Can the Gunners beat the Tigers
Can the Gunners beat the Tigers

Hull City host Arsenal in the Premier League at the KCOM Stadium this afternoon.

The Gunners go into the fifth round of matches in seventh place in the Premier League table with seven points from four matches.

Their hosts are one place below them on goal difference with the same same number of points from their opening four fixtures.

Arsenal will be looking to build on their back-to-back Premier League victories over Watford and Southampton.

It would be the first time the Gunners have won three consecutive Premier League games since December 2015.

Arsenal are also unbeaten in their last 25 Premier League games against newly-promoted sides (W21 D4), since a 1-2 defeat at QPR in March 2012.

Hull had a torrid summer with Steve Bruce resigning in July and an expected takeover not materialising as expected during the summer.

Caretaker boss Mike Phelan started the season with just thirteen fit first team players. It didn’t stop Phelan from being named the Premier League manager of the month for August and he has told the media that he has now been offered the managerial job on a full-time basis.

Despite all the problems this has been Hull’s best start to a Premier League campaign after four games – they also had seven points in 2008-09, but had a negative goal difference.

Hull are the first Premier League team to have had an unchanged starting line-up for the opening four games since Newcastle in 2010.

The Tigers current owners are now reported to be in talks with a Chinese consortium, led by Chien Lee, owner of French club Nice, about a takeover following the breakdown of a different bid from China investors earlier in the year.

Arsenal needed an injury time penalty from Santi Cazorla to see off Southampton 2-1 last Saturday, before a late equaliser from Alexis Sanchez snatched them a point in their opening Champions League group match with Paris Saint-Germain.

The Gunners will want to avoid any more late drama today.

Interestingly though Hull’s last three matches have all been goalless at half-time and featured a goal in the 90th minute or later.

Head-to-Head

Since beating Arsenal in their opening Premier League meeting  in September 2008, Hull City have lost six of the last seven meetings with the Gunners (D1).

Arsenal have won five of their previous six visits to Hull City in the league, losing only once to them in April 1915.

Should Arsenal defeat Hull, they will have won the most games at the KCOM Stadium as an away side in all competitions (currently five – level with Burnley).

The two sides have also played each other four times in the FA Cup in the last three seasons – Hull have won none of these games, including the 2014 FA Cup Final (D1).

Key Men

The attacking threat from Hull City comes from Uruguayan forward Abel Hernandez, who is likely to be flanked by Adama Diomande and Robert Snodgrass in a 4-3-3 formation.

The Tigers also rely on their full-backs Ahmed Elmohamady and Andy Robertson getting into attacking positions from which to get crosses into the box.

So whoever plays the wide attacking roles for Arsenal in their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation will need to be mindful of tracking back to cover the full-backs.

Alexis Sanchez has a liking for playing against Hull City. He has scored four times and assisted two goals in four previous games against the Tigers in all competitions.

Santi Cazorla has been pivotal in the wins over Watford and Southampton scoring penalties in both matches. He has also assisted two more goals in his four Premier League appearances so far this season.

Cazorla’s last seven Premier League goals have been from the penalty spot – one more will create a new record in the division for the most (currently he is tied with Danny Murphy, Jan Molby and Mikel Arteta).

The Managers

Mike Phelan

On the positive start made by his side and the threat posed by Arsenal, Phelan said.

“There is a bit of belief now and hopefully we can cement our place outside the bottom area of the league.

If you get in that area it can be difficult, so we have to be in the frame of mind that we can go to the next level.

Arsenal are a fabulous team with a certain way of playing football and they challenge you all of the time in different areas of the field.

We’ve conducted ourselves really well so far and we’ll be up for this challenge.”

Despite having six new signings available to face Arsenal, Phelan is likely to remain loyal to the players who have helped Hull to a solid start on their to the Premier League.

“The players who have had the shirts recently are in the box seat because they have been performing and it’s up to them to continue with that, said Phelan.   The one thing we have now is a great squad. Whether we change or not tomorrow will be a decision I have to make. We’ve got three immense games coming up and I’m sure those will test the squad to the full. They say patience is a virtue. I have plenty of it and I hope the players do too.  We have players who can come off the bench and contribute to a match now and we can use that to the full.”

Arsene Wenger

Arsenal dropped five points in their opening two fixtures against Liverpool and Leicester City. Arsene Wenger though believes the back-to-back wins against Watford and Southampton are indicators that his side are beginning to show more consistency to make up the ground lost on their rivals.

We had a difficult start, Wenger said. ‘After that we were quickly under pressure and the mental solidity of the squad is tested straight away.

We have already to make some ground up against teams who have started well. The mental state of the squad is good but now we have to show consistency.’

Due to storm weather and resultant traffic disruption in and around London on Thursday night and Friday morning, Arsenal’s schedule was interrupted as the team and their manager turned up late at London Colney. It meant Wenger’s  9.00am press conference was delayed until 1.00pm.

It disrupted your press conference but we have to deal with that,’ Wenger said, jokingly. ’It’s nothing traumatic. The late players will not be fined – the M25 will be fined.”

On his opposite number, Wenger added.

“He (Phelan) is doing very well. He’s a real football man who has given some stability to Hull.”

Team News

Hull City

New striker loan signing from Dynamo Kiev Dieumerci Mbokani is expected to be included in squad.

New signings Ryan Mason and Will Keane are pushing for starts after making their debuts as substitutes in last week’s 1-1 draw at Burnley. Other new recruits Markus Henriksen, James Weir and David Marshall are also in the squad.

Provisional squad: Jakupovic, Marshall, Elmohamady, Davies, Robertson, Livermore, Clucas, Maloney, Snodgrass, Diomande, Keane, Huddlestone, Meyler, Mason, Hernandez, Maguire, Henriksen, Weir, Mbokani.

Arsenal

Petr Cech is set to return in-goal for David Ospina despite a man-of-the-match performance by the Colombian against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Aaron Ramsey remains sidelined with the hamstring injury he picked up in the opening fixture home defeat to Liverpool. Ramsey has resumed training and may return for the next Premier League fixture with Chelsea.

Theo Walcott is a doubt with the knee injury that kept him out of the match with Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite his red-card against Paris Saint-Germain Olivier Giroud is pushing for a first start of the season, which could see Lucas Perez dropping to the bench and Alexis Sanchez resuming his favoured wide role. Giroud though is being assessed for a minor toe injury.

Granit Xhaka who has been on the bench for the matches with Southampton and Paris Saint-Germain is also pressing for a start.

Provisional squad: Cech, Ospina, Debuchy, Bellerin, Holding, Koscielny, Mustafi, Gibbs, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Xhaka, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott, Iwobi, Lucas, Akpom, Giroud.

Referee

Roger East

Prediction

Arsenal to claim a third straight Premier League win in a row with a 3-1 win.

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