Arsenal 2 (Sanchez 34, pen 90+3) Hull City 0
Arsene Wenger insists he is largely oblivious to mounting pressure at the Emirates.
Of course, the Arsenal manager is no fool and is aware that his future is a hot topic in and away from the stadium as he nears the end of his contract after over 20 years running the club he holds so dear.
And he expressed his gratitude at seeing a few ‘Wenger Stays’ placards and admitted his relief at ending a winless two-game streak with this hard fought win against an improving Hull side.
The French coach is now putting the focus on his players as they head to Germany tomorrow for Wednesday night’s Champions League first-leg tie against Bayern Munich.
Arsene and Arsenal have been there before, of course, and have experienced triumph and defeat.
But Wenger genuinely feels he is well-placed to get through the last 16 stage this season and wants players such as German World Cup winner Mesut Ozil to rise to the occasion.
Ozil had yet another frustratingly anonymous match in this deserved win against a relegation-threatened yet rejuvenated Hull side.
Alexis Sanchez, who is always visible from start to finish, made the difference bundling in a first half opener with a hand and scoring an injury-time winner from the penalty spot after Sam Clucas had been sent off for a goal-line handball.
Regardless that the first goal should have been disallowed and defender Kieran Gibbs should have been sent off for a second half foul on goal-bound Lazar Markovic, Wenger hopes victory, however fortuitous, will be enough to give Ozil and his team-mates faith against the ‘German giants’.
Talking of Ozil, who squandered a good chance to score early on, he said: “I felt he did not feel confident, I agree completely with you. It’s always a problem because you think he can deliver something special but it’s true that technically he missed things he is not used to.
“I don’t know why - it can happen. I don’t know any specific reason. I had a chat with him yesterday.”
The former Real Madrid man is stalling over a new contract, but has not scored for two months. “Yes. It’s time for him to score again,” Wenger agreed.
“Maybe he will find his confidence back as well, because he misses chances. He has chances and he misses the chances that don’t look not feasible for him.”
And the tactics for facing Bayern?
“We had bad experiences against them, but I feel this is a good opportunity. We already won there before so as we play the first game away from home, so it’s important we protect the second game.
“I feel that to have a chance to qualify in the second leg that will be very important. We go there not high, but to defend well as a team.”
Wenger has the option of recalling suspended midfielder Granit Xhaka and will be back on the touchline himself.
While the impressive Hull manager Marco Silva cajoled his side throughout from the edge of the pitch, Wenger watched from the comfort of the director’s box.
But he admitted he does not like being part of the prawn sandwich brigade and explained: “At home, it’s not too bad, away from home it’s more difficult because you are in the middle of the fans. It’s difficult to get the right focus.”
Silva, who has given Hull belief they can beat the drop since replacing Mike Phelan just over a month ago was angry with Clattenburg, but did not blame him for the defeat.
Hull captain Tom Huddlestone said the official apologised over the handball goal: “He said he missed it and if he hasn’t seen it he can’t give it so we can’t be too critical.”
Gibbs also admitted he was grateful to stay on and said: “I took a chance with the challenge on Markovic. The ref said the ball was going away from goal.”
Silva’s focus, immediately after the match was already on the next game, at home to Burnley on February 25, giving him two weeks to improve his side further.
Despite Ian Wright questioning his energy levels, Wenger insists he is not tired of his role in charge, despite a sleepless night before the match, but it is a long time since he has enjoyed such an extended period of time to prepare his players.
With Arsenal still in the FA Cup too next week, for Wenger and his players the next game is never more than just a few days away.
Cech 7; Bellerin 6, Mustafi 6, Koscielny 6, Gibbs 6; Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Lucas 82, 6), Coquelin 6; Walcott 6 (Elneny 69, 6), Ozil 5, Iwobi 5 (Welbeck 82, 6); Sanchez 8.
HULL CITY (4-2-3-1):
Jakupovic 5; Elabdellaoui 6 (Elmohamady 66, 6), Ranocchia 6, Maguire 7, Robertson 6; Huddlestone 7 (Diomande 78, 6), N’Diaye 6; Markovic 7, Grosicki 6 (Evandro 60, 6), Clucas 5; Niasse 5.
Mark Clattenburg 4
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