Arsenal got back to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Hull at the Emirates but they still look less than solid.
Team news and Arsene Wenger changed things at left back. Kieran Gibbs started in a tactical switch, confirmed by the manager before the game. Otherwise, the players who had flailed so pathetically at Chelsea were tasked with providing a response. Even Francis Coquelin.
Hector Bellerin started and he shouldn’t have. The FA recommend a total rest period of 14 days following a concussion – eliminating everything, including reading and playing video games. Yet here he was, on a football pitch, tasked with having to head a solid object when required.
Arsenal started like a team that had a collect rocket up their arses, but defensively they were more than a little vulnerable. It’s almost as if Coquelin isn’t able (or willing) to protect them.
For all the chances we were carving out, every time we went forward, thanks to Hull’s own shambles of a defence, we were still leaving the door wide open for Marcos Silva’s men. It was they who forced the first save; Niasse getting between Koscielny and Gibbs only to see Cech parry it over.
This was a Hull side with a starting XI that had scored a grand total of two goals between them.
Within moments, Bellerin should have given Arsenal the lead when he had a clear shot on goal. Slicing his effort as he tried to go for the near post, it went horribly wide. Seconds later, it was Alexis who had the chance to open the scoring but his shot crept wide past the same post.
As the half wore on, Arsenal’s intensity dropped. Hull were not being pressed and were able to move around the pitch with ease. The space in both sides was shocking but for as long as Arsenal kept wasting their chances, they were always at risk.
Thankfully, Alexis and his arm popped up to give Arsenal a deserved lead. The ball rebounded off the Hull keeper and on to his arm before finding itself in the back of the net. Yes, it hit his hand, no it wasn’t handball by the letter of the law. Should it be? Yes, but it wasn’t. That didn’t stop it becoming instantly ‘controversial’ despite fans being told ‘it has to be intentional’ when others are involved.
One-nil to the Arsenal. Haters gonna hate.
A quick fire effort after the break saw Arsenal go close again, then Hull came close to levelling when Niasse once again had the freedom of the penalty box. Thankfully, he hit it straight at Cech who showed good strength to push it wide.
Next up, it was time for Clattenburg to get involved, staying true to his form of booking home players just after the break. Theo Walcott saw yellow for throwing the ball away despite TWO Hull players getting right in his face with impunity. Kieran Gibbs was booked for barging Markovic some 25-yards from goal with many thinking he should have seen red.
The FA's Respect campaign going well then pic.twitter.com/1lOeZsrQRk
— JB™ (@gunnerpunner) February 11, 2017
50% of all yellows issued by Clattenburg this season to a visiting team have come in the last 15 minutes of a game (true stat), when it doesn’t really make much difference. Clatts went early with Hull, issuing their first yellow with 20 remaining despite numerous contenders presenting themselves in the previous 70 minutes.
The next action of note was Alexis being booked for diving. As I can’t use official Premier League footage, I found the closest approximation online:
Arsenal dropped deeper and nerves got shorter, but Arsenal managed to break as normal time ran out. The Hull keeper summoned the spirit of Almunia, and Alexis got the ball around him to find Lucas, who must have thought he had scored with his head. Clucas, however used his arm to stop the ball going in – penalty and a red card. Now THAT is a handball.
Alexis stepped up from the spot and made no mistake against the keeper who had already saved one of his penalties this season. Job done.
In the end, Arsenal got the points that they desperately needed. They did little, however, to convince anyone that their problems are a thing of the past.
Next up, the small matter of Bayern Munich away.