Arsenal stay in control at the summit
Nicklas Bendtner scores first goal for Arsenal for three years in comfortable win
Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil (left) celebrates with his teammate Nacho Monreal after scoring against Hull at the Emirates Stadium
Arsenal 2 Hull City 0
At some stage this wave is going to break. But right now Arsene Wenger and his players are riding such a thrilling crest even Nicklas Bendtner is getting in on the act.
A man who could have been in rather different circumstances at Crystal Palace this season suddenly finds himself involved, and scoring goals, for the team enjoying the ride at the top of the league.
It was quite a tale of the unexpected as Bendtner broke Hull with his first league goal in Arsenal colours for three years. But apart from that, much of the evening was predictable enough as the home team coasted to another three points, outpassed their opponents and notched up another blank in the goals against column.
These are good habits, and the major plus for Wenger was that it was sustained despite five changes to the line-up which played over the weekend.
Wenger had hinted that a tinker or two was necessary to deal with the demands of the upcoming quartet of challenging fixtures, but it still came as a surprise to see Bendtner selected for his first waltz in a Premier League starting XI for Arsenal since March 2011, in place of Olivier Giroud.
His most recent chance, as he ambled ineffectually through a League Cup defeat to Chelsea, had hardly advertised his wares. And since then, Wenger had wondered aloud whether Bendtner’s head was focused on the here and now at the Emirates Stadium or a future elsewhere.
As it turned out, his head was in exactly the right place to thump Arsenal into the lead before Hull even had the chance to adjust to the floodlights. It took a minute and a half for the Dane to make a mockery of the pre-match jokes that were doing the rounds.
Three of the changes Wenger made to the team that dismantled Cardiff on the weekend were involved as Hull were sliced apart.
Tomas Rosicky’s deft touch confused the visiting defence and in an instant Carl Jenkinson broke to loft a pinpoint cross for Bendtner. His hulking presence made his marker, James Chester, look like he came from the land of Lilliput. Bendtner towered over him to steer a firm header past Allan McGregor.
Hull arrived buoyed by an uplifting win over Liverpool, but were soon breathing heavily as Arsenal seized control and began to attack in swarms. They had the chances to extend their lead before half-time.
Aaron Ramsey, unsurprisingly, was at the heart of the search for more. He was close to a second after McGregor parried, might have had a penalty when he was tripped by Maynor Figueroa and saw a cracking 25-yard drive tipped behind by the Hull keeper.
Midway through the half Hull earned some crucial breathing space as Danny Graham’s tantalising cross just evaded Yannick Sagbo.
Another warning came when Tom Huddlestone sent a fizzing ball across the face of goal, before threatening again with a shot which rocketed off Per Mertesacker.
With only a slender scoreline to show for a dominant first half, Arsenal stepped it up after the break and struck another early blow. Nacho Monreal kept the ball in play on the left flank but Hull’s players paused as if half-expecting a throw.
Ozil and Ramsey unstitched the opposition with a stylish exchange, Ramsey’s wonderfully crafted pass arced into Ozil’s stride and the German guided the ball home with a typically sweet touch to double Arsenal’s lead.
Arsenal continued to create chances. Ramsey surged into the box, and a Bendtner header was nodded off the goalline. Santi Cazorla’s shot ricocheted off a Hull leg. There was a worrying moment when Sagbo collided with Wojciech Szczesny and accidentally caught him in the head – the first action the Arsenal keeper had been involved in as he came to catch Ahmed Elmohamady’s whipped cross.
Attention now turns to Everton, Napoli and Manchester City in the space of seven meaningful days. Arsenal are as rested, and as ready as can be.
ARSENAL: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey (Arteta 80), Flamini, Rosicky (Wilshere 73), Ozil, Cazorla, Bendtner (Walcott 73). Subs Not Used: Vermaelen, Giroud, Fabianski, Gibbs.
HULL CITY: McGregor, Chester, Bruce, Figueroa, Elmohamady, Livermore, Meyler, Huddlestone, Brady (Rosenior 58), Sagbo (Gedo 73), Graham (Boyd 58). Subs Not Used: Koren,Fryatt,Harper,Faye.
Referee: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).