Arsenal 0-0 Hull: Six questions for Arsene Wenger after FA Cup draw
By Adam Bate at the Emirates Stadium
Last Updated: 21/02/16 2:01pm
Arsenal's busy fixture list has got even busier as they'll have to head up to Hull for a fifth-round replay after failing to find a way past the Championship leaders at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Adam Bate was there and picks out six questions for Arsene Wenger to ponder...
Hull force Arsenal replay
Eldin Jakupovic made a series of fine saves as Hull City earned an FA Cup fifth-round replay.
Is it okay to be relaxed about replays?
"I'm not as relaxed as I look," admitted Wenger when it was suggested to him afterwards that he appeared unperturbed by the fact that Arsenal's inability to find the net against Hull has added another fixture to the list. "I would be nervous or angry if I could change the result. It's not what I planned but it's how you respond and how you find the solution."
Leicester's players are already on vacation with a view to returning refreshed for the final dozen games of their season, but Arsenal could potentially play that many matches in cup competitions alone. "If you don't have injuries, you can cope," insists Wenger. In fact, he'll hope it serves the purpose of giving game time to some of the fringe figures in his squad.
Was this a lesson ahead of Barcelona?
Arsenal certainly asked enough questions of Hull to win the game and surely would have done so were it not for a man-of-the-match performance by the Tigers' second-choice goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic. Hull set up to frustrate the Gunners and it won't have escaped Wenger's attention that he'll need his team to show similar resolve against Barcelona on Tuesday.
"We were the favourites tonight," he said after the game. "We won't be on Tuesday night. On Tuesday we'll need great solidarity and to defend well, we know that. And make the maximum of our chances, like we didn't do today." Even the best teams can be stifled by bodies in the box and that could be a comfort ahead of the visit of the European champions.
Is Bellerin now essential for Arsenal?
While Mesut Ozil has earned his acclaim as the team's playmaker, one of the issues for Arsenal in their struggle to break down the Hull defence was the absence of Hector Bellerin. Deputy Calum Chambers was unable to provide much penetration down the right and two late crosses summed that up - one ballooned over the bar, the other scuffed into the box.
Bellerin's pace on the overlap is a significant weapon for Wenger's team and, according to Opta, the young Spaniard has created more clear-cut chances than any other defender in the Premier League this season. Whether it's Chambers or Mathieu Debuchy, the alternatives at right-back simply do not offer the same threat.
Should new signing Elneny start now?
One squad player who did look capable of improving the first-team was Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny. The January arrival from Basel has only featured in the FA Cup so far, but his tidy use of the ball was quietly impressive against Hull. He completed 85 of his 96 passes - more than anyone else on the pitch - and also made more tackles than his team-mates.
Elneny's threaded pass through to Mathieu Flamini fashioned the game's first opening and an interception soon after was the catalyst for a Theo Walcott chance. The crowd were soon calling for him to shoot, but he appears content to keep it simple and while that wasn't necessarily needed against Hull, his brand of control could be crucial in the months ahead.
Can Welbeck be crucial in the run-in?
The returning Welbeck, making his first start in 10 months, could represent a similar boost for Wenger and his team. The manager used his programme notes to talk up the ability, attitude and popularity of the player who came off the bench to make such a dramatic impact in the win over Leicester last time out and this was another encouraging display.
Welbeck looked fit and strong, showing glimpses of his quality when forcing Jakupovic into a fine save after the break. Wenger highlighted the forward as "a positive of the day" in his post-match press conference and while there are plenty of options in the attacking positions at Arsenal, the former Manchester United man does offer something a little different.
Is Sanchez's recent form a concern?
On other hand, Sanchez has not yet found his best form since returning from injury. He emerged to a loud ovation as Wenger looked to his bench for a breakthrough but those same supporters were soon groaning as two passes in quick succession were overhit and flew out of play. It wasn't the best of cameos at a time when Arsenal need him at his best.
In the autumn, Sanchez scored three at Leicester, two against Manchester United and the opener at Watford - all in consecutive Premier League games. But he has not scored in the competition since then, only finding the net against Dinamo Zagreb and Burnley in his last 14 appearances. Perhaps the visit of former club Barcelona will bring inspiration - and a timely return to form.