Arsenal and Hull City meet in the FA Cup for a third consecutive season this Saturday. The Gunners beat the Tigers in the 2014 final in dramatic fashion, and again in the third round of the tournament in 2015.
Hull City currently finds their selves 1st in the Championship and are coming off hot form in January where the won six matches in a row. February has been less kind with the club drawing, losing, and winning once each.
Arsenal are on the back of a disappointing January, but have altered their fortunes in February so far with two consecutive wins. Their last win came last weekend against Leicester City thanks to a last gasp goal from Danny Welbeck. The win breathed new life into Arsenal’s title bid and rejuvenated the squad.
Arsene Wenger spoke to the media ahead of Saturday’s and revealed some team news. Laurent Koscielny is likely to be fit after suffering a dead leg in last weekend’s match, but Gabriel will miss out with a hamstring injury. The Brazilian center back had traveled to his native Brazil for treatment and a timetable for his return remains murky.
New signing Mohammad Elneny is set to make his second start for the club and Alex Iwobi will continue his run in the FA Cup. The manager acknowledged he would field a strong side, although a significant amount of rotation is expected on Saturday.
Arsenal face Barcelona in their 1st leg match in the Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday. After that, Arsenal plays Manchester United and then Swansea City a few days later, before facing Tottenham seven days after their match at Old Trafford. With a tough fixture ahead and five games in 15 days, rotation is necessary.
Nick Powell, on loan from Man United, will make his debut for Hull, but Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden, on loan from Arsenal, will both miss the cup-tie against their parent club.
Here is Arsenal’s most probable starting lineup against Hull City on Saturday.
Goalkeeper – Ospina
David Ospina steps into goal in place of Petr Cech. Ospina is Arsenal “cup keeper,” which provides Cech the chance to rest ahead of Arsenal’s busy schedule.
Right Back – Bellerin
With Gabriel set to miss out and uncertainty surrounding Koscielny’s involvement this weekend, Calum Chambers will start at center back, meaning Hector Bellerin starts at right back.
Center Backs – Mertesacker & Chambers
Per Mertesacker gets his second consecutive start. His partner will be Chambers who replaces Gabriel in the side. Chambers would have likely played right back if not for a series of injuries to his defensive teammates. Center back is a better fit for the young English defender anyways.
Chambers looked assured on the ball and strong in defense against Leicester City. It was an encouraging performance and gives reason to believe the manager will trust Chambers in different situations as the season winds down.
Left Back – Gibbs
Much like Ospina, Kieran Gibbs is Arsenal’s “cup left back.” He takes the place of Nacho Monreal who will be rested ahead of a tricky matchup against Barcelona’s three-headed attacking force.
Gibbs has played well when called upon and there is very little drop off in quality when he starts.
Defensive Mid – Coquelin
In an ideal world, Francis Coquelin wouldn’t take part this weekend, allowing him to rest up for Barcelona. However, because the Frenchman is just returning from injury and is still seeking fitness, Wenger will likely give Coquelin a 60-minute run out to give his midfield stalwart some needed minutes.
Coquelin made his second start this past weekend since returning from injury three weeks ago, but only played 60-minutes as Arsenal chased a goal. The fact that he didn’t play the full 90 should allow Coquelin to start this match and Tuesday’s match.
Central Mid – Elneny
Elneny has been omitted from every Arsenal squad since making his debut for the club against Burnley in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. His absence has not been fully explained, although we know he missed one match due to the birth of his first child.
Wenger singled out Elneny as one of the players who will take part in this match. Hull City will provide the Egyptian international the opportunity to continue to gel with his new teammates and find his role in the squad. His energy and commitment on the pitch should compliment Coquelin well, although playing next to Coquelin will also test Elneny’s distribution abilities.
We will learn a lot about Elneny from this match.
Attacking Mid – Iwobi
Alex Iwobi has started in the number 10 role in both of Arsenal’s FA Cup ties this season, and considering how well he performed in those matches, there is no reason to believe he won’t get another opportunity on Saturday.
Iwobi’s dribbling abilities and confidence on the ball has allowed him to excel in this position. Playing through the middle of the field has also allowed the Nigerian international to exhibit his distribution skills, and Arsenal hasn’t missed a beat with him replacing Mesut Özil.
Arsenal and Nigerian footballing legend, Nwankwo Kanu tipped Iwobi as a star for the future, claiming he is the type of talent Nigeria need right now. It certainly looks like Arsenal has a quality young player on their hands.
Wide Right – Campbell
Wenger has opted for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott the past few matches. Campbell impressed in the absence of Alexis for two months but has fallen back down the pecking order with Oxlade-Chamberlain’s form improving.
The Costa Rican international deserves to start in this match based off his previous form. He seemed a little burnt out towards the end of January and maybe the two weeks off will reenergize him. He will be needed over the next two weeks, as the same 11 players cannot play in five fixtures over that period of time.
Wide Left – Walcott
Walcott came on against Leicester City and made an immediate impact by scoring Arsenal’s equalizer with a nice inside foot finish off an Oliver Giroud headed layoff. Walcott was energetic as a substitute last weekend and put in a significantly improved performance compared to the one we saw against Southampton.
Walcott’s is best used in situations like we saw last weekend, when Arsenal are chasing a goal. However, he will replace Alexis who hasn’t quite hit peak form since returning to injury.
Striker – Welbeck
Welbeck made a surprise return against Leicester on Sunday and made an even bigger impact by scoring the winning goal in the dying seconds of the match. Wenger had tipped Welbeck to make his full return in this match, but included him in Sunday’s squad after the English striker impressed in two training sessions before the Leicester match.
Expectations should be lowered ahead of this match, as it will be Welbeck’s first start in 10 months. The goal last weekend is excellent for his confidence but he is still seeking fitness and form. Saturday’s match is an opportunity for Welbeck to get valuable minutes under his belt ahead of a busy end to the season.
Via – Lineup Builder