Actually, it was far from simple, it was nerve racking and frustrating for 75 minutes and could have so easily gone horribly wrong but as all right-minded stories should end – the good guys won.
Arsenal started this tie as if they wished they were somewhere else, a bit like an unpleasant chore that had to be suffered before being awarded a treat. In this case the treat was the far more glamorous tie with Chelsea at Wembley on April 18th.
The team selection made complete sense. There should have been enough speed and talent in the choice of Walcott, RVP, Vela and Arshavin up front to have won this tie comfortably. But as is so often the case; things that look good on paper do not always function well in practice. Our new shiny attack was running slow and spluttering, like a Ferrari stuck in second gear. There was no interplay between them and no link up play from the midfield. My frustration focused on Diaby who had one of those games in which he infuriatingly doesn’t get rid of the ball quick enough and loses possession.
Hull couldn’t believe their luck at all the presents that Diaby kept giving them; as a result, they went from a team that started time wasting from the very first minute; which, if you think about it is quite disgusting, to a team that thought they could get something out of the tie and then to compound everyone’s frustration they scored from a lucky deflection.
The goal certainly perked us up but didn’t change anything. One half of the midfield had gone missing. Song’s role as DM was to break up play and pass to Diaby who was supposed to drive things forward. Song was doing his job but Diaby annoyingly failed to do his. Van Persie frustrated by the situation was coming back deep to pick up the ball in an attempt to make things happen, the result being that there was no one left in the attack to play it to.
The second half started in the same frustrating way as the first half ended. The bright spot was Arshavin; he was the only one capable of igniting the game but even he needed help which finally arrived in the form of Bendtner and Nasri, their impact was immediate. RVP was instantly put at ease by Bendtner playing the lead striker and Nasri having told Diaby to go and play with his toys in the corner got on with the task of grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and dominating the midfield.
The breakthrough came after 75 minutes when it was our turn to have some luck: the ball bounced kindly for Bendtner who then controlled it well, passed to Arshavin who coolly squared it to RVP to finish from 5 yards out.
The stadium erupted with relief and the onslaught in search for the winner began. The Hull goal for the next ten minutes resembled Dresden on a bad night: wave after wave of bombardment until Nasri flighted a free kick into the box which the goal keeper couldn’t punch clear, it spun off his glove up into the air for Billy Boy, who was miles on side, to head the winner. Job done but we managed to make a mountain out of a mole hill, again.
Fabianski: in control, commanding, not to blame for the first goal. 7
Sagna: usual good defending. 6.5
Gallas: missed playing with someone more experienced next to him. 6.5
Djourou: really should play with learner plates on. L plates on a player congers quite a funny image to me. 6
Gibbs: sorry, I have gone back to thinking he is not going to make it at Arsenal. More composed, yes, but it is only a question of time before someone with pace embarrasses him. 6
Diaby: the reason I am upset about him is because I was one of those hoping that he was going to metamorphosise into Patrick Vieira but on last night’s performance he is a long way from that. 5
Song: did his job well, made some very incisive passes, one most notably that carved their defence open but Theo was unable to control. 7
Walcott: like a flower needs light, Theo needs space and there wasn’t much of it yesterday. 6
RVP: doesn’t like playing the lone striker role, instantly more comfortable when Bendtner came on. 6
Vela: completely forgettable performance. 5
Arshavin: the speed this man is adapting at is staggering, give him two more weeks and he will be the captain. 7.5
Nasri: changed the game. 8
Bendtner: growing in confidence. 7
Other notable appearances.
Fabregas: Horton is a nasty piece of work. 10