SUMMARYIrresistible Arsenal maintained their four-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a sublime 2-0 victory over Hull City on Wednesday night.
Nicklas Bendtner finished a silky smooth move to put Arsène Wenger’s men ahead after only two minutes. It was the Dane’s first Arsenal goal since his hat-trick against Leyton Orient in March 2011.
The home side used their lead as a foundation and dominated. The only surprise was that they had to wait until the second half to add to their advantage when Aaron Ramsey set up Mesut Ozil.
This was about as comprehensive as 2-0 wins can get.
Arsenal had total control throughout. Hull’s brief periods of pressure seemed to occur when the home side momentarily lost concentration.
So the story goes on for Arsenal - still winning, still top yet still to convince some of their title credentials.
However the evidence to the contrary is starting to wear very, very thin.
SETTING THE SCENE With a busy period coming up, Wenger had suggested he would rotate two or three players in each game. This evening the changes were more numerous and very significant. The hamstring injury suffered by Bacary Sagna meant the elevation of Carl Jenkinson was inevitable. However swapping Bendtner for Olivier Giroud, Nacho Monreal for Kieran Gibbs, Flamini for Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky for Mikel Arteta was at the manager’s discretion. Hull arrived at Emirates Stadium in a healthy 10th place after beating Liverpool at the weekend. In Wenger’s words, they had provided “a good warning” of their abilities. However Arsenal would allow little opportunity to show them in the first half. FIRST HALF Bendtner’s first Premier League start in 1,005 days was the pre-match story. Yet his goal after two minutes would threaten to be the story of the night. It was an exquisite strike involving four players and four decisive touches. Rosicky’s reverse ball on the right was fed first time by Ramsey into the path of Jenkinson. He reached the byline and whipped in a searching cross. Bendtner arched his back to steer in a header just inside the far post. He celebrated as though the strike was overflowing with meaning. Right now Arsenal are hard to handle at any time but, at home with an early goal behind them, they can be a steamroller of precision passing. They overwhelmed Hull in the half-hour that followed. Cazorla’s corner was nodded on by Koscielny and Allan McGregor just about managed to gather at the second attempt. A couple of minutes later the keeper batted away the Spaniard’s swirling effort. McGregor was becoming overworked. He spilled Ozil’s low shot and, although Bendtner collected, he could not convert. Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny both blazed over on the half-hour and, it seemed, Arsenal had stepped down a gear towards the end of the first half. But then the Welshman let fly from distance and McGregor dived full length to his left to turn the ball aside. It was Arsenal’s 11th decent chance; Hull had yet to register an effort. Tom Huddlestone flashed a ball across the face of Wojciech Szczesny’s goal in the 33rd minute. It was first time the keeper had been worried in any way. James Chester would then turn a header just wide before Huddlestone’s drive was blocked. However Hull’s brief revival was nearly killed off as Arsenal went close to a second in injury time. Ozil rose to meet Bendtner’s cross but steered his header wide. SECOND HALF A goal two minutes into the first half, sparked by a reverse pass, had coloured this game indelibly. Arsenal repeated the trick precisely at the start of the second. This time it was Ramsey’s delivery and Ozil slipped home his fourth goal for the Club. Sublime and simple stuff. The strike gave Arsenal their swagger once more. Ozil glided down the right and fired a low cross into the area. Ramsey raced onto it but McGregor deflected it wide. From Cazorla’s corner, Bendtner saw a header cleared off the line. Hull’s belief had flickered late in the first half but the second goal had put them firmly back in their shell once more. Arsenal were afforded the space to pick their passes; they did not spurn the opportunity. But they did not test McGregor and Hull finally found a foothold. Jake Livermore weaved through but could only plant his shot into the midriff of Szczesny. Then George Boyd headed wide from Yannick Sagbo’s cross. It was too little, too late. Arsenal were, by and large, untroubled. Two quality strikes had been the difference but the home side had been magnificent throughout. Wenger’s men seem masters of their own destiny right now. Anyone who saw the manner of this win must be convinced they will be major players in the title race.
Referee: Andre Marriner
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