Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, Podolski, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Flamini, Kallstrom, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Sanogo
Lukas Podolski grabbed his second brace of the week as he led the Gunners to a convincing 3-0 victory against Hull City in a dress rehearsal of the FA Cup final. The German international grabbed a goal either side of half-time after Aaron Ramsey’s fantastic opener as Arsene Wenger’s men overcame early pressure from the home side to outclass their hosts.
In a bruising first half Wojciech Szczesny was by far the busiest Arsenal player but for all Hull’s physicality and pressure it was the Gunners’ ruthlessness on the break that paid dividends.
For the first 30 minutes the Gunners defence were expertly marshalled by the Pole in goal as he came and claimed a series of lofted balls aimed at strike duo Long and Jelavic. Both attackers did forge chances as Steve Bruce willed his side to pressure from the front; the former slashing wide and the latter having an effort tipped brilliantly around the post by Szczesny.
Mertesacker and Myler picked up bookings and Arteta lost a tooth and took a blow to the head as things heated up in the midfield. Tackles flew in from both sides.
The Gunners should have had a penalty when the returning Ozil had his legs clipped on 10 minutes by Elmohamady, the referee waved away the claims, before Podolski had a drive saved by Harper.
It wasn’t until the half hour mark that Arsenal finally found their attacking mojo. Ramsey was the man who smashed home the ball inside the far post with clinical aplomb, but the build-up play which involved most of the team – tip of the cap to Messrs Cazorla and Ozil in particular – weaving the ball from the right touchline into the middle and then into the box was fantastic. (1-0)
Livermore hit the post for the home side seven minutes later but for all their huff and puff Arsenal were undoubtedly the more dangerous side and they doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time.
Hull were furious that an Arteta challenge on Jelavic wasn’t deemed a foul and on the break the Gunners were ruthless. Cazorla found Ozil who in turn fed Giroud on the right wing. The Frenchman’s lofted cross skipped over the Hull defence where Ramsey chested the ball down for Podolski who hammered home low on the volley. The home support screamed abuse at the officials as the men in red celebrated a second fine goal. (2-0)
It took only eight minutes of the second half for the Gunners to forge their third. Monreal and Cazorla combined down the left, Aaron Ramsey cracked a low effort which Harper could only palm into Podolski’s path and the German after a solid first touch tapped home for his 13th of the season. (3-0)
The strike effectively killed off the game and afforded Arsenal the chance to play prolonged periods of keep ball. Unsurprisingly, Mesut Ozil was the first man to make way; a solid sixty minutes under his belt he was replaced by Mathieu Flamini.
Giroud took advantage of slack goalkeeping by Harper to nearly grab a fourth. The Hull keeper dallied as he waited to collect a back pass and when he finally reached the ball was pressured by the Frenchman who nipped in only to hit the bar from a tight angle. On 73 minutes, limping slightly after a battering from several Hull defenders, he made way to be replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Mertesacker headed just over from a Cazorla free-kick with 15 minutes remaining, Chamberlain should have had a penalty, Huddlestone forced Szczesny into a save before Sanogo came on for the last seven minutes in place of Podolski.
The game had long since petered out, not that anyone in red and white minded, as the three points returned to London.
It’s eight days until we entertain Alan Pardew’s under-par Newcastle United, so a welcome opportunity to nurse knocks and rest heavy limbs. We’ve three games to go and a bit of momentum for the first time in months. If we keep winning, we might just manage a smile come mid-May after all.
Happy Easter everyone.