Pitchside

Ramsey key if Arsenal to break hoodoo, but Hull have their own king

Pitchside

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It's FA Cup final weekend and, with much having been made of Arsenal's nine-year hiatus without a trophy, the Gunners are strong favourites to overcome the efforts of Hull on Saturday.

The Tigers had a successful return to the Premier League this season, effectively securing their survival some time in advance of the campaign's conclusion, but they have let standards of late slip with their Wembley showpiece in mind. Indeed, only relegated Norwich lost as many league matches since the start of March as Steve Bruce's men (8), with just 7 points amassed from a possible 33 in that time.

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Hull have begun to leak goals at the back, where before they were so organised, particularly at home. The signings of Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic certainly added a little firepower - an area that they were distinctly lacking - but the arrival of the two hasn't really sparked an upturn in fortunes.

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Their January recruits are, nonetheless, the club's joint top scorers with a modest 4 - no other side's top scorer has netted as few. The fact, then, that both are inelgible for the match up with Arsenal is a real cause for concern.

Yannick Sagbo and Matty Fryatt will look to profit but since the turn of the year the two have amassed just 511 minutes of Premier League action combined. They've both featured in the Tigers’ progression to this stage, scoring 6 goals in the FA Cup between them, but questions will be asked as to whether they've had sufficient playing time of late to cause a real threat to a side of Arsenal's pedigree.

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As far as the recent meetings between the two are concerned, Arsenal come out on top by some distance. The Gunners have won all of their last 6 encounters with Hull, scoring 15 goals to the Tigers' 3 in the process.

Unlike their less-esteemed opponents Wenger's men come into the game in fine form. Since they scraped past holders Wigan on penalties in the semi-finals Arsenal have won all 5 of their Premier League matches, keeping a clean sheet in the last 4.

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They may have effectively ended their title bid in a dismal period in March but the Gunners are back on track, due in no small part to the return to fitness of Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman was the WhoScored man of the match (8.76 rating) when these two sides met less than a month ago, making his first league start since December to score and pick up an assist, and he's likely to be pivotal once again.

Despite only starting 20 league matches, the midfielder ended the campaign with an excellent 10 goals and 8 assists. It's little surprise that Arsenal picked up significantly more points in the league when the 23-year old was in the starting XI (2.25) than when he was absent from the line-up (1.89). The Londoners' goal difference with (+23) and without Ramsey (+4) was equally telling.

The Tigers will look to the likes of Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone, who have shone in their first season for the club, earning the top two ratings on the side from WhoScored.com (7.40 and 7.16 respectively), to keep Ramsey and co. quiet. Whether they can succeed in that mission is another story altogether, but one only need look back to last season's final to recognise that stranger things have happened!

By Martin Laurence

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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