Arsene Wenger has this week defended FA Cup replays so he cannot complain about another game being added to the Gunners’ schedules after his much-changed side failed to break down Hull.
The Gunners predictably dominated possession against Championship promotion-chasers Hull but their finishing was poor as they failed to convert any of their 20-plus chances.
Tigers keeper Eldin Jakupovic made a series of excellent saves to deny Joel Campbell and Danny Welbeck in particular.
11 – Eldin Jakupovic made 11 saves against Arsenal, the most by an opposition keeper against them in any game this season. Barrier.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 20, 2016
These two had met in the final two years ago, with Bruce’s side surrendering a two-goal lead as Arsenal claimed their first silverware in a decade.
They also came up against one another in the third round last season as Arsenal went on to defend the trophy – but they will have to win a replay at the KC Stadium, sandwiched in between important fixtures at home and abroad – to stay in the hunt for a third successive FA Cup.
Mohamed Elneny came close with Arsenal’s first chance, seeing his placed effort kept out by the arm of Alex Bruce – although the Tigers’ defender’s block went unseen by referee Mike Dean.
Danny Welbeck forced a first save out of Jakupovic as he connected with Theo Walcott’s cross to head powerfully at the Switzerland international before Walcott himself curled a shot straight into the goalkeeper’s gloves.
England international Welbeck was looking lively on his first start in 10 months and again tested Jakupovic with a driven effort at his near post, with Alex Iwobi then bending a shot just wide following the resulting corner.
Walcott’s drilled shot on the half-hour mark was the next test for Jakupovic and another the former Lokomotiv Moscow man was equal to.
Hull’s Harry Maguire was booked for diving in the Arsenal box before a lack of communication between goalkeeper David Ospina and the fit-again Laurent Koscielny almost saw the France defender glance a Shaun Maloney free-kick into his own goal but fortunately for the holders the ball drifted behind for a corner.
With Arsenal still pushing on heading towards the break, Hull caught them out on a counter-attack and Koscielny was booked for bringing down Adama Diomande as he looked to race clear of the Gunners’ back-line.
The Gunners were getting closer and closer to the opening goal as Joel Campell drew the best save yet out of Jakupovic as he turned the Costa Rican’s free-kick onto the post.
Remarkably, Jakupovic’s heroics continued as he tipped a deflected Welbeck shot behind at full-stretch as Wenger prepared to introduce Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez from the bench.
It was another substitute, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who flashed a good chance wide as the game opened up in the closing stages with Jakupovic on hand to punch a stoppage-time Sachez free-kick behind meaning both sides will have to do it all again to find out who will reach the sixth round.