I must say the starting line up had me a little worried. Looking at Song, Denilson and Diaby in the middle, it was difficult to imagine where the creativity would come from. The initial few minutes were worrisome as Hull went about hassling our players and it was clear that the ref was going to be lenient about it, once again.
Once we got our movement flowing the initial fears changed to expectation. The midfield and frontline exchanged positions seamlessly and it looked like we just needed the final ball to set the scoreboard ticking. I was really happy to see the players making an effort to get into the Hull penalty area. This was so different from the sideways passing that we sometimes witness.
Hull came to replicate the plan used by Burnley. For most of the first half they were able to maintain their defensive shape but lacked any serious threat upfront. Their only hope was to fight for every ball and wait for a mistake.
Incidents surrounding two dubious free kicks towards the end of the first half changed the game. Nasri seemed to clip Garcia on the ankle. If it was deliberate, I say kudos to Samir. Unfortunately, the Frenchman didn’t go down clutching his face when Barmby shoved him in the face. It might have led to a sending off. Hopefully, there won’t be further action in this case.
The fracas might have ruffled Hull but it didn’t affect Denilson. I liked the way he took ownership of the situation and delivered. The free kick was more about intelligence and placement rather than power and technique. The Brazilian saw the opportunity and passed the ball into the net. If we can improve on our threat from set pieces, most teams will think twice before getting too physical with us in the defensive third. This is just a start so we will have to see how it develops.
In the second half Hull came out with purpose and we seemed have lapses in concentration. The game was more open with chances for both sides, none better than the one that Eduardo created for himself with a brilliant turn. A shame, the finish couldn’t match the quality of the turn.
On the other end, Steve Bennett gave one of the softest penalties we will ever see. It might be luck balancing out after a few decisions that have gone our way recently, or it could be the ref’s way for making up after awarding us the free kick that lead to the goal. Almunia did enough to keep the lead intact. The keeper was modest enough to attribute the save to luck but no one can deny his role in keeping our confidence high.
It shook us out of our slumber and Diaby showed he can offer a lot when he sets his mind to it. Arsenal could have scored four or five more in the final half hour of the game. Eduardo got a tap in after good work from the lanky Frenchman, who capped off a fine performance with a goal of his own.
Hull were completely outplayed and it was only a question of how many we will score. The clean sheet was a bonus and will hopefully help our defenders and keeper feel more confident in future games.
Almunia: Didn’t put a foot wrong. A penalty save is probably the best a keeper can do. Deserves credit after being under scrutiny for so long.
Eboue: Did well defensively. Was probably given instructions to curb his attacking instincts.
Gallas: Had a good game. Hull didn’t have enough to challenge him
Vermaelen: Same as Gallas
Silvestre: The visitors couldn’t get in behind as often as Burnley did. Showed great movement, positional sense and passing in the attacking third. Even ventured into the opposition box.
Song: Solid as ever.
Denilson: Put in another unobtrusive high value effort. Can be a big player if he works on his free kicks.
Diaby: Looked lazy in patches and incisive in others. I am still waiting for him to play at his best for 90 minutes game after game.
Nasri: Moved all over the pitch and always looked positive. Should work more on set piece delivery.
Arshavin: Quiet by his standards but fairly effective when he got involved.
Eduardo: Great movement. Made himself available quite often. Finishing is still rusty.
Subs: Ramsey, Theo and Vela had some good touches.
Overall, there wasn’t much to complain about in this game if I ignore the ref. But it’s Hull at home and we have to win these comfortably. Amongst the competitors, United got thrashed and it just goes to show how difficult it is to cope with multiple injuries in one area of the pitch. Chelsea take on West Ham tomorrow and there can be an upset in that one as well.
Finally, a word on Mark Hughes. Wenger might feel sad that a fellow manager got the sack but I have to confess I am delighted. Hughes wasn’t good enough to succeed even with such massive financial backing. Worse was his cheap attitude when he was disrespectful towards Arsene. Thankfully, Citeh have appointed Mancini and I am writing off their challenge for a top 4 slot this year.