Arsenal the farce before Barca
Arsene Wenger claimed in his pre-match press conference that it would be “disrespectful” to scrap FA Cup replays - but the Arsenal manager may change his tune after a drab goalless draw with Hull on Saturday.
Despite ending the game with 23 shots on the Hull goal, Arsenal ran out of ideas and will be punished for their profligate finishing with a tricky fifth round replay on Humberside in the midst of a schedule already crammed with midweek fixtures.
One of those comes on Tuesday when Barcelona arrive for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie. The reigning European champions will hardly be quaking in their boots after watching Arsenal toil against a second string Hull side.
Forget calm before the storm, this was the farce before Barca.
Arsenal are chasing an historic third FA Cup triumph in a row - a feat not achieved since Blackburn in the 1880s - but right now Wenger may feel he would rather be out of the competition.
This was the last thing he wanted, another match that will drain the players’ legs and mental energy during a crucial part of the season as they challenge on three fronts.
Wenger made nine changes to the side that started against Leicester, only retaining centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in his starting line-up.
But not one player made a case for a place in the first choice XI as Arsenal played into Hull’s hands with one-paced, predictable attacks and a lack of cutting edge in the final third.
When they did break through, they were denied by the brilliant Eldin Jakupovic in the Hull goalkeeper, who made two wonderful second-half saves to deny Joel Campbell and Danny Welbeck.
The risk now is that Arsenal’s season could slip away from them. This result appeared to instantly kill the momentum and positivity of last weekend’s vital last-gasp win over Leicester to boost their Premier League title hopes.
Next up, the best team on the planet. A heavy defeat on Tuesday at the hands of Lionel Messi and his star-studded supporting cast could seriously dent Arsenal’s confidence in a potentially defining two weeks that includes away trips to Manchester United and Tottenham.
A replay at Hull will now give Wenger just as big a headache as the prospect of having to stop Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez over 180 minutes of football.