Arsenal Must Be Patient to Silence Trophy Demons vs. Hull City

Christopher AtkinsContributor IMay 16, 2014

NORWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 11:  Carl Jenkinson of Arsenal celebrates scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on May 11, 2014 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Arsenal fans will head to Wembley on Saturday in expectant mood. It has been nine years since the Gunners won a major trophy and, over that time, there has been much heartbreak for their supporters to bear.

For manager Arsene Wenger, it is a day upon which he will hope to prove a point. In terms of his legacy at Arsenal and, indeed, within the English game, he need do no more.

However, there are those who question his current capacity to bring success to the Emirates Stadium. The FA Cup may have lost some importance in recent years, but it is as meaningful a cup tournament as exists anywhere worldwide.

To get his hands on the famous trophy, though, he will need to overcome Steve Bruce's Hull City. Bruce and Hull are not the most fashionable of combinations, but the former Manchester United idol deserves great credit for his work on Humberside.

Not only has he taken the club to their best-ever league finish and the upcoming cup final, but he has done so sticking to principles of good football. They may not be a modern equivalent of Brazil in 1982, but they try to play the game in an attractive style.

On Saturday, they will be forced to defend. If Hull are to succeed against Arsenal, they must frustrate them. As the minutes tick by, the Gunners' anxiety will rise and opportunities for Hull to pounce will increase.

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Hull look to counter quickly with their two forwards high up the pitch
Hull look to counter quickly with their two forwards high up the pitchNBC pictures B/R annotations

However, the odds are stacked in Arsenal's favour. Bruce's side have not won in five games, while the Gunners were comfortable 3-0 victors when the sides met just a few weeks ago. The FA Cup, though, is no place for logic.

In the absence of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, Hull's striking options are depleted. Bruce will likely stick with his favoured 3-5-2 system that has worked so well this season, with Yannick Sagbo partnering Sone Aluko up front. If not, a 4-5-1 may well be employed.

Either way, Hull will look to play on the counter-attack. Arsenal will be confronted with two stubborn lines of defence by a side with the second best defensive record in the bottom half of the Premier League.

Barring their cruise to the end of the season, that record and their 16th-place finish could have been considerably better.

Patience, then, will be key. Arsenal have amassed a reputation as a side who are fragile mentally, especially in big matches. Top opponents have learned to frustrate them, to hit them on the counter and negate their passing football.

Now many of their peers can even take them on for possession.

Mikel Arteta's experience could be key as the pressure grows.
Mikel Arteta's experience could be key as the pressure grows.Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press/Associated Press

Hull will opt for the former. They will know of Arsenal's reputation and hope to induce nerves in a Gunners side who have forgotten the feeling of success—this is not a side with experience of getting over the line in competitions.

Wenger's boys were given a major fright by Wigan in the semi-final and are now within touching distance of a medal. They must now keep their heads in the face of what will likely be a combative Hull side and a bouncing atmosphere inside the stadium. Nerves are natural on such an occasion, but they must be kept to a minimum.

An early goal would obviously be ideal but, if it does not come, Arsenal must just continue to do what they do best. Hull will tire. They cannot afford to make it easy for their opponents, though. They must play with intent and look to move Hull around. If they are too passive, Hull can defend their area with ease.

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Curtis Davies enjoyed a brilliant return to the Premier League this season.
Curtis Davies enjoyed a brilliant return to the Premier League this season.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Arsenal have been on the end of a cup final shock in recent years, with Obafemi Martins' League Cup winner for Birmingham doubtless still fresh in many fans' memories, and they must not make the same mistakes again. On that occasion, nerves got the better of them and one error proved costly.

Saturday's final could prove a defining match for Wenger, with the race for the Premier League title and top four positions only set to get harder again next season. His side must prove they are winners and banish the reputation that has consistently surrounded them in recent years.

Success in the FA Cup proved a catalyst for Manchester City to go on and claim a league title under Roberto Mancini, and there is no reason why Arsenal cannot do the same.

Hull, though, will do everything in their power to stand in their way on Saturday evening.