MX23RW : Wednesday, January 16 11:08:59
Feb 11, 2017 at 12.30pm UK at ​Emirates Stadium
Attendance: 59,962
Hull City
Sanchez (34', 93' pen.)
FT(HT: 1-0)

Clucas (91')

Preview: Arsenal vs. Hull City

Sports Mole previews Saturday lunchtime's Premier League meeting between Arsenal and Hull City at the Emirates Stadium.

The 25th round of Premier League fixtures begins with Arsenal's meeting against a resurgent Hull City at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday lunchtime.

While the Gunners have lost back-to-back games to see their hopes of title success come to an end, visitors Hull are slowly heading in the opposite direction and travel south to the capital in the midst of an impressive run of form.


Arsene Wenger watches on during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Arsenal on December 18, 2016© SilverHub

Following defeat to Chelsea last weekend, Arsenal supporters can be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu at the moment as fan protests and questions over the manager's future dominate the headlines.

A run of four losses in their last nine league games, including at home to Watford in their last outing on home soil, has seen the Gunners slip down to fourth in the table and now 12 points adrift of the runaway leaders.

More worrying for Arsenal, though, is the fact that they are just two points ahead of Manchester United in sixth and now in a serious battle to keep hold of their impressive run of qualifying for the Champions League.

It was only two months ago that the North London outfit were beating Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium to move to the summit, but since then their form has been patchy, having lost to Everton, Manchester City, Watford and Chelsea, as well as drawing 3-3 with Bournemouth to kick off the New Year.

The loss to Watford particularly aggrieved supporters, especially after boss Arsene Wenger claimed that his side were 'not mentally prepared', but it was the failure to take at least a point from Chelsea last Saturday that has all but ended their title hopes for another year.

Wenger, as ever, has refused to give up the pursuit of clawing back the 12 points on the pacesetters, while also attempting to brush aside the ongoing questions over his future - all the more important this year due to the fact that he is soon to be out of contract.

The focus for Arsenal is now surely to finish in the top four and taste success in one of the cup competitions; games against Bayern Munich and Sutton United over the next 11 days essentially define their season and potentially the fate of Wenger.

Following Saturday's match with Hull, the Gunners do not return to Premier League action until March 4 when facing another big-six rival in Liverpool, placing even more importance on building some momentum in their European and domestic cup campaigns.

Recent form in Premier League: WDWWLL
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWLL

Hull City

Marco Silva watches on during the EFL Cup semi-final between Hull City and Manchester United on January 26, 2017© SilverHub

Ushered in at the start of the year to take charge of a side seemingly at rock bottom, it is fair to say that not a great deal was expected of relative unknown Marco Silva.

A former manager of Estoril, Sporting Lisbon and Olympiacos, Premier League rookie Silva has enjoyed relative success at each club he has managed and is on course to add another impressive mark to his CV at Hull.

That is if his first month in charge is anything to go by, at least, which is best summed up by the increased crowd figures during his four weeks in charge - just over 6,000 for the meeting with Swansea City and around 25,000 for the win over Liverpool last weekend, albeit in two competitions at different ends of the spectrum these days.

Silva has won half of his eight games in charge overall, including that hugely impressive victory against the Reds that was built on true grit and determination, as well as a bit of fortune as their opponents can no longer seem to find the net.

All the more impressive is that three of the Portuguese's league games in charge so far have seen him come up against Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, with four points from that run, and all three from his first match at the helm against Bournemouth, enough to take City to within one point of safety.

The Tigers' new boss has also had to contend with losing two of his better players in Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass, the latter of whom directly contributed to 10 goals in 20 league games before departing for West Ham United in January.

Eight players have been brought in, however, including a couple very much with a point to prove in the Premier League - Oumar Niasse and Lazar Markovic joining on loan from Everton and Liverpool respectively and both already leaving a good impression.

It is far to say that the only real blemish for Hull so far this calendar year was the heavy loss to Fulham in the FA Cup, but even that can be excused as it was followed up with a point against Man United, who incidentally were the side that knocked the Humberside outfit out of the EFL Cup the week prior.

All focus is now on remaining in the English top flight, then, and Silva - a winner on his only previous managerial visit to the Emirates Stadium; a 3-2 triumph for Olympiacos in 2015 - has built the recent success on solid defensive foundations.

Two clean sheets have been recorded in his side's last two league outings - as many as in the previous 26 combined - but not since October 2008 have they gone three in succession without conceding. Do so in North London on Saturday and Silva will take another step towards proving the doubters wrong.

Recent form in Premier League: DLWLDW
Recent form (all competitions): WLWLDW

Team News

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech in action during the Premier League clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford on November 19, 2016© SilverHub

Reports emerged earlier this week suggesting that goalkeeper Petr Cech would be dropped for the visit of Hull following another disappointing error for Chelsea's third goal, but Wenger is unwilling to confirm or deny.

Arsenal's midfield problems look to be getting better as Mohamed Elneny is back from Africa Cup of Nations duty, though a slight calf issue may keep him out, so Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain retaining his place in the middle is a real possibility.

The only other question mark concerns Hector Bellerin, who left the field early on against the Blues following a nasty clash of heads, but he has been given the green light to train and will likely feature on Saturday.

Markovic is eligible for Hull after missing the meeting against parent club Liverpool, meanwhile, but Michael Dawson is expected to sit out a few more weeks and Abel Hernandez has also been sidelined until at least next month.

January signing Andrea Ranocchia, a late inclusion last weekend, will therefore retain his place in the heart of a more solid-looking Hull defence, and Silva could take a risk on Ahmed Elmohamady following his return from AFCON duty.

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerin; Coquelin, Chamberlain; Welbeck, Ozil, Iwobi; Sanchez

Hull City possible starting lineup:
Jakupovic; Elabdellaoui, Maguire, Ranocchia, Robertson; N'Diaye, Huddlestone; Grosicki, Clucas, Markovic; Niasse

Head To Head

Arsenal have won seven of their last eight Premier League encounters with Hull since losing their first meeting against the Tigers in 2008 - a shock 2-1 victory for the Tigers at the Emirates Stadium.

Since then, City are winless in 13 games against the Gunners in all competitions; a run that includes defeat in the 2014 FA Cup final and in the same competition in both of the following seasons.

Alexis Sanchez has particularly enjoyed himself against the Tigers, playing a part in six goals in three league appearances, including two in the 4-1 thrashing the last time the teams met in September.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Arsenal 1-0 Hull City

In three games against Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool, Silva has tasted defeat in just one of them. The Portuguese also has winning pedigree when it comes to the Emirates Stadium, yet anything more than a point from Saturday lunchtime's clash is a major ask for the Tigers. Arsenal must be on top of their game, and certainly better than they were last time out on home soil, or else they could throw away yet more points in the race to finish in the top four.

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Arsene Wenger strikes a pose on September 24, 2016
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