Hull City v Arsenal

Scouting Report - Hull City

Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.

Arsene Wenger's team make the trip north to play Hull City at the KC Stadium on Sunday, to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Phil Buckingham. 

This is a dress rehearsal for the FA Cup final between the sides, but Arsenal will face a very different Hull City starting XI on Sunday, compared to the team that will start at Wembley on May 17.

The major reason is simple – Steve Bruce’s two January recruits up front, Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, are cup-tied and therefore ineligible for Hull’s FA Cup charge.

In the league, however, they’ve developed a good partnership as an old-fashioned strike duo, and Arsenal’s centre backs must be aware of their clever runs.

"The man Arsenal must watch particularly carefully is deep-lying playmaker Tom Huddlestone"

They complement one another neatly – Jelavic is a penalty-box prowler who is particularly effective at finishing first time after runs to the near post, while Long works the channels more, and is excellent at controlling long balls from defence.

Overall, Hull have used both a 4-4-2 and a 3-5-2 system this season. While they played the former for their previous league match, a 1-0 victory over Swansea City, Bruce has often switched to three at the back against superior sides.

This would make life difficult for Olivier Giroud, who would be forced to battle against three centre backs by himself, and would depend upon energetic midfielders making forward runs to support him.

The man Arsenal must watch particularly carefully is deep-lying playmaker Tom Huddlestone. The former Tottenham midfielder has enjoyed an excellent debut campaign for the Tigers, dictating play from his own half.

However, he lacks the mobility to match his technical ability, and when closed down, can struggle to find enough room to facilitate his long-range passing. Jake Livermore, on loan from Spurs, provides much of the running alongside.

Another thing to watch is Hull’s preference for playing down their right. When they use a 4-4-2, Ahmed Elmohamady and Liam Rosenior often work as a duo, both happy to play right back or right midfield, and 43 per cent of their passes are played down this flank, compared to 31 per cent down the opposite side. Therefore, Arsenal must be defensively secure in the left-back zone.

The best ever is probably the simplest way of describing Hull's season. It's only their third season in the top flight and, all being well, it looks like safety will come at a canter in the end. The icing on the cake has been reaching the FA Cup final so the campaign has been peerless really.

Everyone has been playing down the fact that these sides meet again at Wembley in May, saying that it will have no bearing. But when teams meet like this before a big final, there are perhaps little victories to be won here and there.

"I'm sure Hull need another point or two to feel completely safe"

Hull's runaway player of the season is Curtis Davies. He was signed from Birmingham last summer in an area where the team didn't look like they needed much strengthening but he's taken it to another level. The only game he missed was at Arsenal - he's started every other Premier League game and he's been immense. I can't speak highly enough of what he's done this season.

I'm sure Hull need another point or two to feel completely safe. Their goal difference is essentially worth another point in comparisons to most teams below them. There is every chance that they have enough points as it is but I'm sure they don't want to leave it to chance. If they can get a point on Sunday and then a result in the games to follow, there's every chance they will be safe.

Sunday's match is a tough one to call. Hull haven't really been beaten heavily by anyone, with the exception of a 4-1 defeat at Southampton. They are a strong side at home and I don't think anyone has had an easy ride at KC Stadium. Rest assured Arsenal will be in for a difficult game.


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