Technically speaking, the difference between the teams in the Premier League contest on Humberside yesterday evening was the goalscoring touches in the last eight minutes by Samir Nasri and Nicklas Bendtner. In truth, it was the Dutch master in the No 11 shirt for Arsenal. The late flourish that pulled victory out of the bag for the Gunners was orchestrated by the brilliance of Robin van Persie. The man from Rotterdam set up the goals for Nasri and Bendtner, making it a hat-trick of assists for the former Feyenoord player.
Van Persie had teed up the opener for Emmanuel Adebayor on the half-hour and also hit the crossbar with a free-kick. "He was outstanding," the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, said. He was that. And the Gunners needed his touches of sheer class, Daniel Cousin's equaliser midway through the second half having threatened to leave the London side with just a point. As it was, Arsenalremain only the three joints down on Aston Villa in the race for fourth place in the Premier League.
Wenger acknowledged that Villa's winning comeback earlier in the day at Sunderland had put "extra pressure" on his side. "But the players showed they could deal with it," he added. "We had the mental resolve to keep going. This team is a determined one."
Determination was the very least that Wenger's Gunners required against a Hull team who played with a Tigerish resolve to stop their slide down the table. Phil Brown's side, 2-1 winners at the Emirates back in September, have lost five League games in a row now and have gleaned just one win from their last 13 Premier League fixtures.
They started brightly yesterday, Geovanni and Nathan Doyle spurning chances in the opening seven minutes. It took Arsenal 12 minutes to build up an attacking head of steam, although it was from a long-range free-kick that they posed their first threat to the home guard. Fortunately for Hull, their defensive wall managed to deflect wide Van Persie's 30-yard effort. Hull's hustling succeeded in keeping Arsenal at bay for the next quarter of an hour, and then the brilliance of Van Persie began to make a difference.
After 28 minutes, Hull's captain Ian Ashbee fouled Emmanuel Eboué outside the right edge of the home box and Van Persie had another free-kick. His curling left-footed strike was finger-tipped on to the crossbar by Boaz Myhill and Bernard Mendy managed to scramble the ball to safety with Johan Djourou poised to pounce on the loose ball.
The reprieve for Hull was merely temporary. On the half-hour, Van Persie landed a right-wing corner on the sixpence of Adebayor's head and the Togolese striker nodded the ball back across goal into the near corner of the net. One-nil to the Arsenal, then, and it ought to have been two before half-time, Eboué producing an agricultural finish when Adebayor left the coast clear for the Ivorian winger.
Six minutes into the second half, Adebayor had the chance to stretch the lead himself but his low drive from the left edge of the area was beaten out by Myhill. Hull gradually clawed their way back and their reward came in the 65th minute. Mendy dispatched a cross from wide on the right and Cousin equalised with a stooping header from six yards.
Suddenly, the Tigers were scenting a famous victory to set alongside their autumn win at the Emirates. It was not to be. With eight minutes to go, Van Persie twisted free on the edge of the home penalty area and set up Nasri for a cross-shot that regained the lead for the Gunners. Then, five minutes later, Bendtner played a ball out to Van Persie on the right side of the area and swept home the first-time return. It was the finest of one-twos and 3-1 to the Arsenal.
Referee: Alan Wiley
Man of the match: Van Persie
Match rating: 7/10