To Hull and Back

On September 27, 2008, Hull City A.F.C. threw us for a loop when they scored with a Geovanni thunderbolt and a Daniel Cousin header. Had we won that day, we would have gone top of the table. Instead, we suffered the second defeat at the Emirates ever.

We didn’t exactly go into a complete tailspin after that; the Tottenham 4-4 draw would see to that. But it did dent the belief of our young squad. As Wenger stated in his press conference, he said that the result made the squad question whether or not they were able to win the league. Hearing such comments disappoint me, but I guess I can understand his thinking.

We should not have dropped points against Burnley. Consistency is what will win us the Premier League title, and we cannot afford to go up 1-0 and drop points. To be fair, we did have a nice purple patch after Cesc’s goal, but we have to learn how to finish off games.

Such is the state of our squad that when something goes against us, it tends to make us wilt rather than galvanize us. It is an incredible positive that we have Andrey Arshavin, because he doesn’t seem to be a character to be affected negatively by blips.

And with that, we welcome Hull City and Phil Brown back to the Emirates. The last time we played them, the Cesc Fabregas spitting row dominated the headlines. Even though Cesc will not play tomorrow, feelings still linger and a part of me did not want Phil Brown to be fired just so we can annihilate them at the Emirates.

The players must view this as an opportunity to seal old wounds and establish real consistency. As hurtful as the Burnley point was, we still were able to get 4 points in two difficult away fixtures without playing particularly well. Hull will be looking to “get in” on our players, and we’ll have to show that we’re game.

That’s how things will be reflected. If we win games, everybody talks about how the opponents gave us far too much space. If we drop points, analysts talk about how teams got in our face and refused to give up any ground. The difference doesn’t rest with the opposition. It has more to do with how well we play. We play well, we create that space. We haven’t been as brave anymore in doing that, looking tentative while holding possession of the ball and having strikers who are frankly off colour right now.

We fail to get anything less than three points tomorrow, and I will have serious doubts to our title challenge.

Briefly, let’s discuss the Champions League drawing. I fear no team, but FC Porto is a favorable draw. It’s not an easy matchup, but they have lost influential players from last year’s team. Hulk has developed, but is no Lisandro Lopez. They did perform admirably in the Champions League group stages, but they currently lie in second place in their league behind Benfica. We should be able to edge them in the Round of 16.

Additionally, Mick McCarthy should really shut it when talking about issues of integrity. He can do whatever he likes with Wolves and I understand that his primary objective is to keep them up, but what he did does set a dangerous precedent, albeit I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before. First off, he sends a negative message to his own squad, but more importantly, what’s to stop other teams from not sending out full squads against Manchester United in the future. It is what it is, but I for one am rooting for Burnley to demolish Wolves this weekend.

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