Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side host Hull City at Emirates Stadium on Thursday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
This weekend’s FA Cup third-round meeting with Hull City brings back fond memories of Arsenal’s FA Cup final victory last year - but the 2-2 draw between the sides earlier this season suggests this could be a tricky game for Arsene Wenger’s side.
In both those meetings, Steve Bruce used a three-man defence, although he has varied this and deployed a four-man backline this season too.
It looked much more like a 4-4-2 for the 2-0 victory over Everton on New Year’s Day, with both Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez up front, and Ahmed Elmohamady pushed forward to the right of midfield.
Arsenal must adapt according to Hull’s shape. Working the space on the outside of the three centre backs was crucial in the FA Cup victory, whereas playing against a back four means Arsenal should look to bring Hull’s centre backs up the pitch. They’re not the most mobile, and are often unable to recover their positions quickly.
Hull have plenty of attacking options. Jelavic and Hernandez have a promising partnership, with Jelavic thriving on crosses and Hernandez providing the pace.
Gaston Ramirez could start on the left and drift infield, or alternatively Bruce could use Ramirez behind one striker, perhaps Hernandez, and beef up his midfield.
That would make sense considering Tom Huddlestone will be available having missed the Christmas period through suspension. The former Tottenham man acts as Hull’s deep-lying playmaker - the heatmap from Hull’s 2-2 at the Emirates shows how he barely ventures out of his own half - and he sprays diagonal passes into attack.
However, Huddlestone is not the most mobile midfielder around, and Hull won two of their last three games without him.
Bruce could, however, decide to make wholesale changes.
For last season’s third and fourth-round victories over Middlesbrough and Southend respectively, he named a virtual reserve side before gradually taking the competition more seriously. With Arsene Wenger also set to rotate, this could be a very different tactical battle from recent meetings between the sides.
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