Arsenal savour emphatic victory to raise hopes of title challenge

A convincing away win over a Hull City team playing with 10 men does not prove they are good enough to win the Premier League, it merely teases their supporters.

Published: 18th September 2016 09:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th September 2016 09:57 AM   |  A+A-


Arsenal cannot do anything more than this for now. A convincing away win over a Hull City team playing with 10 men does not prove they are good enough to win the Premier League, it merely teases their supporters.

It suggests they could be. Arsene Wenger's side were by far the better team long before Jake Livermore was shown a red card five minutes before half-time, but we have seen this so many times before at this stage of the season. The doubts linger. It probably does not matter how well they play. Until the -title is won, few people will be convinced Arsenal are good enough, often enough, to be champions. We have reached the 'only believe it when I see it' era at the Emirates Stadium.

It is difficult to know how good this Arsenal team is. It is muddled by Wenger's bold proclamation last week that this is his best side for more than a decade. Given the Gunners were last champions of England in 2004, it was a very deliberate time framing by the Frenchman.

Wenger thinks they are -title contenders, yet their recent history of flattering to deceive means his is an isolated voice, a man shouting to be heard above the noise of countless conflicting conversations. His critics continue to focus on Arsenal's fragile mindset, their flaky reputation under pressure, their inability to change their style to suit tougher opponents and the manager's continued failure (or refusal) to sign a truly world-class centre forward. They will not change their minds on the -basis of beating a Hull team most people tipped for relegation in August.

"It was a convincing performance in two different situations, 11 vs 11 and 11 vs 10," said Wenger. "We remained serious and in the end we won the game in a convincing way. We got a big shock in our first game (defeat to Liverpool) and I said we faced a mental test to see how well we responded away at Leicester and Watford. I think we have responded well. We weren't ready physically at the start of the season, we are now much better so let's hope we can continue."

Hull's game plan has worked well for them under Mike Phelan - who should finally agree a contract to become permanent manager after a further round of talks next week - but Arsenal are a dangerous side to try to soak up pressure against. Alexis Sanchez should have opened the scoring when he -received a low pass from Theo Walcott, but his scuffed shot flew over.

The Gunners did not have to wait long for another chance. An effort from Francis Coquelin was blocked and fell for Walcott. His cross looked too close to Eldin -Jakupovic, but the Hull goalkeeper palmed the ball into the path of Alex Iwobi, whose shot deflected in off the heel of Sanchez. -Arsenal had the lead and looked in control and Hull should have fallen further behind when Mesut Ozil inexplicably failed to hit the target with Jakupovic grounded.

Hull might have punished Arsenal's profligacy when Robert Snodgrass found himself in a shooting -position, but he hit it straight at Cech. -Arsenal continued to waste chances and even managed to miss a penalty -after Livermore had been dismissed for blocking Sanchez's shot with his arm. Sanchez persuaded normal taker Santi Cazorla to let him take the spot kick, but was denied by a good save from -Jakupovic.

Down to ten men and trailing, Hull looked doomed and when Walcott scored Arsenal's second after a wonderful one-two with Iwobi the outcome looked assured. Hull though kept their foot on the gas and made things interesting with 12 minutes remaining. Record signing Ryan Mason, who moved from Tottenham Hotspur last month for pounds 13?million, was key, sliding an excellent through ball into the path of Dieumerci Mbokani, who was brought down inside the area by Cech. Snodgrass converted the penalty, but Arsenal went back through the gears and scored a third through Sanchez after Walcott's effort had been saved.

Arsenal put a gloss on the scoreline with a magnificent strike from Granit Xhaka in stoppage time, who beat -Jakupovic with a dipping, swerving -effort from 30 yards. Phelan said: "They are very difficult to play with 11 men, let alone 10, but for 40 minutes I thought we were in a decent position."

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