Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side host Hull City on Saturday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Hull City are arguably the Premier League’s most tactically-flexible side and, having deployed three separate formations in their first seven matches this season, are capable of springing a surprise on Saturday afternoon.
They are likely to use a three-man defence for two separate reasons. Firstly, this system worked effectively in their 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace last time out. Secondly, their shape caused Arsenal significant problems in the FA Cup final in May.
"The midfield trio is based around Tom Huddlestone, who loves collecting the ball from the centre backs and driving diagonal passes into wide positions"
Hull strengthened their backline in the summer by recruiting former Tottenham captain Michael Dawson. He plays in the centre of a back three, generally sweeping up behind James Chester and Curtis Davies, and compensates for his lack of speed by positioning himself deep.
Chester and Davies are both solid in the penalty box, but uncomfortable when dragged out wide - Olivier Giroud and Yaya Sanogo caused problems when working the channels at Wembley in May, and Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck should do similarly at the weekend.
Arsenal must be particularly wary of the Tigers' centre backs when defending corners, too - Hull’s two goals in the FA Cup final were scored by Chester and Davies following set-pieces.
Steve Bruce is able to call upon two naturally energetic, overlapping wing backs capable of supplying good crosses. Ahmed Elmohamady is the only Hull player to have played every Premier League minute so far, although he pulled out of the Egyptian squad last week because of a back injury and could be replaced by the steadier Liam Rosenior. Left-sided Andrew Robertson is more dynamic, and delivers excellent balls into the box.
The midfield trio is based around deep-lying playmaker Tom Huddlestone, who loves collecting the ball from the centre backs and driving diagonal passes into wide positions. He’s responsible for much of Hull’s good play, and shouldn’t be allowed to settle on the ball.
Huddlestone lacks mobility, however, which means Bruce deploys two energetic players either side of him - Jake Livermore keeps his distribution much simpler, while Mohamed Diame drives forward in possession and can offer a goal threat.
Bruce prefers to play with two strikers, especially since the arrival of Uruguayan international Abel Hernandez on transfer deadline day. He’s a good all-round striker who enjoys sprinting in behind and working the channels, and has scored two goals in four matches.
His style works nicely with Nikica Jelavic, an old-fashioned central striker who specialises in darting towards the near post to meet low crosses, finishing instinctively with one touch. He’s also adept at providing flick-ons for his partner.
Bruce has options on the bench too. Left-sided Stephen Quinn boasts three assists from just four starts this season, while loanees Hatem Ben Arfa and Gaston Ramirez have been used exclusively as substitutes, and could be extremely effective once the tempo of the game drops in the second half.
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