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Gunners aiming to get back to winning ways

Arsenal host Hull City in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon (12.30 kick-off UK time).

The Gunners have lost back-to-back Premier League matches to Watford and Chelsea.

They haven’t lost three in a row since January 2012.

Arsenal have lost four of their last nine league matches.

It leaves the Gunners in 4th place in the Premier League table going into this weekend’s round of matches.

They are a distant 12 points behind leaders Chelsea and in a fight to secure a top four finish to qualify for a Champions League spot – top three ideally to avoid the qualifying round.

Arsene Wenger’s future is once again centre stage. There are media reports that the Arsenal board have drawn up a shortlist to replace the Frenchman should he decide to step down at he end of the season.

With another Premier League title challenge fizzling out, the Gunners are in a five team battle to secure one of three remaining Champions League places.

A tough last 16 tie awaits with Bayern Munich in this season’s competition. Another exit at this stage will only increase the pressure on Wenger.

Today’s attendance is likely to be by some distance the lowest of the season – something that will be magnified by the match being televised live.

Arsenal won the reverse fixture 4-1 against Hull at the KCOM on the 17th September 2016, with goals from Alexis Sanchez (2), Theo Walcott and Granit Xhaka. Robert Snodgrass scored Hull’s goal.

The Gunners have won 15 of their last 17 Premier League matches at Emirates Stadium against newly-promoted clubs (D2) since losing 1-0 to Newcastle United in November 2010.

Hull City start the weekend in 18th place in the Premier League table.

The Tigers fight against relegation was boosted by a 2-0 win against Liverpool at the KCOM last Saturday, with a debut goal for Alfred N’Diaye and a second half finish from Oumar Niasse.

Hull are now just a point adrift of safety, with the result adding to a point gained away at Manchester United in a goalless draw just three days earlier.

There must be short odds on a penalty being awarded today. Hull have conceded 10 penalties in this season’s Premier League, the most in the top flight. The next highest is Arsenal with seven.

The Tigers have failed to score in 11 of their 24 Premier League games this season – more often than any other Premier League side.

Hull have though kept two clean sheets in as many matches in February, as many as they had kept in their previous 26 Premier League outings combined – they have not kept three in a row in the Premier League since October 2008.

Head-to-Head

Arsenal have won seven of eight Premier League meetings with Hull City (D1) since losing their first match against the Tigers in the competition in September 2008 (1-2 at Emirates Stadium).

Since that 2-1 victory, Hull are winless in 13 games against the Gunners in all competitions, losing 11 (D2) including the 2014 FA Cup Final.

Arsenal have also scored four goals in each of their past two games against Hull (one in the league, one in the FA Cup).

Hull drew 0-0 at Arsenal in last season’s FA Cup fifth round, before losing in the replay.

Key Men

Alexis Sanchez has 15 league goals this season, just one short of his best total for an entire Premier League campaign (2014-15).

Sanchez has been directly involved in six goals in three Premier League matches against Hull (five goals, one assist).

Theo Walcott is one shy of 100 goals for Arsenal in all competitions.

Olivier Giroud came off the bench to score in Arsenal’s last game against Chelsea, taking his substitute goal tally to four in the Premier League this season (level with Man City’s Nolito). No Arsenal player has ever scored more than four substitute goals in a Premier League season (Kanu in 1999-2000 and Emmanuel Adebayor in 2007-08 also scored four).

Hull have struggled for goals this season. This won’t be helped by the departure of Robert Snodgrass to West Ham, and injuries to Michael Dawson and Abel Hernandez who are following Snodgrass’s departure are the Tigers top Premier League scorers with 3 goals each this season.

The Tigers will hope that Oumar Niasse and Alfred N’Diaye can build on their goals against Liverpool last weekend.

The Managers

Arsene Wenger

Successive Premier League defeats to Watford and Chelsea have effectively ended any faint hopes that Arsenal could pressure runaway leaders Chelsea in the title run-in.

Wenger insists though that the title race isn’t over.

“It’s never over – we cannot behave like that,” Wenger said. “Even if you think it is, I don’t. We cannot even think like that.

We look at the teams around us and we’re all in a pack that is very tight, where the fight for every position will be massive like it has always been in the Premier League, maybe even more this season than ever before.

The way we respond to our disappointing result last Saturday is vital. If it is over for us, it’s over for everybody else. We are all together in a pack there, so first we have to focus on staying at the top, then if we can reduce the distance between us and Chelsea after, you never know.

They have an advantage where they aren’t playing in Europe. They have no midweek games, so of course they are in a very strong position.”

On Hull City’s revival under new manager Marco Silva, Wenger added.

“I felt they played well since the start of the season but they had not always the results. The Premier League is difficult for everybody – they were a bit unlucky sometimes so they are a tough opposition for us.

Every game is difficult, especially at the Emirates. We have to prepare well to face a Hull team with more confidence than when we played them, so we have to prepare well.

We need to focus on what we do well and the quality of our game. As well these players have been great players [before] last Tuesday, they are still great players one week later. You are not a different player. You have to have common sense a little bit.”

Marco Silva

This will be Marco Silva’s fourth meeting with one of the top six in the Premier League (Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool previously) in his first five league games as Hull boss. Of those previous three games, he’s lost only one (0-2 at Chelsea), drawing 0-0 at Old Trafford and beating Liverpool at home on Matchday 24.

“I want my players to keep their feet on the ground (after beating Liverpool 2-0 last Saturday and holding Manchester United to a goalless draw three days previously), said Silva

We have won nothing yet, and the hard work must continue.

I want more from my team after our last two results. We have the quality to give more and play better.”

Silva managed Olympiakos to a 3-2 Champions League win over

Arsenal at Emirates Stadium in September 2015.

“Of course I have a good memories of Arsenal,” added Silva.

My last result there was a great experience, but Saturday is a different moment.”

Team News

Arsenal

Mohamed Elneny has returned from playing for Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations and will return to the squad.

Hector Bellerin faces a fitness test after sustaining a head injury in the first half of the defeat to Chelsea last Saturday.

Granit Xhaka serves the final match of his 4 game suspension after being sent off against Burnley.

Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles) remain out injured.

Provisional squad: Cech, Ospina, Martinez, Bellerin, Debuchy, Jenkinson, Holding, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Gibbs, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Sanchez, Perez, Giroud.

Hull City

Ahmed Elmohamady will be available after helping Egypt reach the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Michael Dawson (calf), Abel Hernandez (hamstring), Curtis Davies (hamstring) and Markus Henriksen (shoulder), Ryan Mason (head) are all out injured.

Lazar Markovic, ineligible to face his parent club Liverpool last week, is available again.

Provisional squad: Jakupovic, Marshall, Elabdellaoui, Ranocchia, Maguire, Robertson, Elmohamady, Huddlestone, N’Diaye, Grosicki, Meyler, Evandro, Tymon, Clucas, Markovic, Niasse, Diomande, Maloney, Mbokani.

Match Officials

Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Assistants: J Collin, A Holmes
Fourth official: R East

Odds (subject to change):

Arsenal 3/10

Draw 11/2

Hull 12/1

Prediction

Arsenal to get back to winning ways with a 3-1 win.

 

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