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Arsenal 2 - 2 Hull City: another dispiriting draw

Alexis can't do everything, guys.

Clive Rose

1 - 0 Alexis Sanchez 13'
1 - 1 Mohamed Diame 17'
1 - 2 Abel Hernandez 46'
2 - 2 Danny Welbeck 90+1'

It's hard to imagine a game that more accurately reflects the current zeitgeist in the Arsenal World than today's 2-2 draw against Hull City. It was a match that was both exciting and boring at the same time, somehow producing moments of bewildering skill in amongst vast tracts of dim, benighted doldrums. Alexis Sanchez is magic but can disappear; Arsenal seem to have their best ideas when the score is 0 - 0, and it's probably not possible to explain any of it, really.

Arsenal began the match as they do so many of their home affairs, passing the ball around quickly and trying combinations over the opposition back line while retaining almost all of the possession. It took thirteen minutes for the desired effect, which actually came not from attempts at intricate play, but just from Alexis Sanchez being extremely excellent. He collected the ball on the right before stepping over and absolutely melting Curtis Davies, skipping past the fallen Englishman, and, not seeing any options not covered by Hull's back 18, simply scored at the far post from a super-tight angle. It was like something from a television commercial.

As the narrative goes, though, today, when Arsenal looked to be dominant, they were actually the most vulnerable. And so it proved four minutes later as Mohamed Diame dribbled through four Arsenal players, pulled Mathieu Flamini back by his neck, walked past Nacho Monreal, and chipped Wojciech Szczesny to equalize. Most felt that Flamini had been fouled, and it's a fair question to ask how he was supposed to do anything when his neck was being grabbed and hooked, and one can argue both ways all day, but also, Flamini, Monreal, and Mertesacker all have to do better in situations when they are being driven at. And whether or not it was a foul, referee Roger East only makes life hard for himself not making that call, as every call he inevitably will make as the game goes on for weaker incidents only flares things up. And there were plenty of those.

As for the actual game, though, after the equalizer, Arsenal looked totally different. There was less movement up front and less creativity from behind. Hull looked more dangerous on the counter.

Immediately after halftime, Hull managed to get behind Kieran Gibbs on Arsenal's left flank, Jack Wilshere didn't close down the cross, and Mertesacker stood a little too idly to head it away, allowing Abel Hernandez to leap in front and head home Hull's second goal with ease. It was as basic a goal to concede as one could imagine, and the Emirates grumbled. Arsenal didn't do too much new as time ticked along; Hull wasted great gobs of time, every injury prolonged, every throw in attempted from 25 yards further up the pitch than legal. Aaron Ramsey and Joel Campbell came on (Campbell looked very good!), but things didn't really heat up again until the last five minutes, when Arsenal started winning a succession of corner kicks (and nearly conceded from counterattacks, but).

Finally, it took a bit of brilliance again from Alexis to bring Arsenal level in the first minute of injury time. He simply dribbled through most of Hull's team before laying it off for Danny Welbeck, who popped a ball home over Eldin Jakupovic. Arsenal pressed hard for a winner for the next five minutes, but couldn't find one, and full time brought home a 2 - 2 draw.

As a team, Arsenal couldn't find much inspiration today; relying on Alexis to be completely astonishing won't always work, and didn't really work today. There were some other bright spots--Campbell was good, as was Hector Bellerin--but the team as a collective right now is battered, thin, and making poor decisions in attack and defense. There's very little solidity. Two wins from eight matches is worse than David Moyes' start at United last year, and eleven points from eight matches is only going to get one about 50-55 points by season's end.

Attention will now turn to Anderlecht in midweek. Hopefully Arsenal can use the Champions League to get the juices flowing fully again.