Arsenal make the trip to the KC Stadium to take on a relegation threatened Hull City on Monday night, with the two sides needing three vital points for contrasting reasons.
The Tigers took a huge leap towards survival on Tuesday evening, miraculously overcoming Champions League hopefuls Liverpool courtesy of a Michael Dawson header. Scoring his first goal since 2013, the former England international maneuvered the club four points above the bottom three. Wins for Leicester, Aston Villa and Sunderland this weekend have left Steve Bruce’s men 16th in the table with four matches left to play.
Their opposition, meanwhile, have been on an immense run of form as the season nears its conclusion. After a disappointing defeat to North London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal have gone nine league games unbeaten. Arsene Wenger has also guided his team to a second successive FA Cup final and held champions Chelsea to a scoreless draw at the Emirates last Sunday.
The two club’s last met in the FA Cup third round, a repeat of the previous final. Without the drama of a comeback, the London outfit defeated their Yorkshire counterparts once more as Per Mertesacker and Alexis Sanchez got their names on the score sheet. The latter also netted in the last Premier League encounter, as Hull unfortunately let a one goal lead slip in injury time. Danny Welbeck rescued a point following his £16m move from Old Trafford, after Mohamed Diame and Abel Hernandez strikes canceled out Alexis’ effort.
Arsene Wenger is expected to name just a handful on the starting XI that last faced Hull, with squad rotation and injuries shaping up for a very different team. Hector Bellerin is expected to retain his place at right-back, after Mathieu Debuchy sustained a hamstring injury during training.
The Frenchman has been plagued with injuries in his debut season with the Gunners and faces yet another set back, after starting at Wembley a fortnight ago. Le Prof has also ruled out an appearance from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby, despite the duo returning to full training. Club captain and long term absentee Mikel Arteta still needs more time, according to his manager.
As for the home side, Steve Bruce will welcome David Meyler back into his squad after completing his three match suspension sustained at Swansea in April. The Irishman has been a regular fixture in the starting line-up since Hull’s promotion in 2013, but may have to settle for a place on the bench as the Tigers look to secure three Premier League victories in a row for the first time in their 111 year history. Forward Nikica Jelavic may also return following knee surgery, as will Andrew Robertson after ankle problems. Goalscorer in the reverse fixture, Mo Diame’s fitness is in doubt with a knee issue.
The pair come into this encounter on the back of some great form, with ex-Wigan and Sunderland boss Bruce stating his side will have to be at their best if they wish to get anything from the fixture:
“We know we’re going to have to be at our best,” stated the 54-year-old
“We’ll have to defend well because Arsenal have such an array of attacking talent and that always makes it a difficult game. They’ve been on a run of late so we will have to play well.
“We, too, have found a little bit of form. Where that has come from – I’d like to be able to bottle the reason and point to it as being the answer but it isn’t as easy as that. We need to show it again on Monday.”
Despite being the underdogs, Bruce’s opposite number is wary of the threat the Tigers pose. Wenger proclaimed:
“They had two great performances when they were in quite a bad situation, but they had two amazing results. They’ve just beaten Liverpool at home, so we are warned that we will face a big challenge there.
“It looks like they will stay up with their last two results. They have made a major step. It’s very difficult to predict who will go down because I personally don’t know. It looks very, very tight. Up to 35 points, everybody can have fear of going down.”
2014’s FA Cup finalists have locked horns on 21 occasions, with Arsenal recording 14 wins in 107 years. Coming out on top in eight of the last nine meetings, Arsenal’s last defeat to Hull came in 2008. Phil Brown’s men recorded one of the club’s greatest top flight triumph, as goals from Daniel Cousin and Geovanni completed a famous comeback at the Emirates.
A win for Hull will see them climb above Aston Villa to 14th place and four points above Sunderland in 18th, although the Black Cats will retain a game in hand. A victory by four goals or more will see Arsenal regain second spot, having played a game less than Manchester City and Manchester United respectively.
Burnley lay in wait for the Tigers in another crucial six pointer, which could effectively end the Clarets' spell in England's top division. Arsenal face Swansea at the Emirates next Monday, looking to keep the pressure on the Citizens.