The only case that one can make against Arsenal winning the English FA Cup final is that nerves may get the better of the Gunners as they bid to end their long trophy drought.
Not since beating Manchester United 5-4 on penalties after being comprehensively outplayed in the 2005 English FA Cup final has Arsenal won a major competition and the pressure on the Gunners, particularly Arsene Wenger, to collect some silverware for the Emirates Stadium trophy cabinet is huge.
However, stage fright is the one and only argument against Arsenal winning the English FA Cup final because there is almost no case for backing Hull at Wembley Stadium.
Good on Hull for reaching its first English FA Cup final but one has to acknowledge that it received one of the softest draws ever. Hull beat Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium in the English FA Cup third round – Boro finished 12th in the English Championship. Hull beat Southend at Roots Hall in the English FA Cup fourth round – the Shrimpers finished fifth in English League Two. Hull took two cracks to beat Brighton in the English FA Cup fifth round – the Seagulls finished sixth in the English Championship. Hull beat Sunderland at the KC Stadium in the English FA Cup sixth round – the Black Cats finished 14th in the English Premier League having looked relegation certainties at the time of the tie. And Hull beat Sheffield United at Wembley Stadium in the English FA Cup semi-finals – the Blades finished seventh in English League One. The average position on the English football pyramid of Hull’s five knockout victims was 39th and the Tigers were favourites for all their ties. On the other hand, Arsenal had to beat the likes of Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham to qualify for the big match.
It is apt that one mentions Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham because, along with Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, they were the English Premier League’s top seven this season. How did Hull fare in its English Premier League games against the heavyweights? Abysmally. Hull lost all seven away games versus the magnificent seven and, at home, the Tigers won one, drew one and lost five. Liverpool was the big boy that Hull beat at the KC Stadium but only after getting off to a flier thanks to a wickedly deflected Jake Livermore effort against the run of play, while Tottenham left Humberside with just the one point.
One can understand that Hull has had the English FA Cup final on its mind for several weeks but that does not excuse the Tigers for taking only one point from its five English Premier League matches since qualifying for the showpiece occasion, or just seven points from its last 11 games.
Hull and Arsenal met twice during the English Premier League season and the Tigers copped a hiding both times. Arsenal defeated Hull 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium in December and the Gunners shot down the Tigers 3-0 at the KC Stadium four weeks ago. Factor in that Hull cannot call upon the services of English FA Cup-tied striker Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long and there does not appear to be any hope for the underdog.
Arsenal has the look of an English FA Cup final banker bet at odds of 1.50 with BetVictor and Ladbrokes and to secure the trophy in normal time. Hull preserved its English Premier League status by accruing sufficient points from its winnable matches – only 19th-placed Fulham performed worse than the Tigers versus top-10 teams. If one could guarantee that Arsenal would not let the pressure of being trophyless since 2005 get to them then one would be all over the Gunners giving up one goal to Hull at odds of 2.38 with Boylesports. The odds do make it very hard to resist.
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