Hull City 0 Arsenal 3 – Ramsey and Özil Return To Drive Arsenal Closer To The Finish Line
Arsenal moved one step closer to securing another top four finish in a comfortable 3-0 win at Hull City on Easter Sunday.
Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil started alongside each other for the first time in 2014 and were the heartbeat of the side, with the former scoring one and setting up the following two for Lukas Podolski in what was Arsenal’s best all round performance probably since the Everton FA Cup victory six weeks ago.
What we’ve been missing in recent weeks is attacking inspiration and impetuous and we had just that with Özil and Ramsey back in the side and our other attackers flourished off their presence and we were able to beat Hull without many issues in a fixture that’ll be repeated in just under a months time in the FA Cup Final.
But much like it did against West Ham in the week, it took us around 30 minutes to get going and we were again slow out of the blocks with Hull starting slightly quicker, sending a series of tricky high balls into our area that Wojciech Szczesny dealt with.
Özil was then denied a stonewall penalty whilst Fatty Tom Huddlestone’s high boot on Mikel Arteta went unpunished by referee Jonathan Moss. Hull registered the first real chance of the game as a subtle free kick was played to Jelavic who got away from Per Mertesacker, but his shot was well saved by Szczesny.
Despite the sloppy start, Arsenal did look dangerous on the ball though and Podolski tested Harper in Hull’s goal with his weaker right foot after Ramsey slid him in. Long then blazed one over from a tight angle for the home side before Arsenal seized the initiative just after the half hour mark through the formidable Ramsey.
It was some goal, too. Özil drifted to the right and found Santi Cazorla on the edge of the area with an exquisite ball. Cazorla picked Ramsey’s onward run into the box, and the Welshman finished superbly into the bottom corner. A vintage Arsenal goal, much like what we saw when we surged to the top of the League in the first half of the season.
Szczesny was comfortable throughout the afternoon but was beaten once, as Livermore’s effort from 25 yards beat our Pole but hit the post, but Arsenal didn’t allow Hull to build on that and just on half time we doubled our lead.
If the first goal was good then the second was truly special. It was borne out of a foul on Hull that was hilariously not given, leading to an Arsenal break. Özil found Olivier Giroud on the right, who spotted and picked out Ramsey in the area. Ramsey chested it, looked like he was shaping to shoot himself, but got the call from Podolski who ran onto it and buried it first time into the net on the volley.
Another sensational finish and things were looking good at half time with us 2-0 up.
There was an early scare in the second half as Fryatt got in on goal but couldn’t divert it on target due to an awkward bounce, before the game was wrapped up in the 54th minute again through Podolski.
We patiently built up play around the Hull area and shifted the ball from right to left to Nacho Monreal, who slid in Cazorla to the by line. Cazorla spotted and cut it back for Ramsey who, from 18 yards, forced a good stop by Harper but Podolski was on hand to follow up from close range and secure his second double of the week.
Arsene Wenger sensed the game was done and brought off Özil for Mathieu Flamini just after the hour mark, recognising the need to nurture Özil back into the full swing of things and tightening us up in the middle to not allow Hull a route back into the game.
Giroud had a chance to make it four as he successfully charged down a back pass to Harper, but the angle was too tight for Giroud to convert and he hit the bar instead. After this, Arsenal enjoyed large spells of possession but didn’t create many more chances, as we were happy to run the clock down and see the game out.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Giroud with little under 20 minutes to go with Podolski being given ten minutes at centre forward before he was eventually withdrawn for Yaya Sanogo in the 84th minute.
Mertesacker saw a header off a Cazorla free kick onto the roof of the net, and a lively Oxlade-Chamberlain broke in on goal, cut inside in the area and got tripped without anything being given, and the ball fell into the path of Ramsey whose shot was saved.
Hull had a couple of late chances through Huddlestone and Fryatt that were easy for Szczesny and the game finished with Arsenal resounding winners.
It was a game full of positives for us; our first clean sheet since Sp*rs a month ago and our first three goal victory since that Everton game in the Cup. The biggest positive though was the impact that having Özil and Ramsey back in the starting line up had.
There are still people out there, some of them paid journalists, who fail to appreciate the quality that Özil has. These people clearly don’t understand football, as the German was metronomic and he just picked out everyone that was making runs beyond him.
Our problem in recent weeks has been we haven’t had anyone making those cutting forward passes, although Cazorla was the man who did start to do that against West Ham in the week, and that we had no forward runners when Giroud drifted wide as he so frequently does.
Özil and Ramsey are the two players necessary to fill those voids and now that we have them back and fit, you could see just how beautiful the jigsaw looked with all the pieces in place, optimised by our second goal.
Giroud made the move right, Özil found him, Ramsey filled the vacant forward space and, when picked out, provided the tee up for Podolski to use his greatest asset and finish it brilliantly. A goal that utilised almost all of our attacking players strengths and one of immense quality.
It makes you wonder what could’ve been if we had Özil and Ramsey fit and playing together since the turn of the year. It’s impossible to say for certain what would’ve happened and of course there still would’ve been slip ups along the way, but I have no doubt that we’d still be in the mix for the title. And with the other Clubs, bar Liverpool, continually slipping up, it really feels like this was a big missed opportunity for us.
I’m not saying that it’s purely the injuries that have denied us our chance to have a pop at the title. If Wenger was more proactive in the window and bought us the striker we so desperately need then again, who knows. But you can’t deny that our injuries have played a big part in our recent form, and having two of our best players back and in the side showing what we are capable of with them fit was a godsend yesterday.
They constantly looked to drive us forward and also brought the best out of the players around them, particularly Giroud who looked a whole lot more comfortable and effective with them around him, plus Podolski who was efficient in both attack and defence but again it’ll be his clinical finishing that grabs the headlines.
With Jack Wilshere reportedly about to make a return too, with Mertesacker and Koscielny back partnering each other comfortably in defence, Szczesny looking excellent in goal and Arteta re-finding his form with yesterday’s Man of the Match Ramsey alongside him, it’s all reason to cheer and be confident at Arsenal at the minute.
Everton are still a huge threat after they easily dispatched of Moyes’ awful Man United, but with tricky games to come I still believe they’ll drop points and if we win our next two home games we should, hopefully, be out of sight for fourth place before the last day trip to Norwich.
People will look at yesterday and say the Cup Final is a dead cert for us, but it won’t be that simple. The Wembley fixture will provide a completely different mentality for both Hull and ourselves and we know all too well that we can’t take anything for granted and we’ll need to be at our best to lift the silverware on May 17th.
For now though, we have three games left in this year’s Premier League campaign, and if Özil, Ramsey and co can continue to click like they did yesterday, it could be an excellent and exciting end to the season.