Back in its rightful place on the last day of the season (although not at 3pm), it is FA Cup final weekend with Arsenal hoping to finally have some joy in a cup final at the new Wembley and Hull looking to win their first ever major competition.
This is a massive match for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger after 9 years with no trophy firmly hanging over them. Wenger will be happy with Arsenal’s form heading into the match though, with 5 wins on the bounce – including a 3-0 victory over Hull – since their last troublesome visit to Wembley against Wigan last month. Another added bonus for Wenger is the manner in which those matches have been won as the return of Ramsey and Ozil to the side has seen Arsenal return to their early season performances.
After beating Sheffield United 5-3 last month, it will Hull City’s first ever FA Cup final and they will be seen as the cup final underdogs, something the players and fans alike could blossom under. Unlike their opponents though, Hull’s form has dropped drastically since they confirmed their place in the final with 4 defeats in 5 matches and conceding 13 goals during this period.
Ask football fans about Arsenal’s title challenge this season and the reply most will give is “they could have done it if Ramsey didn’t get injured”. This reaction sums up the influence and high level of performances Ramsey has produced this year.
The link up play between Ramsey and Ozil has been exceptional at times this season and is a major part of what is so good about Arsenal’s attacking play. Scoring a personal best of 10 league goals, including last weekend’s stupendous volley, assisting 8 and creating 10 clear cut chances, shows the big impact he has in the attacking half.
Ramsey’s work rate also means he offers bite in midfield that has been missing from Arsenal so often in the last few years. Despite being injured for a large part of the season, Ramsey continued to lead the most tackles (65) for Arsenal before Arteta overtook him in the last few weeks.
After spending considerable time out of favour at Tottenham, Tom Huddlestone moved to Hull City last summer to reprove his quality as a player – and that he has done.
Playing in the heart of the Hull side, Huddlestone has put in some excellent performances that not only helped the Tigers stay in the Premier League but also saw him mentioned with a possible return to the England team.
His physical presence means that he can be an annoyance to opposition attacking players and the former Tottenham midfielder has won 132 ground duels and 61 tackles. Huddlestone can offer something going forward as well, being confident on the ball to pass it either short or long – completing the most passes for Hull (1497) – while also having a good delivery from set pieces (43% success rate).
The goal scoring record of the midfielder has been well-documented with his bet not to cut his hair until he scored a goal, which ended up lasting years – until this season. After scoring against Fulham, Huddlestone followed it up with 2 more and if he can add another to that total on Saturday he won’t have to buy a drink again around Tottenham.
- This will be Hull’s third visit to the new Wembley, after winning on both of their previous trips (last month in the semi-final and the play-off win against Bristol City in 2009).
- Arsenal have played at Wembley on 3 occasions and have never won after 90 or 120 minutes (1-2 Chelsea FA Cup semi-final 08/09, 1-2 Birmingham 2010/11, 0-0 Wigan FA Cup semi-final 2013/14).
- The last meeting between these two sides in the FA Cup was in 2009 and ended in a 2-1 Arsenal victory.
- No Hull players that featured remain at the club, while Arsenal have 6 remaining in their ranks (Fabianski, Gibbs, Sagna, Diaby, Bendtner, and Walcott).
- Arsenal’s last 5 matches have seen them scored 12 goals and concede only 1.
- Saturday’s match will be Arsene Wenger’s 10th final and 6th FA Cup final as manager of Arsenal.
- Matty Fryatt has scored 10 goals in 13 FA Cup starts during his career.
- Hull have won just three of their last 11 FA Cup matches when pitted against a team from the same division with the matches resulting in 1 draw and 7 defeats.
Both Vermaelen and Oxlade-Chamberlain will have late fitness tests, but Gnabry, Miyaichi and Walcott will all miss out due to injury.
Hull will give late fitness tests to James Chester and Robbie Brady before determining their inclusion in the side. Two players definitely set to miss out though will be Long and Jelavic who are both cup-tied.
The mental strength problem that has reappeared on numerous occasions will be in the minds of Arsenal fans as they walk up Wembley Way and Steve Bruce will want his team to start fast and get in their opponents’ faces to build on the nerves. Given the way the Arsenal team are playing and the brilliance of Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal will get over any tricky start to run out worthy winners and end the trophy drought.
Arsenal 3-1 Hull City