The Hive was buzzing with excitement as the Battle of the B’s lived up to and beat most expectations of the FA Cup match.
In the lone match at the end of the FA Cup fourth round, Barnet held Brentford to a 3-3 draw on the road, setting up a replay next week in Barnet. After Brentford took a 1-0 lead into halftime, the game exploded with five second half goals, as both Barnet and then Brentford took leads, only for Barnet to tie the match late.
Shaquile Coulthirst scored a pair of goals for Barnet while Dan Sparkes’ free kick tied the match for Barnet at 3-3 with 15 minutes to go. Ollie Watkins, Neal Maupay, and Sergi Canos each scored for Brentford.
Amazingly, Barnet sits in 17th in the National League, England’s fifth division, while Brentford is much higher, in the Championship. However, Brentford has also been struggling in league play, sitting in 18th place. The game, perhaps, showed that the distance between the Championship and National Division isn’t as big as people think.
Even without as many goals, there was plenty of end to end action in the first half. Moses Odubajo nearly out Brentford up early with a strike off the post, but Watkins made Barnet pay with a long-range strike in the 40th minute.
The National League wife leveled up the score just five minutes into the second half through Coulthirst. Three minutes later, it was Coulthirst again finishing on a goalmouth scramble and putting the Championship side down a goal.
However, Brentford began their comeback in the 60th minute after Watkins was tripped up in the box. Maupay calmly scored to tie the score at 2-2. Brentford then took the lead in the 72nd minute as Canos dribbled through the Barnet defense and finished with aplomb.
But the heroics were saved for Sparkes three minutes later, as he tied the game with a brilliant free kick.
With everything else happening in Arsenal Land, you might have forgotten the 2016-17 Premier League season is far from over. Sure, the future of Arsene Wenger is in greater doubt now than it’s ever been; sure, the Gunners have lost two in a row in league play, and fallen to fourth in the league table, 12 points back of leaders Chelsea; and yes, they suddenly find themselves closer to sixth place (just two points between Arsenal and Manchester United) than they are to second (three points back of Tottenham Hotspur).
But Hull City are coming to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), which means an easy, automatic three points, right? Well, actually, wrong. Marco Silva’s side shocked Liverpool just last weekend, a result which gives the Tigers points from three of four PL games (their only loss came against Chelsea) under their newly appointed Portuguese boss. Another upset this weekend would almost certainly jump Hull from 18th in the PL table, where they presently sit, to safety outside the bottom-three.
Arsene Wenger, on the support of the fans: “Our fans have been consistent and have a high level of expectation, as I have as well. But I don’t feel it is absolutely clear. You cannot be a fan until last Tuesday and not be a fan anymore and not be behind the team this Saturday, it doesn’t make sense. … I want the fans to be behind the team. But at the same time, I am not fool enough not to know that the first priority is us and our dynamic inside the team that will create and facilitate the support of our fans.”
Marco Silva, on turning one good result into two: “Of course last weekend was important because we won three points. We take those points but now we forget the game because in my mind, all we do now is prepare for the match against Arsenal. We have to continue to show our best on the pitch and prove that what we did last week in terms of the result is our real value.”
At some point, all those injuries are going to catch up with Hull — not just the number of players unavailable, but they quality and import they carry with them as well — and if we know one thing, it’s that Arsenal bite back the hardest after they’ve been written off. Alexis Sanchez has himself a day to remember, and Arsenal are up 2-0 or 3-0 before halftime.
In the few months since that major victory, shooting the Tigers back into the Premier League after just a season in the Championship, things have spiraled down towards the ground like an out of control airplane.
Manager Steve Bruce, with the club since 2012 and loved by the fans, quit after speculation for the England job seemed to unsettle him in his current position. Injuries have ravaged the squad before the season has even begun, with goalkeeper Allan McGregor and defenders Moses Odubajo, Alex Bruce, and Michael Dawson have all been ruled out for months. Despite this, the new uncertainty at the managerial position means the club hasn’t signed a single reinforcement this summer.
Hull City can stay up if…they find a quality manager and he pulls in signings. The Tigers relied on a solid defensive structure last season, and with so many injuries at the back to open the season, they risk putting themselves in an unrecoverable situation straight out of the gates. They need players, and they need them yesterday.
More than likely though, they’ll be headed back down. Like Burnley, this is a team that has bounced back and forth in recent years, and they look more unstable than ever before coming into this season. There is some experience in the squad between Tom Huddlestone, Mohamed Diame, Robert Snodgrass, and Abel Hernandez, but that alone won’t be able to keep the ship afloat.
Last Season: The Tigers made their way to the Premier League via the playoff, but they were solid for much of the year and put out balanced numbers. Their defensive record was worthy of a place at the top of the table allowing just four more goals than defensive stalwarts Middlesbrough, and they scored just three goals less than the league leaders. Unfortunately, while this team is built well for the slog of the Championship, they – like Burnley – have little star power and may struggle to find rewards for their hard work in the top flight.
Star Player: Robert Snodgrass – A classy player who has been hurt for much of his Hull career, Snodgrass shot onto the scene with Norwich City in 2013 – his first shot at the Premier League – and has backed up that production since. He’s a chance creator more than a finisher, but he’ll score the occasional goal as well. Abel Hernandez is the star finisher on the squad, with 20 Championship goals last season, but Snodgrass is the player opposing managers will be most concerned about when game-planning for Hull.
Coach’s Corner: Steve Bruce was meant to lead Hull into the Premier League for the second time in three years, but after receiving a shot at the England job that Sam Allardyce ultimately won, things went sour. Bruce resigned, and suddenly the squad is left not only thing but without a leader. They wanted Welsh boss Chris Coleman, but were turned down. The vacant managerial position is something Hull will want to sort out quickly, or else they risk an untenable situation just weeks into the new season.
PST Predicts: At this point in time, there’s only one place anyone can realistically see Hull after the season, and that’s back in the Championship. Sure, it’s a long season, and with the transfer window not closed yet, things can turn around. But if things remain as they are, and a manager isn’t found until after Opening Day, it could get ugly quick. They have a more talented squad than Burnley, and therefore can weather time without reinforcements better than their counterparts from the Championship in a similar situation, but a thin squad is deadly.