If you ever wonder why Arsene Wenger persist with playing Abou Diaby, this match would be a wonderful example of why the boss has immaculate faith in his French ally. If Diaby consistently plays like he did in today’s game, there will be no more doubters of his capabilities anymore. Played in his favoured midfield role tonight, he showed discipline to stay behind even when the team is breaking forward and choose the right moment to bombed ahead via his dribbling talent. That we beat Hull 3-0 today was testament to the continued backing of Diaby by Wenger.
The match itself started in furious pace with both sides going at it from the moment the whistle was blown. Hull was concentrating their attacks on the right hand side of Arsenal, manned today by the reliable Eboue. Getting a start as Sagna was rested for the game, Eboue was rarely able to cross the halfway line but gave nothing away to the Stephen Hunt, who was nothing short (no pun intended) of a scoundrel in football. More than once, Hunt tried to rile Eboue into retaliation but credit to the Ivorian, only once did he return the favour to the opposition and mainly kept on his feet instead of diving into the challenge.
The first half was all Arsenal as Almunia had to fend off the cold of the night through stretching on his own as Hull could not find a way past Arsenal’s defence. The keeper was given the skipper’s armband for this game and I was fearing the worst. As I’ve said in the match preview, Almunia has not been at his best recently and his mind does not look to be totally focused on the job at hand. However in more ways than one, bearing the captain’s title must have somehow lifted his spirits.
Without anything to do in the first half, suddenly he was called upon in the second half to save a penalty. Steve Bennet, contrived to give Phil Brown’s side a penalty when Craig Fagan went down inside the box after tangling with Silvestre. There was no foul, if there is then it should be for Arsenal as Fagan was holding on to Silvestre, opposite of what the referee saw. Almunia however was to deny Geovanni another Emirates goal, diving correctly to his right palmed away the shot. The latter would then clashed with Hunt to miss the follow up. Arsenal players just did not react to the follow up and that is just poor defending. Almunia also had a good day with his kicks as none went straight to touch. He must’ve put in extra hours in training after what happened at Turf Moor.
Over at the other end of the pitch, we peppered Boaz Myhill’s goal with numerous attempts although none required him to make a difficult save. First, Diaby’s shot from outside the box was deflected for a corner off a Hull defender. Then Arshavin found Nasri inside the box but he shot straight at Myhill. Next, Eboue found Eduardo at the edge of the box but the Brazilian curled just wide of the far post. Even Alex Song got into the act, making a fine late run into the box but his diving header found a Hull defender’s head instead of the goal.
Then it all just blow up. Nasri was fouled outside the box and Hull protested furiously with Bennet over the decision. While the argument was going on, Nasri was stupid enough to step on Garcia’s foot and all hell broke loose. Nicky Barmby was lucky to remain on the pitch after he shoved Nasri in the face over that incident. As the rest of the players joined in to either break the 2 apart or wanting to get some themselves. Hunt did his very best to get a reaction from Nasri but found none coming. Both were yellow carded for that scuffle. Nasri subsequently took the freekick and probably out of anger, slammed it straight into the Hull wall.
The next freekick that came our way, we took the lead. This time, Nasri left the set-piece duty to Denilson. Back today in place of the injured Fabregas, he showed Nasri and a recuperating RVP, how a freekick should actually be taken. With a short run-up, Denilson curled the ball over the Hull wall and nestled it right into the bottom right hand corner of Myhill’s goal. It was a marvellously taken freekick from Denilson who also had a solid performance in the middle of the pitch.
The second half pretty much went the same way as the first with Arsenal doing all the attacking. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, Eduardo turned the defender and was through on goal but his lack of confidence was showing as he sent the ball just wide of the goal. Even though Hull was on the back foot most of the time, with just a one goal lead, it was never safe for us. We needed to kill off Hull and luckily we went.
The ever impressive Song interchange passes with Diaby who then got a return ball and headed for the byline. His slide pass found Eduardo for an easy tap-in. If anyone needed a goal to boost their confidence, it was Eduardo. Hopefully this will re-instil back some of his confidence. We do need him to find his accuracy once again, if we’re to challenge for anything this season. Up by 2 goals, there was no way back for Hull, even Silvestre popped up in the opposition box to fire just wide of the goal.
Diaby duly got his reward minutes later when he went on one of his trademark jinking runs right at the heart of Hull’s defense. This is by far his most obvious talent, the ability to just glide past players. Receiving the return ball from Arshavin, he left a Hull defender for dead inside the box and smashed the ball past Myhill for Arsenal’s third in the game. It was just reward for the all-round performance of the much maligned Frenchman. There was even time for Walcott to lob one over Myhill but just missed the goal by inches.
With Man United losing to Fulham, we are now just 2 points away from them with a game in hand. The win also leapfrogged us back into third spot. After the disappointed at Turf Moor, this win more than make up for the draw, it showed that even without our talismanic Fabregas, there is enough creativity in the squad for the likes of Hull. Now, if only Zola would do us a favour tomorrow when Chelsea comes to visit Upton Park.