Saturday, December 19, 2009

Preview : Arsenal vs Hull City


The visit of Hull to Emirates Stadium will not dredge up favourable memories for Arsenal after they were the victims of one of the shocks of the season when the Tigers came away from North London with a 2-1 win last year, thanks to goals from Daniel Cousin and Geovanni.

It was a result that threatened to expose Arsenal as top-four charlatans and paint Hull as potential European challengers. Fifteen months on, and Phil Brown's improving Tigers are one point above the relegation zone, while his opposite number, Arsene Wenger, saw his side secure an important victory at Liverpool last weekend to reignite their title challenge.

But a glimmer of hope for Hull fans came on Wednesday night when Arsenal were held by promoted Burnley at Turf Moor to sit eight points behind leaders Chelsea, with a game in hand. Wenger's side were uninspired, sloppy and lacking in fight. Just the combination of elements that saw them fall victim to Geovanni's thunderbolt in September 2008.

The Gunners will also be missing captain Cesc Fabregas after the Spaniard picked up a hamstring injury against Burnley and if he does sit in the stands to watch the game, then he would be well-advised to dress to impress. Following an FA Cup tie in March, Phil Brown accused Fabregas, who again was out injured, of spitting at his assistant Brian Horton and questioned the player's attire, remarking: "What was he doing on the pitch [after the final whistle] wearing clothes like that?" Fabregas was cleared of cleared of any wrong-doing.

Arsenal team news: Wednesday's draw at Burnley cost Arsenal the services of Fabregas due to a hamstring problem and he will not play on Saturday, leaving Arsenal without their two leading players as Robin van Persie is a long-term absentee. With Gael Clichy, Kieran Gibbs and Armand Traore out, Mikael Silvestre will continue as fourth-choice left back. Tomas Rosicky (hamstring), Nicklas Bendtner (groin) and Johan Djourou (knee) remain sidelined.

Hull team news: Midfield talisman Jimmy Bullard is still sidelined with a knee injury, but long-term injury victim Ian Ashbee aside, that is the only serious selection problem for Brown who has an otherwise healthy squad.

Probable Arsenal team (4-3-3): Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Silvestre, Song, Denilson, Nasri, Eboue, Eduardo, Arshavin.

Probable Hull team (4-5-1): Myhill, McShane, Gardner, Zayatte, Dawson, Geovanni, Boateng, Marney, Garcia, Hunt, Fagan.

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