Beware the corners of Hull

Back in this blog’s first year Arsenal faced a team called Hull which featured an orange-faced charlatan named Phil Brown as their manager. Brown’s Hull once did a smash and grab job on Arsenal, sending the Gunners to their second ever defeat at the Emirates through a 25 yard wonder strike and a header. It was a tough match in which Hull used brute force to kill the game off and to grab the winner off a corner and after the match the manager uttered the words that all Arsenal supporters love to hear “they don’t like it up ’em” and “we got up their noses”.

Since that fateful day Phil Brown has been fired, Hull have been relegated and re-promoted, Hull have a new owner who wants to change the name of the club or something, Arsenal beat Hull in the FA Cup final, and Hull have a new manager having fired Steve the Bruce after a string of terrible results.

Hull’s new manager is Marco Silva and up until this summer he was the manager of Olympiacos. Marco Silva beat Arsenal just last year in the Champions League 2-3 at the Emirates. Olympiacos took the lead off a 20 yard strike from a corner, Walcott scored to drag one back, then Olympiacos scored directly off a corner when Arsenal keeper David Ospina dropped the ball, Alexis got Arsenal even, and Arsenal allowed a third seconds after the restart when Finnbogason scored at the near post on a broken and disorganized defensive play.

After the match Marco Silva did not talk about how Arsenal like it up em.

Fast forward to this last weekend. Hull beat Liverpool  2-0 scoring one goal off a corner and a second off a fast break.

All of these matches have a few things in common: Hull (Oly) play without the ball, they always score off a corner, and the so-called big club loses the game because they can’t find space. Arsenal will have to deal with this exact threat tomorrow as Hull travel to the Emirates for the 4:30am kickoff of the Premier League weekend.

Arsenal have a bit of turmoil at the moment. There are some noises that David Ospina might start this match over the normal #1 Petr Cech. This could be a huge mistake. Cech did have a howler at the weekend, passing the ball out to Fabregas who then chipped him for Chelsea’s third goal, but Ospina is not as big and commanding as Cech is on corners. In addition, Arsenal have new guy Mustafi at center back. Mustafi is also not a commanding presence on corners and tends to duck out of aerial duels. The combination of Mustafi and Ospina would be a shaky one to say the least.

Meanwhile at right back, Arsenal have another weird problem. Wenger has been playing center back Gabriel at right back exactly because Mustafi is weak in aerial challenges. Having Gabriel in there adds some strength and fearlessness to Arsenal’s aerial defenses. But Gabriel is awful going forward and in support of the midfield. He’s also slow, so if he does get forward to support the attack, Arsenal are vulnerable to the counter attack.

The other option is for Arsene to play Hector Bellerin at right back. Bellerin is great in support of the midfield, he’s skillful with the ball at feet, and he’s the fastest player in the League so he can cover counter attacks. But Bellerin was knocked out in the match against Chelsea last weekend. This happened because, despite bravely challenging for two aerial duels, his opponents were bigger and Alonso was allowed to smash him in the head with a leading elbow. Whether it would be smart to play Bellerin in a match which is sure to feature a ton of aerial duels, and especially one where the opposition manager is going to test his mettle, is a big question.

Looking at the tackles and interceptions chart against Liverpool, Silva’s Hull are going too play almost exactly  like Brown’s Hull. They will sit deep and soak up pressure, invite Arsenal to play in crosses where their well drilled and rather large center backs can head the ball away time and again. There is no reason to start Giroud. His service will just be gobbled up. Best to bring him on late in the game if we need a battering ram.

The trick for Arsenal is to draw Hull out and get them to chase passes/players in Arsenal’s half. Then hit them with a ball over the top. If that doesn’t work, Arsenal should look to press Hull’s players whenever Arsenal lose the ball. This “gegenpress” will take advantage of the chaos that ensues after a turnover as each team tries to regain shape. Also, Arsenal need to press the Hull defenders whenever they have the ball and force them into clearances. This is another quick way to recover possession.

This is a tricky fixture for Arsenal but one which Arsenal should win. One which Arsenal need to win if they want to keep their title hopes alive.

Qq

39 comments

  1. Didn’t Steve Bruce quit in the summer, or something? Pretty sure he didn’t get fired. Mike Phelan got fired this season, after bad results.

  2. A point of correction: Steve Bruce actually walked at the start of the season, he wasn’t fired. Possibly because there was a thin squad and he didn’t want to be tainted by the (at the time seemingly inevitable) relegation that would have followed. May also have had something to do with getting passed over for the England job for Sam Allardyce.

    Kudos, that you can keep writing about the league season. It feels pointless, honestly. I developed a coping mechanism during the 8-2 game; at 1-0 down, we won a penalty which RvP had saved, and then United went up the other end and made it 2. I stopped then, and I’ve still not seen any more of that game since then. It’s become alarmingly easy to switch off halfway through games in the following years, and I’ve done this supporting Arsenal thing for over half my life – apathy shouldn’t come so easy.

  3. Untrue about Mustafi’s perceived weakness on aerial duels. He does not “duck out.” That’s incredibly unfair. Also, he wins 3.9 aerials per game at a 64% success rate which is better than Koscielny on both counts. Also watch him play vs. Sam Vokes when we beat Burnley away.

    Eyeroll.

    1. Couple things you should know about aerial duels. 1) they don’t count unchallenged duels and 2) they don’t distinguish between defense and offense . Well, Opta does but the starts you’re quoting don’t.

      He absolutely refuses to challenge for aerial duels. Does it all the time.

      v. Chelsea Cahill “practically free header”, 10′ shot headed, palmed away
      v. Burnley Sam Vokes doesn’t even challenge for the ball, 80′ key pass, ball scrambled away
      v. PSG Cavani, multiple times just lets the big guy ghost over him

      Those are just a few examples off the top of my head.

      Now that I think about it Gabriel isn’t much better. He may be stronger in the air but he tends to lose his man a lot and get beaten.

      1. This is Mustafi’s chalkboard vs. Burnley a couple of weeks ago. He had 9/12 successful aerial duels including the one for his goal. It was probably his most dominant performance in the air all season.

        http://www.fourfourtwo.com/statszone/8-2016/matches/855383/player-stats/69140/OVERALL_02#tabs-wrapper-anchor

        Here he is against Chelsea in the 3-1 loss facing an opponent who attacks in a totally different way. He got 4 interceptions in his own half, won 2/3 aerial duels and was 3/3 on tackle attempts that weren’t called fouls. He also had a successful dribble in his own half and created a chance at the other end.

        http://www.fourfourtwo.com/statszone/8-2016/matches/855402/player-stats/69140/OVERALL_02#tabs-wrapper-anchor

        I just watched the Cahill duel you mentioned. Cahill gets a run on the ball, Mustafi doesn’t see him and heads into air as Cahill comes over his right shoulder. It’s not a particularly convincing intervention but it’s not like a blatant attempt to dodge a challenge. He thinks he has more time because he doesn’t know Cahill is coming.

        Also, if one half of our first choice central defensive partnership was really as bad at defending headers as you say, wouldn’t we have a problem of 2015 proportions in conceding those types of goals? So far this season, Arsenal’s conceded 4 headed goals which is only one more than the team with the best record, Man United. It’s the same number as Chelsea, Spurs and City.

        As a summation, while I don’t disagree that Mustafi could use improvement in his decisiveness when going to the ball with his head, it’s certainly not the weakness you’ve made it out to be here today. He defends aerials well enough as an individual and we defend them well enough as a team.

        I rest my case.

        1. I appreciate the dashboard.

          Mustafi was 7/11 in defensive aerial duels. 1/4 in and around the 18 yard box and 6/7 in the midfield. When he gets a running start at winning the ball, he’s fine. In the box, where the opposition get a running start he’s soft.

          He also ducked out of at least one aerial duel in that match, which wasn’t counted, and in the other matches I remember off the top of my head. It’s something I noticed with him right away when he came to Arsenal and a trend I see him continuing.

          I noticed that he followed Hazard to the end line instead of marking Costa, leaving Bellerin to mark the Brazilian on a cross which eventually turned into a shot and a concussion for the Spaniard. But I put that down to just a split second decision instead of him intentionally choosing to mark the smaller man.

          1. The decision to go with Hazard was, I think, more Coquelin’s fault, who inexplicably passed him on without trying to follow, than it was Mustafi’s. Theo’s gotten a fair bit of abuse for not tracking Alonso, but Coquelin was at least equally culpable (considering he also gave the ball away before both goals, and got embarrassingly brushed aside for Hazard’s goal when all he had to do is stay on his feet, it wasn’t a very good day at the office for our Coq). I don’t think our centerbacks, who were trying to hold a back four together against 5 Chelsea attackers, can really be blamed. But then, I have no idea what gets said during Arsenal defensive practices and tactics meetings (do they even have either of those??) before a big game.
            If Wenger brings Per back into the side for Mustafi in the next few weeks, and our defense suddenly looks much more solid, then I guess we’ll know we were missing all his intangible leadership and organizational skills (I don’t think it’s gonna happen bar injuries).

          2. PFI, spot on about on about Coq not tracking Hazard’s run. Koz had left the near post to challenge an uncovered Pedro on the wing, leaving a huge gap which Hazard was alertly trying to exploit. If Mustafi doesn’t cover that gap, Hazard gets the ball alone in the box 10 yards from goal. There was a whole chain of errors leading to the goal but honestly I think the most egregious was Coquelin not staying with Hazard. If Coq marks him, Mustafi stays with Costa and Bellerin isn’t left two v one against Costa and then Alonso.

    1. And speaking of religion and Arsenal, the Arsenal Gent’s post today was insanely good. This, for example:

      Our Father in Highbury,
      hallowed be your name,
      A new keeper will come,
      A nice proper one,
      As good as David Seaman.
      Give us today some Central Midfielders
      Forgive us our Gabriels
      as we get dominated by N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic.
      Lead us not into Hull
      but deliver us from weakness.
      For the kingdom, the power,
      and the glory are yours
      now and for ever.
      Amen.

  4. I writing from a bathroom in Highbury (TMI but I couldnt resist, airbnb ftw) Anyone going to be at the game tomorrow who wants to meet up for a pint before or after?

    How about in Munchen?

    My excellent Arsenal Adventure begins.

  5. Why do we not give Holding a go at right back.
    Needs game time, played there a bit for Bolton (apparently not that well though), doesn’t look worried in possession. Adds some aerial ability

  6. I freakin love Holding (so far anyway!). He’s going to be awesome in the near future, I think. Next season he might just break into the starting lineup and make a position his own, pushing more experienced players out of the way, a la Bellerin.

    But he doesn’t look even remotely like a right back.

    1. I really like Holding too, and I’m constantly forgetting that Arsenal bought him and he’s in the squad. Hopefully he’ll start establishing himself next year.

  7. Only Arsenal would defend a 1-nil lead by replacing two midfielders with two forwards. Job done in the end.

  8. Good result, and in the interest of fairness, the first goal is a bit of a joke. Maybe it’s ‘ball to hand’ but it looked like the ball was going over till it hit his hand. Scoring like that can’t be okay.

  9. And it was really annoying to see Huddlestone get called for a foul which was less contact than Alonso’s non-foul. I really don’t know what constitutes a foul anymore.

    1. Don’t know what’s a foul. Don’t know what’s a goal. According to the rules that Alexis goal is legitimate. But apparently Clattenburg apologised to the Hull players after the half for awarding it. Which is a scandal all in itself.

      It’s ridiculous that no one, not the public, not the media pundits, and not even the officials seem to know the rules of the game.

      1. This. Absolutely this.

        I’m going to pore over the newest version of the laws and their interpretations right now to see how on earth Clattenberg can think that’s a handball. I don’t understand it, and I know no players, ex-players, pundits, or fans do either.

        And in any event, he shouldn’t be apologizing to the Hull team like that, in the middle of the game. Totally unprofessional.

        1. In principle I think I’m fine with referees admitting mistakes, even if it’s at half time. If a referee sees they’ve got a call wrong and they’re asked about it by a player I’d much prefer an honest response than a denial. If the situation was reversed and Arsenal had been on the receiving end of a bad call I don’t think I could condemn the referee for admitting a mistake and apologizing. That’s sort of what I want from referees, openness and transparency.

          Maybe half time isn’t the right time but I think if referees are doing their job fairly then it shouldn’t matter and, in principle, would only promote more understanding and respect.

          Of course football being football, and the english league being the english league, the worry would be referees might feel inclined to make up for the mistake by being more strict when applying the rules to the team that benefited from the mistake.

  10. EDIT….the worry would be referees might feel pressured to make up for the mistake once they’ve openly admitted to it by being more strict when applying the rules to the team that benefited from the mistake.

    1. 1. I don’t really disagree, but I’m pretty sure this is explicitly against the “rules” (i.e. non-binding instructions) for PL refs.
      2. And there’s the matter of consistency: so often refs are protected behind a wall of silence when they make a clear mistake. Now all of a sudden Clattenberg is apologizing to a team en masse in the middle of a game?
      3. Also, I think there’s a difference between admitting in conversation to one player on the field that you got a call wrong, versus going into the dressing room and apologizing to the whole team (I’m fine if you do this at the end, just not at halftime).

  11. i missed the talk from the previous thread and i’m glad i did. wow!

    decent performance today. hull city are clearly a different team than we played earlier this season. they’ve moved quickly to rid themselves of deadwood after their dismal start to the season; it would have been a bit easier if they’d done this when steve bruce asked, but i digress. i watched them beat liverpool last week and was impressed.

    i don’t agree with the notion that this was a game that didn’t need giroud. he would have made arsenal a bit more dangerous when hull decided to drop in deep. arsenal simply don’t have any players that like to get higher up the pitch with their back to goal but rather they all seem to look for the pull back. alexis is clearly more talented than giroud but the chilean is no center forward. regardless, arsenal’s quality saw them claim the win.

    wenger’s decision to bring off certain players clearly indicated an eye towards the mid-week game against fc bayern. i really enjoyed watching the ox in the center of midfield; he’s so much better there than ramsey and is growing with every game. in typical fashion, i’m expecting him to pick up an injury in the next couple of weeks. we’ll see.

    i heard a nasty rumor linking thomas tuchel to arsenal. i hope that’s “fake news”. i mentioned in the summer that the jury was still out on him. well, i think it’s safe to say he’s been a disaster at dortmund. they have the same problems as arsenal; they sold both their true leaders, hummels and gundogan in the same transfer window this summer. despite their obvious talent, there’s no leadership in that team. as a result, they’re losing games they have no business losing (sound familiar?). for crying out loud, i watched them lose to darmstadt today; clearly a case of talent without direction. breaks my heart that my two exceptionally talented teams have failed to mount credible title challenges this season due to lack of leaders on the pitch.

  12. concerning shokdran mustafi, what’s certain is that arsenal over-paid for him. £35 million? no way that’s value for money. arsenal got played because they dallied with getting the deal done. he tries these through balls that never work. his play today lead koscielny to rotate over in cover quite a bit. was that a deliberate tactical approach? i don’t know.

    who thought theo was going to get himself sent off today? great to show some fight. the crowd certainly loved it, chanting his name.

  13. If it’s against the rules then it shouldn’t be allowed for sure.

    I didn’t realize he went into the Hull dressing room. That’s a bit more unorthodox but even that would be something I’d be okay with if it’s okay by the rules and it was something that was transparent and encouraged on a consistent and equal basis.

    That’s the problem though because the premier league has shown little interest in making sure decisions are correct, making sure the rules are clear and making sure there’s a consistency and transparency of implementation regarding how the laws are enforced.

    I’d be unsurprised to see nothing made of this at all, and then in a few months a ref getting in trouble for exactly the same thing and getting demoted to the championship for a weekend.

    I suppose it depends on how soon a ref apologizes to Arsenal for something. 🙁

    1. No they didn’t, but Liverpool did.
      Watching this Liverpool performance it makes you wonder how it is posible for a Klopp team to suficate a talented club like Tottenham for almost entire 90 minutes , and then go on and look totally flat against a weaker opposition as the have many times before.

      Maybe the PL isn’t the place where you can succeed playing the Klopp/ Guardiola type of system over the length of the season and be consistent with it . Only time will tell.

    2. That’s because Klopp doesn’t have any real squad depth to work with. He’s got maybe 3 big players and vast sea of ordinariness. Origi? Please. He’ll make Liverpool champions in 2 years. He seems to have found his spiritual club, but we should try (wildly optimistically) to poach him. Measure for measure, pound for pound, Klopp is the best coach in the league.

  14. Klopp’s record against the top six would suggest you are correct about him being the best pound for pound manager in the league.
    Liverpool- 16 points, Chelsea-13, Tottenham-9, Man City -7,Man United-6, Arsenal-5 , against top six clubs.

    Arsenal’s record against top opposition has been abysmal but we do better than most against the lower clubs , clubs we can beat on talent an ability alone without having a strict tactical approach that needs to be executed to the fullest.

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