On a warm summer day in mid May of the year 2014, Arsenal fans around the world were more than ever, connected by a desire so strong you could sense it when you walked in the midst of them.
With just under 12mins of extra time to play, tension was screaming in the air, fear pulsing in the collective hearts of the Arsenal faithfuls.
The earth shook with the screams. On that day, everything changed for Arsenal FC, everything changed for the fans, but most importantly, a love was born.
It is difficult for any Arsenal supporter to look at Hull City as an opponent with anything short of fond memories, bordering on love. They granted us the opportunity to end our near 9-year (3,283 days and 512 games) trophy drought in the most enjoyable way possible. No doubt the win would have been much less joy gripping if we beat them 4-0, as we did Aston Villa last season.
We face them again this weekend in the FA cup having beaten them last season 2-0. As always, I am cautiously optimistic about the game, mainly because beating them 3/3 in a row, in the same competition seems too good to be true, especially as we are gunning for our hat-trick of FA Cup trophy this season. This is Arsenal and something always tends to go wrong when it should’t.
Being an ex avid Arsenal fantasy dreamer, I can’t help but think of Hull City as our good luck opponents in this competition and beating them might mean winning the trophy for that elusive third consecutive time, at which point the competition should be renamed from Emirates FA Cup to Arsenal’s FA Cup for next season. Pretty neat eh?
Looking at our squad and the ultimate test that lies ahead in midweek against the Catalonians, it is safe to speculate that Arsene will rest some key players.
I think that squad is strong enough to deliver a good enough performance if they do not get the Van Gala philosophy bug. Alexis needs some much needed match fitness cos his performances have been below par — especially against Leicester — so he’d do better to start than be on the bench, same goes for Coquelin.
Injury to Gabriel means we are a bit short in CB, which means we can’t afford to risk Koscielny. We can only rest two of our back four.
The major problem I see with a line up like this (one that offers most of the first team a rest) is that there will be no cohesiveness to our attacking play and our defence as is often on days like this, will make a few silly mistakes.
Chamberlain will need to turn in a performance akin to that which he pulled off against Bayern a lifetime ago — when his decision making wasn’t as bad as Podolski’s movement — to combat this problem. If Chamberlain is able to strike a decent creative partnership with Iwobi, and one of Alexis/Campbell sticks to being an outlet with Welbeck making intelligent runs, we will be fine.
Considering the team had a full week’s rest, I could see the manager making a very few changes to the team, only offering rests to those who really need it. This wouldn’t be a bad idea as it would ensure that everyone is match sharp as well as match fit. Alas, it is a relief to not be the one to make these decisions, although for more than $10m a year I wouldn’t mind much.