of a number of late challenges, but the referee does not produce a card. Arsenal threaten with Sagna down the right, but his cross is headed clear by Davies as Hull manage to force it clear once more. Still 3-0 Arsenal.
Another half-chance for the away side as Monreal finds some space down the left before driving a low cross towards Giroud, but Davies is across to make a fine challenge at the vital moment.
SUB! Hull make their second change of the match as Quinn replaces Jelavic, who has struggled to influence proceedings this afternoon.
First real involvement for Quinn as the Hull winger finds some space inside the Arsenal box before driving a low cross towards Fryatt, but there are no takers and the away side have possession once more. Little over 15 minutes of normal time remaining and in truth, Arsenal are extremely comfortable at the KC Stadium.
SUB! Arsenal make their second change of the match as Oxlade-Chamberlain enters the field in place of Giroud, who will feel that he should have got his name on the scoresheet this afternoon.
CHANCE! Oxlade-Chamberlain's first involvement for Arsenal brings a free kick on the edge of the Hull box as Elmohamady is penalised for handball. The resulting set piece is taken by Cazorla and met by the head of Mertesacker, but his effort just drops over the crossbar. Great header from the German.
CHANCE! Another chance for the away side as Oxlade-Chamberlain dives into the Hull box before finding Ramsey, but his effort is straight into the arms of Harper, who releases Boyd on the counter.
Possession football from Arsenal in the last couple of moments as the Gunners threaten to score once more against a Hull side that has been some way short of their normal level this afternoon. Another free kick arrives for Arsenal, but it is taken short and Davies is on hand to clear with a powerful header.
Just a reminder that the two sides will meet in the final of the FA Cup next month. Steve Bruce will want so much more from his side when that clash occurs at Wembley. Not too much to report in the last couple of minutes as the away side continue to dominate the ball. It has been a good day at the office for Arsenal.
SUBS! Arsenal look to their bench for the third and final time this afternoon as Sanogo replaces Podolski. Meanwhile, Hull also make a change with Boyd off for Koren.
Good spell of pressure for Hull in the last couple of moments as Huddlestone slides a low pass towards Koren, who drives a low cross into the box, but Monreal is on hand to clear once more. It has been that type of afternoon for Hull - plenty of nice passing sequences, but little end product in the final third.
Fryatt tries his luck for the home side after finding some space outside the box, but his effort was always into the body of the Arsenal stopper, who has been a spectator for long spells this afternoon.
The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional four minutes and we are indeed into the second of those. Not too much to report truth be told as Arsenal continue to enjoy possession in the Hull half.
The home supporters have started to empty the stadium, but those still in attendance are singing the name of Steve Bruce. A dangerous cross from Monreal threatens for Arsenal once more, but Chester manages to clear.
FULL-TIME: Hull 0-3 Arsenal
So there we have it. Arsenal run out comfortable 3-0 winners as the Gunners move four points clear of fifth-place Everton in the table. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action and be sure to remain with us for coverage of Everton against Manchester United. Good afternoon!