London- The chance of ending a nine-year wait for silverware will be at the forefront of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and his players’ minds when they head to Wembley for the FA Cup final against Hull City on Saturday.
It’s no secret that the North London outfit are the firm favourites to lift the trophy as they prepare to take on a side who only returned to the Premier League last summer and finished 16th in the table this season.
With the likes of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud at the Gunners’ disposal, on paper, it looks like a simple win, but Arsenal are familiar with cup final upsets - three years ago, Birmingham City beat the Gunners 2-1 at Wembley in the League Cup final.
Hull manager Steve Bruce is likely to draw on that result when his team head to the capital, but the former Championship side have a poor record against their opponents - not only did they lose twice to the Gunners this season, but they have never won against Arsenal since they have faced one another from 2009 onwards.
Arsenal have had some questionable performances from their defensive line during the season, most notably against the top half of the table, including Liverpool and Chelsea, but they head into the match on the back of five straight victories.
For Hull, its a completely different story as they prepare for the final having secured just one win in their six fixtures, which also consist of one draw and four defeats. However, the new Wembley stadium has been kind to the Tigers as they have a 100% record following their 2008 playoff final victory and win over Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi-final this season.
In terms of personnel, there is a question over who Wenger will opt to place between the sticks as Lukas Fabianski has played in every cup game for the Gunners, while Wojciech Szczesny has ended the league season with the ‘Premier League Golden Gloves’ following 16 clean sheets.
Giroud is likely to lead the way for Arsenal, while Jack Wilshere is expected to be absent from the starting lineup as he continues to regain full fitness after recovering from a broken foot.
Wenger insisted this week that he has no qualms about starting full-back Bacary Sagna, despite the constant speculation over his future, while Ozil is likely to be part of the first XI.
At the other end of the field, Hull have already been dealt a blow due to strikers Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic being cup-tied, but Robert Koren or Yannick Sagbo will fill the void.
Bruce sometimes opts for a back three formation, but the ex-Manchester United player could be tempted to line his defence with five players in a bid to thwart Arsenal’s superior attack.
Last 20 FA cup winners
Man City -2011
Portsmouth - 2008
Man Utd -2004
Man Utd -1999
Man Utd -1996
Man Utd -1994