Back under-strength Arsenal to pull off an FA Cup hat-trick over Hull CityPublished February 17, 2016
This is the third successive year that Arsenal and Hull City have met in the FA Cup. It is of course a repeat of the 2014 FA Cup final, when the Gunners recovered from an early two-goal deficit to win 3-2 in extra-time and end a long run bereft of silverware. They also met at the 3rd round stage of last season’s competition, with Arsenal running out 2-0 winners at the Emirates.
Just a few days after this game Arsenal have the small matter of a Champions League last 16 tie where they play host to Barcelona in the 1st leg. With all due respect to Hull City and the FA Cup, it’s fairly obvious where Arsene Wenger’s priorities will lie. That’s not to say that the two-times defending FA Cup holders are going to take the competition lightly, but it would seem likely that David Ospina, Kieran Gibbs, Mohamed El Nenny, Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck (in need of match-fitness) will all get game time here.
Hull have won seven of their last nine games in all competitions and drew 0-0 at home to fellow title-challengers Brighton on Tuesday night, giving up mere three goals in the process. In fact, they’ve only conceded 19 goals in 30 Championship matches to date and also had a decent Capital One Cup run where they knocked out Swansea City and Leicester City (the latter on penalties after a 1-1 draw and extra-time), before losing 4-1 to what was not far short of a full-strength Manchester City team in the quarter-finals.
The Tigers will have a couple of key squad players absent themselves, with midfielder Isaac Hayden and striker Chuba Akpom both cup-tied as a result of the pair being on season-long loans from Arsenal.
It’s also worth noting that Steve Bruce made 11 changes to his starting line-up for the 4th round tie away to Bury (where they won 3-1, courtesy of an Akpom hat-trick). It was a pretty clear indication that Hull’s priorities are very much on regaining their Premier League status at the first attempt.
It’s doubtful that Bruce will risk quite so many changes against top-class opposition, but it’s unlikely that Arsenal will be the only team resting key players. That in turn makes Arsenal look a fair bet at -1 on the Asian Handicap, whereby any Gunners victory by a margin of two-goals or more pays out and any one-goal victory sees you get your stake back. A draw or Hull victory would be a losing bet.