The Oldest Football Knock-out Competition has once again thrown a Final very few would have predicted at the beginning of the season. Arsenal and Hull City would contest the Final of the 143rd FA CUP season.
For Arsenal, this is once again another chance to win silverware and end that trophy less streak that dates back to2005 when they saw off Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side in a nervy penalty shoot-out.
For Hull City, this is an uncharted territory as they’ll be making their first FA CUP Final in the club’s 110 year history. They’ll certainly want to make the best of it and take the scalp of another Big Side just as Wigan did last year to money bags, Manchester City.
Come the 17th of May, Wembley and the Whole World would witness the mother of all English FA Cup Finals but before then, let’s have a preview and see where the match could possibly be won and lost.
PREMIER LEAGUE POSITION AND LAST WEEKEND ENGAGEMENT
ARSENAL: The Gunners ended their Premier League Campaign with a straightforward 2-0 over Norwich City at the Carrow Road.
HULL CITY: Hull City on the other hand warmed up for this Final with a home defeat to Everton. The defeat was their third successive one. Their last victory was in the FA Cup Semi Final
Not an ideal way to prepare for a Cup Final.
ROAD TO FINAL
The Gunners began their FA Cup campaign in the Third Round and Wenger’s men have certainly not had it all their way in their journey to Wembley.
They eased past London Rivals, Tottenham in the Third Round at the Emirates 2-0 thanks to goals from Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky.
In the Fourth Round, goals from Oliver Giroud, Santi Cazorla and a brace from German Forward, Podolski ensured a straightforward 4-0 home win against Coventry.
On the 16th of February, goals from the Oxlade Chamberlain and yet again Podolski helped Arsenal to a 2-1 victory over Liverpool which helped gain some measure of revenge for the 5-1 drubbing they had received from the hands of the Reds earlier that week.
They advanced to the sixth Round (Quarter Final) where they hit Roberto Martinez Everton’s side4-1 at the Emirates to book their ticket to Wembley to face current Cup-Holders, Wigan Athletic.
In the semis, a 63rd minute penalty from Gomez looked as if was going to be enough for Wigan but Per Mertesacker, with other ideas, thumped in the equalizer in the 82nd minute to take the match to Extra Time and then the shoot out.
In the 6 meters exercise, the Gunners survived by the skin of their teeth to win the shoot out 4-2. Lukasz Fabianski was inspired form as he kept out the efforts of Caldwell and Collison to ensure his team’s place in the Final. Arteta, Kallstorm, Giroud and Santi Cazorla were successful in their spot-kicks.
The win over Championship Side, Wigan means Arsenal reach the Final for the first time since the 1949-50 Season without having played a game outside London.
This is Arsenal 18th FA Cup Final and they’ve won 10 of the previous 17.Only Manchester United have won more (11)
ARSENAL’S FA CUP GOAL SCORERS
- OLIVER GIROUD- 3 GOALS
- LUKAS PODOLSKI- 3 GOALS
- SANTI CAZORLA – 2 GOALS
- TOMAS ROSICKY – 1 GOAL
- ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN – 1 GOAL
- MESUT OZIL – 1 GOAL
- MIKEL ARTETA – 1 GOAL
- PER MERTESACKER – 1 GOAL
It’s relatively been an easy and straightforward campaign for the Tigers as they’ve faced only one Premier League opposition.
As a Premier League Club, they started their campaign in the Third Round where goals from Aaron Mc Lean and Nick Proschwitz helped Steve Bruce men to win over Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium .In the Fourth Round, a brace from Matty Fryatt helped the Tigers to a 2-0 win Southend United 2-0 at the Roofs Hall.
On the 24th of February, they saw off Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 at the KC Stadium on replay. They had been to a 1-1 draw at the Falmer Stadium on the 16th of February.
In the Quarters, Steve Bruce side got their first Premier League opposition in Sunderland and goals in the last 22 minutes from Curtis Davis, David Meyler and Matty Fryatt helped dispatch Gus Poyet side 3-0 at the KC Stadium to advance to the semis for the time in 84 years where they met Sheffield United. It was goal-flurry semis between these the two sides but Hull came from behind to win an eight goal thriller (5-3) and book their ticket to their first ever FA Cup Final.
HULL CITY’S FA CUP GOAL SCORERS
MATTY FRYATT- 4 goals
YANNICK SAGBO- 2 goals
DAVID MEYLER- 2 goals
CURTIS DAVIS-2 goals
TOM HUDDLESTONE- 1 goal
NICK PROSCHWITZ- 1goal
AARON MCLEAN- 1goal
ROBERT KOREN- 1 goal
STEPHEN QUINN (O.G)
PREVIOUS MEETINGS/HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
These two teams have met twice this season and Arsenal has been victorious in those meetings. On the 4th of December 2013, at the Emirates, the Gunners won 2-0 while on the 20th of April, at the KC Stadium, Wenger’s side prevailed 3-0. That meeting was billed as the FA Cup Final Dress rehearsal.
In total, the Gunners and the Tigers have met 13 times with the Gunners victorious on 10 occasions, suffering two defeats, one of which was a shock 2-1 home defeat, thanks to wonder Giovanni goal in the 2008/09 season. They’ve shared the spoils once
ARSENE WENGER: The 64 year old is certainly no stranger to FA Cup success. He won the Cup for the first time in the 1997-1998 season as Arsenal won the Double. In 2002, Arsene Wenger led his Army to a 2-0 victory over London Rivals, Chelsea thus completing another double. Arsenal retained the title in 2003 with a 1-0 win over Southampton.
The last time Wenger won this trophy which coincides with the last time the Gunners won Silverware was in the 2004/05 Final. They edged Manchester United on penalties after the match ended 0-0. He’s also suffered FA Cup Final heartbreak once, to Liverpool in 2001. This is His sixth FA Cup Final and tenth overall Final as Arsenal Boss. Would the Frenchman be fifth time lucky? Does his future at his Club hinge on this game? 90 minutes or possibly 120 or even a shootout would answer the questions.
STEVE BRUCE: This might be the 53 year old first FA Cup Final as a Manager but he’s already experienced Cup glory during his days as a Manchester United Player. He was part of the team that defeated Crystal Palace on replay in the 1990 FA Cup Final
He also picked up the winners medal in the 1993/94 season when the Red Devils pipped Chelsea to the title. He won for the last time as a Player in the 1995/1996 season, though left in out of the squad, in United’s 1-0 win over fierce rivals, Liverpool.
Like the Frenchman, he also suffered heartbreak in 1995 when his Manchester United lost 1-0 to Everton.
WHAT ARSENAL SHOULD DO
- Play with a Calm Mind: This Final has been built as Arsenal’s best chance to end their trophy drought as they play a highly unfancied Hull City side. The tag of being clear favorites would carry with it special pressure not only because it is a Cup Final but also due to their 8 year trophy drought; something they will desperately love to get off their back.
It is however important that they don’t allow the pressure get into their heads and minds. They have to play with calm and patience especially if the goals don’t come early. They can’t afford to get tentative.
It cost them in their League Cup Final defeat against Birmingham and almost cost them in the Semi Final win over Wigan.
It’s going to hard as the thought of ending the trophy drought would be on their minds but they can’t afford to let it affect their performance that day.
- The Big Boys Have Rise To The Occasion How Wenger must wish He has someone like Didier Drogba in his side; someone who would always deliver when it matters. While that is not worth moaning about, the likes of Cazorla, Per, Koscielny, Giroud and Ozil-especially Ozil would have to rise up and deliver. Too many times in big games this season, the big lads have gone missing and Mesut Ozil has often been an epitome of that. This is probably an opportunity for the German and his team to redeem himself. This is a Cup Final and while it might not be the clash of equals on paper, it is still nevertheless a big game. Big Games are where the Men are separated from the boys.
THE FIRST GOAL: The first goal is very important for the Gunners as if they manage to get, it will not only boost confidence a bit but would also calm the nerves of the Arsenal support in the stands.
- BE PATIENT: Unlike the previous League games where Arsenal saw off Bruce side 2-0 and 3-0, this should be a different proposition as the Tigers would most likely be more alert defensively. It is important for Arsene and his team to remain patient, calm or as it put, cool-calm and collected. They shouldn’t play into the antics of the Tigers of even the counter attacking threat the Tigers might carry.
WHAT HULL CITY SHOULD DO
- Play Narrow: The absence of Theo Walcott has badly hit Arsenal this season. This is because he provides width and stretches opposition defence. His absence has often made Arsenal play narrow with the fullbacks providing width which has been largely predictable and easy to defend against.
The Englishman would miss the final and another Gunner who could provide width, Oxlade Chamberlain is also a major doubt for the game. This means we are going to most likely see the same tactical setup with Ozil and Cazorla playing between the lines to create space.
For Hull City to have hope of getting anything out of this game, they’ll have to play narrow. Congest the narrow spaces to make them go wide which means one thing-crosses. The likes of Ozil and Podolski are not known for creating width and pushing them wide would most likely deprive Giroud/Sanogo goal scoring opportunities. Giroud in particular would be deprived of his usual link-up play with the trio behind him.
Pushing them wide would lead to opportunistic crosses which the likes of Curtis Davis should comfortably deal with. However they’ll have to also double up on the full backs to prevent cut backs.
It won’t be easy to repeat that for 90 minutes but if they can manage, and then they’ll have their chances especially on the break.
- THAT FIRST GOAL: In any Final, the first goal is always important not because it always wins the match but because it amongst other things forces the opposition to come out which lead to them being caught out on the break.
For the Tigers, scoring the first goal would obviously make Arsenal come out but more importantly, it would be a very big test of Arsenal’s mental strength especially under severe pressure. Arsenal has passed a few mental tests but this would be the most important of them.
Scoring the first goal would also send a few jitters among the Gunners fans which could lead to a nervy afternoon for the Arsenal Players.
- Solve the Defensive Problems: Hull City are not angels and if there is one thing they’ll have prepare for, then it’s got to be the defence. Sheffield hit three past them in the semis and ordinarily that should have been enough but for United’s defensive lapses. Any form of generosity from Steve Bruce men would be punished and it would be very important they stay defensively alert during the game.
- Forget the Defeats: Hull City can’t approach this match thinking of the League defeats against Arsenal this season. They’ll have to be fearless, and psychologically ready for the Final.
Once they lose the faith, then they’ll have the runners-up medal hung around their neck.
- Exploit the Arsenal Back line: For all of Arsenal’ improvement in the defence, it is still one of the weakest areas in the side. The Left back position has been much of a suspect this season. The Left back is often overloaded by the opposition fullback and right midfielder. Manchester City and Chelsea have ruthlessly exposed this and while Hull City is not on the same wavelength as these teams, there would certainly be no harm in trying. Arsenal would also play with a high line and that would also be an interesting one for the Tigers especially on the break.
Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil, Podolski, Cazorla, Giroud
Hull City: Harper, Rosenior, Chester, Davies, Figueroa, Elmohammady, Huddlestone, Meyler, Livermore, Boyd, Sagbo
Wembley Stadium would once again play host to the FA Cup Final. Since the 90,000 seated Stadium was opened in 2007, it has played host to every FA Cup Final since then. These are the Finals
2007: Chelsea 1(Didier Drogba) V Manchester United 0
2008: Portsmouth 1 (Nwankwo Kanu) V Cardiff City 0
2009: Chelsea 2 (Frank Lampard & Didier Drogba) V Everton 1(Saha)
2010 Chelsea 1(Didier Drogba) V Portsmouth (0)
2011: Manchester City 1 (Yaya Toure) V Stoke City 0
2012: Chelsea 2 (Ramires & Didier Drogba) V Liverpool 1(Andy Carroll)
2013 Wigan Athletic (Ben Watson) 1 V Manchester City 0
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
- The referee for the 2013/2o14 Final is Lee Probert. He was the fourth official in the 2011 Final between Manchester City and Stoke City.
This is however the first time the 41 year old would be the Central Referee in the FA Cup Final.
TEAM STATS/FACUP FINAL STATS
- Arsenal has reached their 18th FA Cup Final, a feat only Manchester United can match.
- By reaching the FA Cup Final, Hull City became the 57th different side to play in the Final of this Competition.
- The last seven FA Cup Finals have produced just 11 goals. All seven have been won by a single-goal margin.
Arsenal has kept clean sheets in each of their last three FA Cup Finals.(Chelsea, Southampton and Manchester United)
- Just one of the last five debuting Finalists have won the trophy(Wigan, last Year)
- Hull City have scored just once in their last four clashes with Arsenal in all competitions.
- The Tigers have won just three of their last eleven FA Cup matches when pitted against a team from the same division(D1 L7)
Arsenal have lost just one of their last seven meetings with opposition from the same League (W5 D1)
- Nicklas Bendtner has scored in three of his last four appearances for Arsenal against Hull City.
Arsenal would start this game as hot favorites and the gulf between the two sides should help the Gunners end this rather remarkable trophy drought.
However any form of stage fright or poor showing and we could be in for another FA Cup shock. The Cup has thrown a few this last few years and it won’t be out of place to witness another one.
All said and done, Arsenal should win the Cup as anything less would be unacceptable.
Arsenal 3 V Hull City 1
Questions of the Day
Which current Arsenal players have played in the FA Cup Final?
Who do you tip to carry the day?
Thank You Very Much!