THE planning starts now. And for Steve Bruce, the big question is, ‘How do we stop Arsenal?’
The Gunners, with eight wins in their last nine meetings with Hull stretching back to the 1930 FA Cup semi-final meeting, will start the May 17 final as favourites. It is something Arsene Wenger’s side will merit, even allowing for the collapse in form over the past month that has put their Champions League qualification in doubt.
But, as Wigan Athletic showed on Saturday in the other semi-final, Arsenal can be stopped. Which is why Bruce could do a lot worse than put a call into Latics manager Uwe Rosler in the next few weeks.
Wigan got at Arsenal at every opportunity, denying the Premier League giants the space that they crave. Every time a red shirt got the ball, two in blue were on his toes within a second.
The upshot was the Gunners being forced into mistake after mistake.
In particular, the left side of the back four – Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal – had a torrid time at the feet of Callum McManaman.
It was no coincidence that Wigan’s penalty came this way, McManaman being tripped by Mertesacker after cutting inside.
A feature of Hull’s play this season has been Ahmed Elmohamady getting down the right flank and it is to be hoped the Egyptian will be unleashed in the final.
Matty Fryatt also surely has to start. Steve Bruce revealed after yesterday’s victory that the serious Achilles injury that the striker suffered last season was behind him being left out.
The Tigers chief feared that the notoriously draining effect of the Wembley turf might put Fryatt’s Achilles under too much strain. Similar thinking was behind Sone Aluko’s exclusion.
If the second half proved anything, however, it is that Fryatt has to start in the final.
A dress rehearsal of sorts will come on Sunday when Wenger’s side head to the KC Stadium. But with cup-tied duo Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic set to return, clues may be thin on the ground.
What is for sure, though, is that Arsenal are far from the ‘Invincibles’ of 10 years ago so Hull should return to Wembley in a little over a month’s time in confident mood.