Arsenal can extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to four matches when they travel to the KCOM Stadium to take on newly-promoted Hull City this weekend (3pm Saturday).
The Gunners have been a little fortunate on two separate occasions in the past week. Arsene Wenger’s charges were second best in the first half of their encounter with Southampton on Saturday afternoon, when a contentious penalty converted by Santi Cazorla won them all three points with one of the last kicks of the game.
Then on Tuesday night they were comprehensively outplayed by Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage of the Champions League. They had to rely on the Ligue 1 champions’ wastefulness in front of goal to escape from the Parc des Princes with an unlikely point.
There is therefore plenty of room for improvement for Arsenal, who will not want to fall even further adrift of the summit of the Premier League standings in the early weeks of the campaign. They have already drifted out to 14/1 in the Premier League outright winner betting to win the title.
Hull have exceeded expectations at the start of the season, beating Leicester City and Swansea City and drawing with Burnley. They also suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester United thanks to Marcus Rashford’s strike in second-half stoppage time. Mike Phelan remains in caretaker charge despite leading the Tigers to some excellent results in the last month, with Hull’s displays suggesting they may have what it takes to survive in the Premier League after all. This will still be a difficult task for them to negotiate, though, with Arsenal understandably considered heavy favourites to come out on top at the KCOM Stadium.
Arsenal will be unable to call upon the services of Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck and Carl Jenkinson (all knee) for their trip to Yorkshire. Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott could be involved after shaking off injuries of their own. Olivier Giroud is expected to start up front for the first time this term, with Alexis Sanchez (pictured) – who has been filling in for the Frenchman at the top of the pitch – likely to move back out to the left-hand side.
There is plenty of competition for places in the two central midfield slots in Wenger’s favoured 4-2-3-1. Ramsey, Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka and Cazorla are all hoping to be included in the XI. Shkodran Mustafi will again partner Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the backline.
Hull will have to make do without Michael Dawson (knee), Alex Bruce (Achilles), Moses Odubajo (knee), Allan McGregor (back), Brian Lenihan (knee) and Greg Luer (knee). However their squad is now much deeper after making six new signings in the final two days of the summer transfer window. Those new boys – Will Keane, David Marshall, Ryan Mason, James Weir, Dieumerci Mbokani and Markus Henriksen – will all be hoping to be involved. Phelan may opt to keep faith with the starting line-up he has fielded in each of Hull’s Premier League four games up to now.
Taking everything into account, it is difficult for this preview to look past an Arsenal victory in Saturday afternoon’s clash. Hull have started the season brilliantly relative to what was expected of them, but the visitors’ added quality should shine through as they attempt to close the gap separating them from league leaders Manchester City.
The away team are 4/7 shots with the bookies to come away with the win. But a 2-1 Arsenal victory could be the way to go in the correct score betting market. Cazorla is a potentially good value tip to find the back of the net anytime, just as he did when keeping his cool from the penalty spot in the narrow triumph over Claude Puel’s Southampton last time out.