Arsenal seek revenge in Hull rematch

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LONDON, January 16 – There have been more lows in Arsenal's season than Arsene Wenger will care to remember, but Saturday's trip to Hull City will spark nightmarish memories of the day which – more than any other – shook the Frenchman to his core.

Almost four months have elapsed since Hull’s stunning victory at the Emirates stadium in September, sealed by a sublime strike from Brazilian Geovanni and Daniel Cousin’s flashing header, but for many Arsenal fans, the shock waves continue to reverberate.
 

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It was just the second time in 60 matches the north Londoners had tasted defeat at their new home and, more significantly, confirmed the growing suspicions that Wenger’s side possessed a dangerously soft underbelly.
 
The Hull defeat was no mere aberration.
 
Arsenal duly slumped to further losses against Stoke, Manchester City and Aston Villa, leaving them engaged in an undignified scrap to cling on to their place in English football’s elite group.
 
They are now fifth, three points adrift of Villa, and can ill afford another slip when they make their first ever visit to the KC stadium this weekend.
 
"It’s not about revenge for us – it’s just about continuing our progress," Wenger said. "We feel we are on a good run and we just want to be quiet and focussed on our work.
 
"Any team can have a drop in form because there is not very much between the various sides – we have seen that this season. You can quickly lose games if your form drops but I think we are well placed to do well away from home at the moment."
 
Wenger has, belatedly, managed to instil a semblance of consistency into his young side.
Arsenal are now in the midst of their longest unbeaten run of the season, although the fact that sequence extends to just six games in all competitions is damning proof of the Gunners’ struggles.
 
There is even something deceptive in their current good form. Three of those six matches have been draws and Arsenal have notched more than one goal in just two of their last nine fixtures.
 
A side which was once the epitome of swaggering, cavalier football appears to have lost its way.
 
There are mitigating circumstances.
 
Wenger suggested after his team’s narrow win over Bolton last week that the defensive standards of English clubs had never been higher, or the attitude of visiting teams more craven, and his efforts to counter those trends have been damaged by the absence of key creative influences such as Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott and Eduardo da Silva.
 
Even so, Wenger accepts that it is up to him to find an answer if Arsenal’s Champions League status is to be preserved.
 
"What is interesting in the game is that every new problem you face, you have to work to find the answer," he said.
 
"That problem will only be temporary I think because it will force teams to work on movement, the technique and the creative side. We have to be good enough to create the chances if the opposition only defends."
 
Hull are renowned as one of the top flight’s more attack-minded sides and there should be no shortage of positive intent on Saturday as Phil Brown’s side aims to arrest a slide which has seen them win just one of their last 12 Premier League games.
 
But the Humbersiders are still proving an enticing prospect for potential signings, with Kevin Kilbane hoping to feature against Arsenal after completing his move from Wigan this week.
 
"Hull was definitely an attractive move," he said. "I wanted to stay in the Premier League because you want to play as many games in the top flight as you can. Hopefully we can do well in the remaining months of this season and firmly establish ourselves."
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