The stakes are always high for an FA Cup final. For Arsenal, the chance to break a trophy-less streak dating back to their 2005 FA Cup victory over Manchester United is a huge opportunity. The lack of silverware over the years has come to define this portion of Arsene Wenger’s tenure as manager and has left the proud Gunners a little bit red in the face. Meanwhile, Hull City have reached their first FA Cup final, meaning the team has an opportunity to earn a bit of silverware that generally stays well beyond their grasp.
To Win (90mins)
Hull City 6/1
Arsenal survived by the skin of their teeth in the semi-finals, ultimately beating Wigan after penalties (4-2) in a game that ended after 120 minutes even at a goal apiece. The game was surely a whirlwind of emotions for Per Mertesacker, who was the main culprit in Wigan’s first goal, as he committed a foul in the box that set up Jordi Gomez’s go-ahead tally from the spot after an hour. But the tall German redeemed himself, equalising in the 82nd minute. The sides were a bit cagey in extra time, but Lukasz Fabianski was the hero in penalties, saving Wigan’s first two attempts and opening the door for the Gunners to advance. It was shaky, at times lethargic, and ultimately relieving for Arsenal. However, on a positive note, it must be remembered that when the Gunners were at full health they spent much of the season atop the Premier League table. For the exception of Theo Walcott, the Gunners have all their players back and are firm favourites to win the cup.
Last weekend Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby made their returns and should be included in the team this weekend. Arsenal ended their Premier League campaign on a high last weekend, finishing fourth on the log. They saw off Norwich 2-0, thanks to a wonder strike from Aaron Ramsey and a first league goal for Carl Jenkinson. The Gunners have won their last five league matches, scoring twelve goals and conceding just one, including a 3-0 win away to Hull. There have been no outstanding players for Arsene Wenger’s team in the FA Cup but with Ramsey back in form and fully fit, he will no doubt be one of the Gunners’ biggest threats for Hull. To reach this final, Arsenal have beaten Tottenham, Coventry City, Liverpool, Everton, and Wigan. In that run they have conceded just one goal from open play.
Things were a bit more relaxed for Hull City in their FA Cup semi-final. Though they twice found themselves trailing League One’s Sheffield United and went into half-time 2-1 down, they exploded in the second half and went on to win 5-3. Hull will be in the Premier League for another season despite a 2-0 loss against Everton at home in their last league game. They have been in terrible form in the league with six losses from their last eight matches. To make matters worse for the Tigers, they will be without their star strikers Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, both players cup tied. However, Matty Fryatt has been impressive with four goals in the FA Cup so far and could hand Hull a life-line. Hull had a favourable draw en-route to the final beating Middlesbrough, Southend, Brighton, Sunderland, and Sheffield United, which is considerably easier than Arsenal’s journey.
VERDICT: Arsenal 9/20
Important to consider is that Arsenal have been heavily favoured in an FA Cup final before and disappointed. After all, the Gunners were supposed to brush aside Birmingham City in the 2011 final of this tournament. Instead, they lost 2-1. Hull City will give them a tough time, but the talent disparity in this contest is pretty wide and if Arsenal are as lethargic and tentative as they often were against Wigan, Hull can probably earn an upset. But it’s time for the trophy drought to end, and the fact that Arsenal will have a week to prepare for the match plays in their favour. Wenger’s men have pulled the double over Hull City in the league and should get the win here to earn Arsenal their first piece of silverware in eight years and eleven months.