Arsenal vs Hull match report: Danny Welbeck’s leveller holds the fans’ revolution at bay

Arsenal 2 Hull 2: Welbeck struck in the 90th minute to rescue a point after Diame and Hernandez had put Hull in a shock lead

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The Independent Football

Hull City’s resistance mocked memories of the celebratory parade, where flags flew, the FA Cup was flaunted, and tearful supplicants pledged undying allegiance to the Dear Leader, Arsène Wenger. Much more of this, and revolution will be in the air.

When the sound and fury had abated, and the holders of football’s most expensive season tickets considered the poverty of a point secured by a Danny Welbeck equaliser as a frantic match entered added time, a mood of revealing resignation settled on a fast-emptying Emirates.

The emotional intensity of a dramatic draw was draining, but that could not adequately explain the mood. Arsenal are sixth, 11 points behind leaders Chelsea, and Wenger surprised no one by admitting: “It is a big concern.”

Despite the fans’ bile at Roger East, a notably inadequate referee, there was a grudging acknowledgement that Hull deserved reward for their resistance. The loss of Nikica Jelavic in the warm-up with a twisted knee was followed by injuries to Abel Hernandez, his replacement, Steve Harper, their second choice goalkeeper, and Michael Dawson, their defensive rock.

 

Theories about Wenger’s poor management of his squad acquired sudden substance. His reticence in the transfer market has left Arsenal so short of cover at the back he was obliged to rely on the potency of his front five. The glaring inadequacy of Mathieu Flamini as a defensive midfielder was emphasised when he was substituted soon on the hour.

Wenger has promised jam tomorrow with new recruits in the January window, but his 65th birthday celebrations on Wednesday, when he will be preoccupied by the Champions League tie against Anderlecht in Belgium, will be muted.

He was sensitive to suggestions he should have purchased a defender in the summer, arguing: “Other teams have signed defenders and they are also conceding goals.”

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Sanchez opened the scoring for Arsenal

Arsenal remain in thrall to the principle of benevolent dictatorship. The splendid Sir Chips Keswick admitted as much in Thursday’s AGM, where Wenger posed for selfies and cuddled babies with the relish of a mob politician. He straddles the thin line between stability and complacency, longevity and stagnation. No one dares to address succession planning, but his current three-year contract, which expires in the summer of 2017, has an air of finality. He is referred to as a “giant” by his chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, but that extension would, in all probability, have not been signed had not Hull surrendered a two goal lead at Wembley, and Arsenal ended a 3,282-day wait for a trophy back in May.

Quality carries a price tag which should be within Arsenal’s reach. Alexis Sanchez, good value for his supposed fee of £35million, appeared to provide the perfect platform with a reaffirmation of his class. His 13th minute solo goal, in which he bamboozled Curtis Davies and placed a low shot across Harper into the far corner, was sublime.

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Diame was alert to score for Hull

Hull, though, equalised in incendiary manner, Mohamed Diamé being permitted to manhandle Flamini before taking advantage of a static defence by cooly dinking the ball over Wojciech Szczesny.

“An individual piece of grappling,” beamed Steve Bruce. “Maybe we got a decision there. You don’t get many here.” The loss of Harper with a ruptured bicep – “Get in the goal, Steve. You’ll fill it,” shouted a fan – was taken in their stride.

Seconds after the restart no one tracked Hernandez, who exploited the incoherence of Per Mertesacker’s defending to score a header. Hull ended playing 9-1-0. Arsenal, flooding forward, were rescued by Welbeck’s precise finish, after Sanchez’s sinuous run past three flailing defenders.

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Hernandez came off the bench to put Hull ahead

Bruce moaned: “That’s the fourth time this season we’ve conceded in the last minute”. No one had the heart to remind him his side couldn’t defend a lead at Wembley as well. Had they done so, Arsenal would be a very different club today.

Line-ups:

Arsenal (4-1-4-1): Szczesny; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs; Flamini (Ramsey, 63); Sanchez, Wilshere (Campbell, 69), Cazorla, Oxlade Chamberlain; Welbeck

Hull (3-5-2): Harper (Jakupovic, 41); Chester, Da.vies, Dawson (Bruce, 83); Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Livermore, Diamé, Robertson; Ben Arfa, Hernandez (Ramirez, 63).

Referee: Roger East

Man of the match: Dawson (Hull)

Match rating: 7/10

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