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Opposition Preview - Hull City (Away)
Written by ad_wilkin on Thursday, 25th Apr 2024 09:25

Three games. Seven Days. The last week of the Championship season is upon us.

Another game on Sky as Town head north once more to face Hull City. Tigers manager Liam Rosenior was perhaps a surprise nomination for Manager of the Year alongside Kieran McKenna, who won the award, and Daniel Farke with his side sat in seventh.

Since Town finished their game against Middlesbrough, Hull have played two more games, facing Watford at the weekend (0-0) and Coventry (3-2) on Wednesday night.

Those results mean that sixth place is still possible as it leaves them three points behind Norwich City going into the last two games. Beat Hull and Town all but guarantee Norwich that last play-off spot. Lose and they could be facing the Tigers again sooner rather than later.

Previous Meeting (Ipswich 3-0 Hull City)

One of Town’s most comprehensive performances at Portman Road saw some wonderful attacking play on show and a confident clean sheet as goals from Wes Burns, Conor Chaplin and Marcus Harness saw the Blues through to a comfortable win.

The opener came within the first five minutes. Chaplin dummied a deep ball from Leif Davis and let it run to Burns, who made no mistake with a touch and an unerring finish into the bottom corner of the goal to net his first goal of the season.

Davis caused problems down the left again five minutes later, getting in behind to send a low ball across the box that was narrowly missed by Harness.

Early crosses were clearly Town’s tactic in this one. Burns ran into space and delivered one early to try and find George Hirst, who was just about bundled out by Hull defenders as Town really turned up the heat.

The Tigers were very much having to soak up pressure and hit on the counter, which they almost did. George Edmundson did well to marshal out Liam Delap for pace but the young striker was still able to poke the ball across the box before it ran out for a corner. Fortunately for Town, Delap’s cross was just too far ahead of Aaron Connolly, who managed to get a big toe to it but it wasn’t enough to divert it on target.

Davis was the out ball once more on 16 minutes, found by a lovely Sam Morsy long-range pass. He found Harness in the box, who managed to test Ryan Allsop with a low drive at his near post.

A couple of minutes later it, was once again Davis finding Chaplin. Some nice interplay between him and Hirst got Harness into a shooting position again but his effort was just wide.

Hull did manage to get Jaden Philogene a sight of goal in the box on 26 minutes but he was immediately doubled up on with Luke Woolfenden and Brandon Williams showing him down the line and clearing the danger.

Massimo Luongo then managed to get a good shot from range off after his good work pressing high had seen him win the ball back on the edge of the area before Town extended their lead with a tremendous team goal.

Starting from the back, Vaclav Hladky chopped away from Aaron Connolly and avoided Delap with his pass as Hull tried to press high. Edmundson then found Davis who rolled the ball into Harness, who had dropped deep from his number 10 role. He was able to lay it off to the supporting Luongo, who then tried to play a splitting through ball to find the overlapping Davis again.

It ricocheted off a Hull defender but Harness was sniffing around to pick the ball up and execute that through ball where Luongo couldn’t. Davis produced a trademark cutback to Chaplin on the edge of the box, who took one touch to control and produced a wonderful curling left-footed effort to find the top corner.

Town weren’t done there and some nice interplay between Burns, Harness and Chaplin saw the later fire just wide from the edge of the box once again.

It took until the second half for Hull to sniff out another chance but Woolfenden was there once again to snuff out the danger and block Aaron Connolly’s effort in the box.

Town went route one for their third goal, a long Hladky pass finding George Hirst who was stretching the defenders running in behind. He wasn’t quite able to get in on goal but did manage to get the ball under control near the left corner flag. From there he drove into the box and put the ball on a plate for Harness, who was arriving at just the right time to bundle into the net after his initial toe poke ricocheted off a Tigers defender.

That move was executed again minutes later, this time Hirst almost got in on goal but a last-ditch sliding challenge saw his shot blocked.

Subs Freddie Ladapo and Omari Hutchinson then had some very nice interplay that saw the later bundled down on the edge of the box following a lovely one-two but the referee waved the appeals away.

Two minutes from time Delap tried a long range daisy-cutter but it was comfortable for Hladky, who fell on it with ease as Town cruised to a 3-0 victory.

Despite the scoreline, the stats suggest it was quite an even game. Hull had 50% of the possession, equalled Town’s shots on target but the quality of opportunities and the clinicality of the finishing, something which the Blues have maybe been lacking a bit in recent weeks was what saw them comfortably through this one.

What’s Changed

Hull City had an active January and many people at the time were claiming that they had won the January window in terms of the quality of the players that they brought in.

The crowning jewel in the window was the loan signing of Liverpool youngster Fabio Carvalho. The starlet knows the Championship well from an excellent spell at Fulham in 2021/22 where he was one of the players of the season with 10 goals and eight assists.

Another loan move this time to Bundesliga side RB Leipzig this season was less successful with Carvalho only starting one game before being recalled and joining the Tigers in January.

He’s found the back of the net eight times already including important goals against Sunderland, Southampton and Leicester and a less important one against Leeds. Let’s hope Town can make sure he doesn’t make it goals against all four of the top four.

The trend of signing proven Championship players continued with the loan recruitment of two of last season's stand-out performers with Ryan Giles joining on loan from Luton and Anas Zaroury joining on loan from Burnley.

Left-back Giles got 11 assists for Middlesbrough last season but has struggled to get game time ahead of Alfie Doughty for Luton this season.

His return to the Championship hasn’t quite brought the same results as Carvalho’s with only one assist to his name so far and some below par performances in recent months as Rosenior’s system hasn’t really match up well with his preferred attacking left-back role.

Zaroury is another who had a fine season in the Championship last season contributing to Burnley’s promotion with six goals and six assists. He struggled for game time in the Premier League despite the Clarets struggles and a January loan was seen as the best option for both parties. He’s scored two goals in 10 starts so far and adds yet more pace and trickery to a loaded Hull front line

That attacking overhaul was also added to with the permanent signing of Abdulkadir Omur from Turkish side Trabzonspor. The diminutive 24-year-old is a Turkish international with 13 caps and has settled into life in the Championship with ease, becoming a Hull regular as an inverted winger on the right-hand side.

He’s another player who is quick with a low centre of gravity and his trademark has been cutting in off that right-hand side to take up positions in the box and he has become a regular starter in the side.

Also joining in that window were three others but none have had that much of an impact. Experienced Billy Sharp joined on a free transfer but has only made two starts so far. That said, he’s the all-time Championship top goalscorer with 130 goals and despite not adding to that in his time with Hull yet, will be hoping to score at least one more before he hangs up his boots.

Young Dutch striker Noah Ohio also joined on loan from Standard Liege but given the form of Hull’s other attacking players has been limited to one start and four substitute appearances.

Finally, there is 24-year-old goalkeeper Ivor Pandur, who signed from Fortuna Sittard as back up to Ryan Allsop, but has yet to make an appearance for the Tigers so far.

Key Players

Jaden Philogene

In a Hull team laced with attacking talent, Philogene can often be a match-winner. He’s on 11 goals and six assists so far this season, including four in his last five.

His dribbling ability is his standout attribute with 72 successful dribbles so far this season putting him in the same category as Crysencio Summerville and Stephy Mavididi.

Considering how much Town have struggled with both of those players, Hull will likely be looking to get him on the ball in that left-sided attacking role to have a go at Blues’ right-back.

Jacob Greaves

Twenty-three-year-old Greaves is one of the best young English defenders in the Championship. He’s good with his feet, excellent with his head in both boxes and has helped Hull to 10 clean sheets this season.

His passing is up there alongside Woolfenden and Cameron Burgess with 148 progressive passes so far this season but he’s also comfortable coming out of the back with the ball, notching up 35 progressive carries as well.

His pass completion sits at 88.2% (Woolfenden 87.7%, Burgess 81.6% for reference) and his long passes in particular are the most impressive part of that accuracy with 57% of those finding their target.

It’s not like he shirks defensive responsibilities either as he’s won 49 tackles, made 40 interceptions and 49 blocks, all of which are higher numbers than both Woolfenden and Burgess.

On top of that, he has provided six goal contributions with two goals and four assists. The one blot on his copybook if there is one is his disciplinary record where he has picked up 10 yellow cards so far.

That all-round contribution saw him named in the Championship Team of the Season alongside Ethan Ampadu at centre-back. Should Hull not go up this season, there’s no doubt Premier League clubs will come calling.

Ozan Tufan

How do you fit so many wonderful attacking talents into one team? That was the problem Rosenior had earlier on in the season with a bunch of talents including Tufan wanting to play in the number 10 role behind the striker.

However, it looks like he may have cracked it in recent games by playing both Tufan and Carvalho up front as two false nines. It’s definitely had an effect, ending Hull’s winless run with victories against Cardiff (3-1) and QPR (3-0) sandwiching a draw with Middlesbrough (2-2).

Tufan contributed a goal and two assists in those games to take him to 11 goal contributions (nine goals, two assists) for the season.

The Teams

Following a two-week break from action, Town players should be rested and raring to go for this one. Burns has been pictured back in training and Hirst probably isn’t far off and is potentially blurred out in the background of some training pictures.

Kieffer Moore was another who looked to have struggled with the run of games having not had a proper rest and put his heart and body on the line for Wales in the international break. Having that extra momentum and extra fitness could be crucial.

With all those bodies back, picking a team becomes even harder. Hladky is a definite in goal. At right-back the toss-up between Harry Clarke and Axel Tuanzebe could go either way.

Tuanzebe is probably better equipped for dealing with Philogene one-on-one, but Hull's front four like to rotate and Clarke has the extra pace to deal with that rotation and more forward threat. I think McKenna will go with Tuanzebe.

Then there’s the centre-half pairing. Edmundson was a surprise inclusion against Watford and also started the reverse fixture at Portman Road as a tactical switch to deal with Delap. Delap is only just coming back to full fitness so might not feature in this one but Edmundson's ability to deal with pace might give him the edge over Burgess if his recovered from the ankle injury he picked up against Watford.

Davis is undroppable at left-back and the midfield is pretty much nailed on to be Morsy and Luongo. Up front, I'm going with Broadhead, Chaplin, Burns and Moore although Harness could come in for Broadhead again like he did in the previous fixture.

Having Hirst to come off the bench and run in behind a tiring defence could be huge.

For Hull, Rosenior will have to strike a balance between the consistent team that worked so well in recent games and a bit of rotation for freshness.

Against Coventry on Wednesday night, he made one change with Delap replacing Tufan. I’m backing Tufan to come back in for this one and I think there could be one tactical change with Louis Coyle replacing Matty Jacob at left-back to deal with the threat of Burns.

Other than that, Rosenior is likely to continue to be consistent unless there are injuries. Noah Ohio ended up scoring the winner off the bench against Coventry and is one to watch later on in the game when Hull chose to freshen things up.

Action Areas

Interestingly Hull’s away form is better than their home form. They sit fifth in the away form table but drop down to 11th if you just look at home form. Get the early goal and Town could be in for a good evening.

Injuries and lack of form forced Liam Rosenior into a tactical switch against Leeds at the beginning of the month, dropping the 4-2-3-1 formation that Hull had been playing and switching to a 4-2-4 with two false nines.

This has brought dividends and seems to get the best out of both Tufan and Carvalho whilst also keeping the threat of Philogene on the pitch as well.

A key feature of this new formation is the rotation of the front four. Left-footed Omur often goes narrow and makes runs in behind as Regan Slater overlaps. Tufan likes to drift out to the left and did so to great effect scoring a beautiful curler against QPR.

Carvalho will usually stay central but will drift right when Omur runs inside. He’s also the one who can receive the ball in tight spaces and use his tricks and flicks to break the defensive line.

What all of this means is that Town’s defensive unit will have to be switched on to constant movement and position changes.

Like McKenna’s tactics, Hull can often be left exposed when they are attacking with the number of bodies they push forward. They were caught out on the counter-attack against Middlesbrough as they lost the ball on the edge of the Boro box and got punished for it by Isaiah Jones and Finn Azaz.

Having Burns back fit for this one will be crucial as he once again could get a lot of joy down that right-hand side. How Rosenior attempts to deal with that this time around will be very interesting.

With so many people pushed forward for both sides at times, it could be an end-to-end game and Town’s counter-attacking ability will be crucial for this one. If it’s executed well, we could see both Burns and Chaplin on the scoresheet once again.

With rivals Leicester and Leeds looking like they’ve regained their mojo and stringing together wins again, it could well end up with Town needing to win their last three games.

They’ve been here before though. They beat Hull comfortably at Portman Road and have a considerable fitness advantage. It’s not going to be easy by any means, but I'm backing the Super Blues to battle to a 2-1 victory and keep destiny in their own hands.

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