Arsenal vs Hull City: Arsene Wenger eager for one more dose of FA Cup tonic

The Gunners start as defending champions, and against the same team they beat in the final last May

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The Independent Football

Hull City arrive at the Emirates on Sunday in a repeat of the FA Cup final that was supposed to turn Arsenal from bridesmaids to brides. However, Arsene Wenger’s team look as far away from claiming the Premier League title as ever despite the confidence boost of breaking their nine-year trophy drought at Wembley.

Injuries are a key factor; after losing at Southampton Per Mertesacker lamented the fact so many players are out recuperating personnel have to be rushed back prematurely. The consequence was plain at St Mary’s with a rusty Laurent Koscielny performing as poor as the main scapegoat, goalkeeper Wojiech Szczesny.

Neither are likely to start, Szczesny because Wenger has a policy of fielding goalkeeping understudies in cup matches, with David Ospina likely to take over, Koscielny because Wenger is wary of his being re-injured.

That the manager himself remains focused on the task was made clear when he said that suggestions that he would have quit had Arsenal lost in May were wide of the mark.

“Walk away, no,” he said. “Look, I have just won my 600th [Premier League] game out of 1000. That means I have won 60 per cent of the games and after 18 years it would not be serious to walk away for losing one game. I do my job as well as I can and I respect my contracts always.”

Nevertheless Wenger’s celebrations were unusually jubilant and he explained: “It was because we didn’t win for years a trophy. And as well, two-nil down after 10 minutes the fact we could turn it around and win was a fantastic relief.

“It was nice to see our fans happy and shows you how big the club is. It's a great memory but we have a big job to do on Sunday. We want another cup run and we want to, if possible, keep the trophy. We won it five times in my period and that means we give it the importance it has.

“We must also come back in the Premier League and then we have the Champions League. For sure we have room for improvement and we have to manage to do that quickly.”


That will be difficult given the injury list. Wenger added: “I cannot rotate too much because we need the stability - we have to be cautious on Sunday because Hull is a difficult team to play. And who comes back? Basically we have the 18 players [on duty at Southampton]. Nobody else will come back.”

Wenger did, however, reveal Mathieu Flamini might return, but Mesut Ozil, though back in training, is not ready.

“We have a big squad but obviously we need fit players,” said Mertesacker. “For example Laurent had to play [at Southampton]. He cannot train for two or three weeks first because we have no players left. Players come back but they have to play immediately. We could do with a small break, but we need to prepare ourselves for Sunday. But I’m pretty sure we will come back because of our team and spirit. We never give up no matter what happens, that is my feeling.

“In 2015, we have to realise and remind ourselves every day that we need to be at our best especially away from home. The season before we showed how good we can be. We have suffered a lot of injuries, but we have to deliver results.”

Arsene Wenger in defeat to Southampton


Incidentally, the man who abused the Arsenal bench during the game at Southampton has now been named as Luke Bryant, 25, from Lymington, Hampshire, which suggests he is not, as Southampton intimated after the match, an Arsenal fan. He has been charged with going on to an area adjacent to the pitch contrary to the Football (Offences) Act 1991.

The Tigers travel to London buoyed by two wins in three matches which has lifted them out of the relegation zone after a poor run. Unlike in May they will also have Nikica Jelavic, cup-tied during last season’s FA Cup run, available.