Arsenal to end trophy drought
Ben Coley previews the FA Cup final and expects Arsenal to keep things tight on their way to the trophy.
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The starting point for our FA Cup final advice comes courtesy of our antepost preview, published in January and one in which Andy Schooler suggested an each-way bet on Hull at 100/1.
Clearly, anyone who has followed that tip is now sitting pretty, with profit guaranteed and the chance to land that rare thing - a three-figure priced winner in football betting.
Given that Arsenal are such strong favourites at no bigger than 2/7 to lift the trophy, there's no great temptation to try and cover - especially as it was a small-stakes wager in the first place - and those holding a Hull ticket need not take further action. The advice to you is to sit back, enjoy the game and hope that Steve Bruce's side can cause an upset.
That relaxed attitude to the FA Cup final is one you'd like to think Hull will be able to adopt. Rightly or wrongly, this game feels vastly more important in terms of consequences to their opponents, whose trophy drought is edging towards a decade and remains the subject of plenty of media chatter.
This game not only dictates whether or not that unwanted run comes to an end, but just how Arsenal's season is viewed. A piece of silverware, a 17th successive Champions League qualification and a title challenge that lasted almost into spring would be a good return and, if nothing else, notable improvement for Arsene Wenger's side.
They should oblige. Two Premier League encounters with Saturday's opponents have yielded two straightforward wins, and under Wenger they've lifted the trophy at the end of four out of five finals, all bar one of which have been against sides vastly superior to Hull.
What history is worth is open to debate and you could of course point out that Arsenal are under immense pressure here, which is certainly true. And though impossible to gauge the significance, it's reasonable to suggest that it was a failure to handle such pressure that cost them the League Cup in 2011.
I find it very difficult to come to a firm conclusion as to how they'll cope this time around but it must be a major positive that Arsenal are now a side with winners in the line-up. The likes of Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker bring experience - as does German counterpart Mesut Ozil - which was notably absent from the side which slipped-up against Birmingham just over three years ago.
Arsenal's advantage isn't just found in the league table and previous meetings, but in the team news, too. Hull have several concerns on the injury front but more relevant is the absence of cup-tied strikers Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic. Without them, Matty Fryatt may lead the line and with the greatest of respect, Mertesacker won't need to worry about his lack of pace if he remains focused.
Focus is the key for Arsenal. If they can start brightly and avoid making basic mistakes - such as the miscommunication between Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny which cost them against Birmingham - then a straightforward victory is on the cards and the advice for those without a Hull ticket in hand is to back the Gunners to win to nil.
Arsenal have, as mentioned, come through 180-plus minutes against Hull already this season without conceding. Not only have they not conceded, but moments of genuine alarm have been fleeting and the attacking threat from Hull looks to be significantly weaker than for their most recent clash in which both Long and Jelavic started.
Furthermore, Arsenal haven't conceded in over 400 minutes of football since Matt Jarvis breached their defence back in April and while they've conceded in each of their last three FA Cup ties, a return to something like their 2-0 third-round victory over Tottenham may be on the cards.
While Arsenal have had to overcome Spurs and Liverpool, Hull's progress to this stage has relied on a somewhat more favourable draw - a comment made without wishing to undermine their achievements this season - and it's difficult to envisage them containing an Arsenal side who at their best have been excellent this season.
It's also worth noting that both sides have built their success on beating weak opposition this season. Arsenal's record against sides in the bottom half of the Premier League was not bettered, while Hull picked up just two wins from 20 matches against teams in the top half. They struggle against the very best.
So it's an Arsenal win to nil which makes the most appear at 5/4. Fourteen of the last 20 FA Cup finals have been won to nil and in 16 of them, at least one side has failed to score. This particular renewal looks ripe to further enhance those trends.
Those wanting to take a punt on a first scorer are advised to look to Arsenal's midfield, who've been responsible for the first goal in each of the last four meetings of these sides and four of Arsenal's FA Cup games so far this season.
Aaron Ramsey will doubtless be the most popular having opened the scoring at the KC Stadium on his return from injury and again at Norwich last weekend, and at 7/1 he certainly represents a sporting wager. Mesut Ozil (10/1) and Santi Cazorla (9/1) also merit close consideration and the more cautious may even consider combining the trio at around the 2/1 mark, which again looks reasonable.
Ultimately, your approach to this match depends on your antepost position but providing Arsenal's approach is professional, they should win at relative ease.