FA Cup final 2014: Mesut Ozil v Tom Huddlestone, plus other key battles between Arsenal and Hull
A look at where the contest might be won at Wembley
Friday 16 May 2014
Arsenal and Hull City meet in the FA Cup final at Wembley this Saturday. Here, we take a look at the key battles...
PER MERTESACKER v YANNICK SAGBO
Mertesacker has had a standout year leading the Arsenal back line and emerging as a worthy Gunners captain. The German centre-back is a muscular presence in a side built on finesse, brings plenty of experience and popped up with a crucial goal to force extra-time in the semi-final against Wigan. He will be spared the dangerous partnership of cup-tied duo Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, meaning Ivorian Sagbo is his likeliest rival. A bargain buy from Evian in the summer, he has scored twice in the cup so far - including his side's first at Wembley in the 5-3 semi-final success over Sheffield United. And while Hull are in their first ever FA Cup final, Sagbo appeared - and scored - in the French equivalent last season.
Yannick Sagbo of Hull City on the ball during the FA Cup semi-final against Hull City and Sheffield United
MESUT OZIL v TOM HUDDLESTONE
Former Real Madrid 'galactico' Ozil has enjoyed a rollercoaster introduction to English football. Having arrived as that rarest of things - a big-money Arsene Wenger signing - he initially hoovered up plaudits from all and sundry for his skilful midfield probing. But his influence has waned with time and criticisms that he is off the pace of English football have become louder. Helping to end Arsenal's nine-year trophy drought would go a long way to easing those concerns and he will vie with Huddlestone in the central areas. The former Tottenham man has been a revelation since his surprise summer arrival, dictating his side's tempo and keeping opponents guessing with a delightfully two-footed range of passing. Control of the area in front of Hull's back four - where Ozil and Huddlestone will both gravitate - will be crucial.
Tom Huddlestone in action against Arsenal
OLIVIER GIROUD v CURTIS DAVIES
France striker Giroud looked to have a heavy goalscoring burden ahead of him at the start of the season, with no obvious understudy at the club, and so it has proved. But, despite tough times in his personal life and intermittent signs of fatigue, he has been a reliable foot soldier for Wenger and reached 20 goals for the season on April 15. Responsibility for shackling him at Wembley will fall to Davies, whose return to top-flight football has been a resounding success. A vocal organiser at the back and fearless tackler, Davies' value has rocketed past the £2.25million Birmingham banked for him last summer. Davies will be a key figure at set-pieces in both areas and may yet be called on to repeat the half-time team talk that inspired Hull's semi-final comeback.
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