As Arsene Wenger prepares the team for Hull’s visit today, across London at the Duke of York’s Theatre, Richard Wilson – better know as One Foot in the Grave star Victor Meldrew – will be running over his lines before the opening evening of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. After the week Wenger has had he might be better suited to play Wilson’s character, Malvolio, a grumpy puritan who stands by his morals in the face of all adversity.
Since the Burnley game on Wednesday, Wenger has been at his theatrical best, moaning about the fixture list which he believes favours Hull who didn’t play mid-week. Not the first time Wenger has condemned the sloppy timing of when teams play, and his passion to stand up religiously and voice his views rumbles on.
On such occasions, the Frenchman might be better keeping his thoughts hush-hush instead of allowing the opposition to feel their opponent is unsettled before a ball is kicked. Criticising Mick McCarthy’s decision to field a weakened team against Manchester United will not help the team prepare for Hull either.
Wenger is right, more care should be taken to ensure the schedules are as fair as possible – in this case Arsenal play three times in a week compared to Hull’s two in eight days – but his rants wont change that ahead of today’s match. Arsene cries imbalance and Hull find more reason to get motivated for the game. The outcome is a familiar one, Arsenal’s season turns panto.
Phil Brown wont have forgotten last season’s FA Cup quarter-final clash with Arsenal, when the Gunners won 2-1 and Brown came close to ordering an ASBO on Cesc Fabregas who stormed on the pitch at the final whistle wearing a hooded jacket. Cesc is injured today so Brown will be licking his lips at that. Arsene shouldn’t be giving his opposite more ammo to believe Arsenal are feeling the pressure.
It’s time for Arsenal to buckle down. Hull have won only once in 22 Premier League away games and are yet to register a victory on the road this season. Winning 10 from their last 12 games at home – each by at least two goals and averaging more than three per match – shows the Emirates is becoming a fortress.
Denilson (back from injury) looks to be part of that stronghold today, occupying the hole that Fabregas leaves. The Brazilian rarely flatters or steals headlines, however, he is a particular favourite of Wenger and is sure to play today. Abou Diaby was poor as his replacement for the Burnley game on Wednesday, contributing to the meagre 1-1 draw.
Denilson last entertained in the feisty 2-1 victory away at Liverpool. Currently, he looks a more natural component than Diaby. Also, the difference in Arsenal’s last two results and the fact that it was Denilson who was part of the Anfield win is more reason to start the samba man. With Fabregas out, Denilson might be called upon to write some of Arsenal’s script today and a goal would certainly humour the home crowd.
Twelfth Night’s own humour comes from Feste, Maria, Andrew and Toby Belch, all who ridicule Malvolio’s beliefs which he is passionate to make publicly aware; Wenger must feel his pain. Sign up now for auditions Alex Ferguson, Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes and if he’s quick a possible minor roll for Stoke manager, Tony Pulis, who taunted Wenger yesterday for “moaning like a drain”.
The only drain on the wonderful Premiership is Hull and the sooner Arsenal see such teams down the waste pipe and into the sewers of Championship football below, the better. Three points today is the perfect answer to Wenger’s Toby Belch’s, not civic outbursts. A win will cleanse the 2-1 loss to Hull at the Emirates last season and begin the flushing out process.

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