Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Arsenal 2 Hull 0

Arsène Wenger was asked repeatedly this week to respond to those armchair pundits who have dismissed his team’s title credentials, but it was always the pitch rather than the press conference that would provide the most eloquent answer. And the riposte could hardly have been more emphatic.

True, beating Hull City at home does not in itself represent a resounding statement of intent but the circumstances of this most routine of victories did send another powerful message.

Mindful of the demanding fixture programme to come, Wenger opted to rest half the outfield team that had beaten Cardiff City 3-0 on Saturday and yet there was still no discernible drop in quality.

Arsenal’s two goals, scored within two minutes of the start of each half, were both of the very highest class and the remainder of the match resembled little more than a training exercise.

Aaron Ramsey was again superb, Mesut Özil drifted around the pitch with effortless menace and, shock of all shocks, Nicklas Bendtner even scored. That last happened in the Premier League for Arsenal three years ago but, fresh from collecting a police caution only last week for criminal damage, he showed enough to suggest that he can make a significant on-field contribution.

Steve Bruce, who previously managed Bendtner during loan spells at Birmingham and Sunderland, summed up the challenge that awaits. “He’s got everything if he wants it but there’s always a but,” said Bruce.

“The mentality of Nicklas is always the one that everybody questions. I hope sooner or later he knuckles down and makes a go of his career.” With Jack Wilshere, Oliver Giroud, Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta and Kieran Gibbs all looking on from the substitutes’ bench, this was also proof that Arsenal’s squad has rather more depth than those Match of the Day experts have previously realised.

The Premier League will reach its halfway point in the next four weeks and past history now obliges us to take Arsenal seriously. The top team at Christmas has gone on to win the title in 10 out of the past 20 years and Bruce, the winner of three league titles himself at Manchester United, believes that it is now feasible.

“We couldn’t get near them,” said the Hull manager. “We watched them dance around us. They were breathtaking at times. Why can’t they win the league?

Everyone’s stuttering along – the only team who isn’t is this lot.” Wenger was more circumspect. “It’s still too early — we have just to keep winning to have a chance,” he said.

Wenger also explained the need for rotation ahead of a “mentally demanding” December programme with a subtle dig at the “strange” forthcoming schedule.

It sees Arsenal playing on Sunday against Everton, travelling back from Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday night before then facing Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime.

There were five changes last night, with Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson making rare appearances at full-back and Bendtner, almost three years since his last Premier League start for Arsenal, making the most eye-catching return of all. The subtext, of course, was that Giroud has been in desperate need of a rest after playing 26 matches this season.

Arsenal’s changes in midfield were less dramatic, with Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky returning to the team having already been regularly involved this season. It took less than two minutes for Wenger’s players to prove that their fluid rhythm would not be disturbed. With Arsenal taking an immediate hold of possession, Rosicky fed Ramsey who, in turn, released Jenkinson down the right with a wonderful reverse pass.

Jenkinson’s cross on the run was perfectly delivered, with Bendtner rising to head Arsenal into the lead. An onslaught ensued and the game could have been beyond Hull City within 15 minutes. Laurent Koscielny’s header was well saved by Allan McGregor, Ramsey had a plausible penalty appeal waved away and then a swerving shot brilliantly saved while Bendtner’s touch then deserted him after McGregor spilt Özil’s shot.

Bruce must surely have reminded his players at half-time that Arsenal’s dominance had resulted in only one goal and that they were still very much in the game. Seconds later and even that straw could no longer be clutched.

Monreal had stretched to stop the ball going out of play and what followed was another memorable goal at the end of a blur of passing. The understanding between Özil and Ramsey is growing by the game and, after Monreal had passed to Özil, Ramsey turned inside to dissect Hull’s defence with another exquisite pass.

Özil’s finish was equally incisive, with the club record signing side-footing his shot between McGregor and the near-post. Arsenal supporters were sufficiently confident with fully 20 minutes remaining to invite Hull City “to give them a roar”. Little more than a miaow was forthcoming.

Match details

Arsenal (4-2-31): Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey (Arteta 80); Rosicky (Wilshere 73), Özil, Cazorla; Bendtner (Walcott 73).
Subs: Vermaelen, Giroud, Fabianski (g), Gibbs.

Hull City (4-4-2): McGregor; Chester, Figueroa, Bruce, Brady (Rosenior 58); Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler; Graham (Boyd 58), Sagbo (Gedo 73).
Subs: Koren, Fryatt, Harper (g), Faye.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

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