Safe to say that the next few days are make or break in terms of Hull City’s Premier League safety. Nothing but two wins will really suffice if the Tigers are likely to beat the drop. Even any optimist would state that away form has been dire so Marco Silva’s imperious home record becomes even more vital. City play 12th place West Ham Utd on Saturday, followed by Middlesbrough in 19th on Wednesday and it’s of necessity that in a similar vein to the Swansea match, they collect three points under pressure. I focus on five areas of Hull’s game that could lead them to victory:
Pair Hernandez and Niasse together: In a season where City have really struggled to find a prolific target-man, Oumar Niasse has been a breath of fresh air since arriving on loan from Everton in January. It was unfortunate that he was unable to face his parent club in City’s 4 – 0 drubbing but he could be key on Saturday. Full of vigour, strength and a neat touch, he could really prove to be the difference. That said, it’s a big ask to expect him to lead the line on his own. Abel Hernandez is never likely to be a lone striker; he doesn’t possess the work-rate or physical strength. Nonetheless, particularly against Swansea, he played as a useful foil to Niasse and their combinations directly lead to the first goal. Hull are no longer in a situation where they can afford to be conservative with their approach; it’s make or break and Silva must be bold with his selections.
Clucas must play in the middle: Tom Huddlestone’s harsh sending-off and subsequent suspension has left a huge void in central-midfield at a crucial period. Clucas is the man to step up to the task with the vision and touch to distribute the ball in a similar manner to his team-mate. Unfortunately for Clucas we probably haven’t seen this side to this game on a regular basis due to his utility value, often playing in numerous positions on the pitch. If he’s given the opportunity to start in the middle, he could hold the key to success.
A more tigerish approach required from wingers: There’s no denying that Lazar Markovic and Kamil Grosicki have huge potential but their availability in January speaks volumes. Grosicki has the work rate without always having the end product, while Markovic has the potential without the work rate. It’s a dilemma that often leaves the Tigers lacking the required quality final ball to create chances. The positive news is that Markus Henriksen is back in full training after a shoulder injury but the same issues apply to him; we just haven’t seen his ability shine through yet.
Play two centre-backs: Hull City have looked at their most assured in defence with Harry Maguire and newcomer Andrea Ranocchia as a centre-back pairing. It’s no smear on the reputations of Curtis Davies or Michael Dawson but both have struggled with fitness issues this season. At this stage of the season, consistency and familiarity is important and it seems Maguire and Ranocchia have a good understanding. With 9 games remaining for City, formations will require a little more ambition against opposition they’re expected to beat. A 4 – 4 – 2 seems the most obvious formation to adopt in the next two games.
Omar over Elmo: I’m sure Ahmed Elmohamady will always have a place in the hearts of the Tigers faithful but we all know he’s certainly not a fullback. Granted, during Mike Phelan’s short tenure he was the only option due to injuries but I think Saturday’s game should see Omar Elabdellaoui given a start at right-back. He looks like a more complete defender and I dare say Elmo could be used as an impact sub to whip some crosses in on the wing, should he be required.
By Callum Thompson