x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Porto look to emulate Hull's Emirates raid

Hull City's ability to leave a serious dent in the mettle of a spick-and-span Arsenal side has left the London club's manager Arsene Wenger wincing.

Arsene Wenger was left wincing and dealing with a serious bout of home sickness.
Arsene Wenger was left wincing and dealing with a serious bout of home sickness.

A hallucinating Hull City, despite their fight, feistiness and general testiness since entering the Premier League, could hardly be described as craftsmen of the European game. Yet their ability to leave a serious dent in the mettle of a spick-and-span Arsenal side, has left the London club's manager Arsene Wenger wincing and dealing with a serious bout of home sickness.

Hull seemed like pickpockets in clasping three points after a 2-1 win on Saturday, but they made a greater point on the cusp of a European week that has not been lost on Wenger. If a Hull City side, emerging from the Championship and supposedly wet to soaking point behind the ears having not engaged with the highest level in 104 years, can trouble Arsenal with an unfettered counter- attacking policy, then surely FC Porto must be rubbing their hands in glee before they drop in on a teeming Emirates Stadium this evening.

Hull's perma-tanned manager Phil Brown was wired up on the touchline like something straight out of the San Francisco 49ers, but he appeared to understand perfectly the way in which to break up Arsenal. Their hit-and-run tactics worked to perfection, but it was hardly a smash-and-grab act. Wenger celebrated his 12th anniversary as Arsenal's head coach over the weekend. Many happy returns from Humberside it was not.

"There will be changes," Wenger said. "I will see how many, but there will be changes. There were enough ingredients today to make me physically sick." Wenger is not prone to such moments of disapproval. The manner in which the Frenchman sent a water bottle spiralling towards the floor in the death throes of this defeat was a vast indication of how Wenger's thoughts had been left malnourished by the actions of his players.

Wenger could drop Robin Van Persie. He could also opt for 17-year-old Aaron Ramsey to replace Denilson in midfield after such a startling loss. Hull opted to go with two strikers in front of Geovanni. Portuguese sides are traditionally more fluid in their movements, but they will try to embrace a similar type of culture. They also have players who can occupy areas in which Arsenal would rather not venture.

Porto can get at teams, as was suggested by their 3-1 win over Fenerbahce in Oporto two weeks ago. The intrepid midfielder Lucho Gonzalez was part of their squad who travelled to London. Arsenal snagged a 1-1 draw with Dynamo Kiev in their opening match and are already two points behind the visitors, but these are not times for them to consider adopting a helter-skelter attacking mode. Daniel Cousin, the bugling striker signed from Rangers, scored Hull's winner with a header from a standing start. Arsenal for all their aggression piling forward, can appear slothful.

The Chelsea midfielder Deco, who played in Porto's Uefa Cup success in 2003 and their Champions League win a year later, yesterday said he can foresee his former club winning at the Emirates. It all leaves one nurturing some curious thoughts. Football is a bizarre sport indeed when one is suddenly anticipating Porto, twice European Cup winners, embracing Hull's philosophy as their best course of action.

dkane@thenational.ae