Hull City 1
Another masterclass in passing and movement from Santi Cazorla and two more goals from Alexis Sanchez were sufficient to ensure Arsenal headed back to London confident of returning to the Champions League next season.
The gap in goal difference is such that it is effectively impossible for fifth-placed Liverpool to catch Arsene Wenger's players now but unfortunately for Steve Bruce the possibility of Hull dropping into the English Championship remains far from theoretical. Although his side remain 16th, third-from -bottom Sunderland are only a point behind, awkward fixtures lie ahead and the momentum gained during a recent mini-rival could be in danger of evaporating.
Arsenal slightly took the edge off a rumbustious atmosphere by rather rudely hogging possession for the entire opening two minutes. A nonchalant Aaron Ramsey backheel underlined this early superiority but then Jake Livermore crunched in on Sanchez with a wince-inducing challenge and Hull were up and running.
When James Chester hoisted a long ball out of defence Dame N'Doye raced to meet it as it dropped, forcing David Ospina to rush from his line and thwart the striker by heading clear from the edge of his box.
A subsequent, similarly enthusiastic, Ospina clearance concluded with the goalkeeper accidentally catching Francis Coquelin in the mouth with a stray arm but Arsenal's influential enforcer was soon able to resume.
As Arsenal learnt en route to last season's FA Cup final win against Hull the Tigers can be troublesome opponents and so, albeit deceptively, it was proving here with Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and a deep-lying Cazorla initially struggling to conjure telling final passes.
It did not deter Arsenal supporters from indulging in a brief bout of "going down" after Tom Huddlestone met a Hector Bellerin cross with a heel and promptly flicked it in an arc towards his own goal. Fortunately for Huddlestone the ball's trajectory ensured a routine save for Steve Harper.
Sone Aluko soon experienced a little humiliation of his own after Robbie Brady’s whipped-in cross confounded Arsenal’s defence and the striker was offered a free header. Somehow failing to make proper contact with the ball – which appeared to strike his face – Aluko missed a highly inviting chance.
It proved costly here as, shortly afterwards, Arsenal took the lead. It began with Huddlestone – looking a shadow of last season’s assured midfield choreographer – being caught loitering in possession by Ozil. Having pinched the ball the German picked out Sanchez whose advance was brought to an abrupt end by Livermore’s tackle.
With Livermore booked Sanchez stepped forward and aimed to lift the ensuing free-kick over the wall. Helpfully it took a deflection off Michael Dawson, wrong-footing Harper and allowing the forward to celebrate his 15th Premier League goal of the campaign.
Finally able to relax Arsenal began finding their passing range and a wonderful delivery from Cazorla bisected two defenders, enabling Ramsey to turn and shoot. Brady attempted a last-ditch tackle but instead of rescuing the situation the ball deflected off him, once again wrong-footing Harper.
Hull though sensed a glimmer of hope as Huddlestone’s sent N’Doye racing clear from deep. He ended up shooting wastefully wide when well placed and was probably relieved to see offside had been flagged.
Cazorla and company increasingly invested their passing with the sort of beautiful geometry capable of thoroughly bewildering the initially impressive Dawson and friends.
The game was proving far too slick and speedy for Huddlestone who was caught dwelling on the ball once more by Ramsey and summarily dispossessed. Ramsey’s resultant, incisive pass enabled the accelerating Sanchez to round poor Harper and claim his second goal. With half-time beckoning the game seemed over.
There was a distinct exhibition-mode tone to the start of the second half. Local thoughts turned to Saturday’s vital game with Burnley here. After that Hull face a tricky trip to Tottenham before entertaining Manchester United on the final afternoon.
More immediately they fought back here. Ahmed Elmohamady had despatched some fine crosses from right wing-back and his latest delivery led to Stephen Quinn heading past Ospina. A couple of minutes later Elmohamady crossed again and Paul McShane headed narrowly over.
Yet despite further valiance from Elmohamady and David Meyler, influential after replacing Livermore, it was very much Arsenal's night. Guardian Service
HULL CITY: Harper, Chester, Dawson, McShane, Elmohamady, Livermore (Meyler 46), Huddlestone, Quinn (Jelavic 81), Brady, N'Doye, Aluko (Robertson 65). Subs not used: McGregor, Rosenior, Bruce, Hernandez. Booked: Livermore, N'Doye.
ARSENAL: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey (Wilshere 68), Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud (Walcott 86). Subs not used: Szczesny, Gibbs, Gabriel, Rosicky, Flamini.
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).