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Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
If There’s No Hope, Am I Right in Saying It Can’t Kill You? – Notes for Hull City
Friday, 17th Nov 2017 11:30 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at the KCOM Stadium by delving into their forums.
“How far have we fallen”, “It’s very hard to stay positive”, “We are so far behind everyone but that’s what supporting City is all about”, “This is all so sad. It really does feels like the club is falling apart. For the first time in the last few games the players don’t seem up for it and the fans have departed.”
“We are an embarrassment”, “We look like a League One side.” The Tigers head into Saturday’s match 20th in the table, four points clear of the bottom three and having shipped 10 goals in three defeats in the week leading up to the latest international break. The mood is very downcast to say the least.
“It’s going to be a long time before we are anywhere near the top of the Championship, never mind the Premier League. We won’t get relegated this season but we won’t finish far above the relegation zone”, “This season will pass in the blink of an eye and the chance of promotion will be lost forever.”
“We have ended up in the same place as all those badly-run clubs we used to look at, and thinking we wouldn’t end up in the same mess. Well, we are in the same position and I can’t see a way out”, “I’m starting to wonder if my forecast that we would win the league was a little misjudged.”
“The club is a basket case on and off the field”, “It feels like the heart and soul is gradually being sucked out by the people in charge of the club”, “We are treading water in a poor division because the squad has been ripped apart by the Allams. We will all be happier when they have gone.”
Fans’ anger with the poor decisions and under-investment by the owners reached a head at a recent televised Nottingham Forest game. A pre-match protest march was followed by the throwing of small balls on to the pitch after 19 minutes and four seconds of the game, echoing the club’s formation in 1904.
“I can’t understand how anybody can have any sympathy for the Allams. Their utter negligence for the last two summers has left us with a threadbare squad in the Championship”, “I am not convinced Slutsky’s the right man for us, but then who the hell is when we have these idiots running the club.”
“The manager appears to be making strange decisions”, “Leonid’s nice-guy image, coupled with his sunny smiling disposition, is admirable as personal traits go. His masquerading as a football manager and astute technician is all too apparent. He lacks the requisite qualities needed to be successful.”
The 46-year-old former CSKA Moscow and Russia manager took charge in June when his predecessor Marco Silva departed for Watford. Fans were initially galvanised by his positive motivational style of management. Many now sense that he is being found out in the tactically street-wise Championship.
“I don’t want to kick a man when he’s down but how the hell can someone who spends the game with his head down pacing up and down in the technical area motivate his team”, “There are games in the Russian league where you can go through the motions, but not in the Championship. No way.”
“He hasn’t a Scooby what to do”, “Our squad is average but it should not let in 10 goals in a week. Slutsky persists with the same tactics and the same results. He isn’t up to the job. It may be a tough job, but it doesn’t make him any less up to it”, “Sorry Leonid, a career change is needed, old boy.”
Schoolboy Defending and a Woeful Defensive Shape
“What is the shape of the side at the moment? They look like a bunch of strangers”, “Players need to clearly know that their roles are, when they can attack and when they should hold their positions. This isn’t happening”, “There is no organisation in the team at all. The set-up leaves us wide open.”
Hull have played with one up front and a back four lately but problems run deeper than their shape for many fans. “The formation we play is a sideshow and a distraction to the main fact. We lack the motivation to play to our full ability with a well-coached and well-defined system for 90 minutes.”
“This side is as makeshift as last season.” The starting line-up (above) for City’s recent 4-1 defeat away to Sheffield United saw centre-half Michael Dawson leading a rookieback line with two 21-year-olds and a 19-year-old, as his regular centre-half partner Michael Hector was suspended.
“One thing we all know is that we have an ageing centre-back and three inexperienced lads at the back. No wonder we are leaking goals, it’s not rocket science”, “If you are an opposition manager, you simply tell your team to attack because three-quarters of Hull City’s defence are learners.”
With Chelsea loanees Fiyako Tomori, Ola Aina and City youth product Max Clark lacking experience at this level, many Tigers feel that Dawson’s form has also suffered. “Well-drilled teams know how to hold out under intense pressure. Our defence can never hold out because they are so disorganised.”
“Slutsky has done nothing to sort out our wreck of a defence”, “We leave ourselves wide open, we have been saying that all season”, “The positional sense of the defending is appalling at times”, “We have conceded goals all year. We need a Neil Warnock to tighten us up and get us out of this hole.”
No Midfield Tenacity
“The main difference between the two sides was the midfield. Sheffield United had one. We didn’t”, “We lack a fulcrum in midfield who can anchor the side and spread accurate forward passes”, “We have two central midfielders who aren’t very good and we have two wingers who don’t defend.”
“Where has our tempo gone? We lack any pace going forward. The sideways motion of our passing allows teams to get behind the ball”, “Whoever plays in that number 10 role is wasted and is leaving the two midfielders exposed”, “The gaps between midfield and the striker are embarrassingly bad.”
“We lose our composure against workmanlike direct teams who are nothing special.” Fans have criticised a lack of personality in a midfield which has failed to impose itself on games. The striker is often left isolated and wingers have regularly given no protection to their inexperienced full-backs.
“If we played with half as much intensity as other teams, we would be much further up the league. We look like we can’t be bothered”, “It’s disappointing how many 50/50 balls we lose in midfield, there is too much foot-waving”, “You have to win your battles and we can’t win a raffle right now.”
Sheffield United 4 – 1 Hull
“Why can we not defend?”, “Sheffield were a team of lower-league journeymen but were organised, committed and worked hard every moment. The formation was immaterial. It was their attitude that won the day”, “You know you are woeful when you make Leon Clarke look like Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”
Winger Kamil Grosicki gave the visitors a half-time lead against the run of play on 29 minutes with a well-taken solo effort from 25 yards. The Blades hit back after the interval with Leon Clarke scoring a quartet on 53, 76, 80 and 88 minutes as they made their pressure count and City’s defence buckled.
“The main difference was that only one team turned up in the second half”, “The Blades doubled their urgency and pressed us off the park after the break. It would have been worse without Allan McGregor in goal”, “The worst part of today was that it wasn’t really all that difficult for United.”
Hull 1 – 3 Middlesbrough
“What a mess we are in, tonight was shocking”, “I have read in recent weeks that we are mid-table and won’t be relegated. Well, it’s time to review that and some”, “I miss Steve Bruce, he was boring but he was effective”, “I’m a bit worried now by the phrase, ‘there are three teams worse than us’.”
“That is a horrible goal to concede.” Martin Braithwaite pounced on a loose pass to open the scoring for the visitors on 13 and Britt Assombalonga headed in a Cyrus Christie cross to double the lead 23 minutes later. “Boro pressed us right from the first minute whereas we were waiting for mistakes.”
Grosicki volleyed a goal back for City on 72 minutes but Boro sealed victory via a Grant Leadbitter penalty five minutes from time. Michael Hector conceded the spot-kick after fouling Ashley Fletcher and was red-carded. “A Middlesbrough penalty, Hector gave it away and was sent off as well.”
“This is National League defending”, “Boro were in control without even breaking sweat through two gifted goals”, “Individual errors through poor concentration or technique are costing us”, “We are watching a relegation team forming, two passes took Boro from halfway to the back of the net.”
“We will lose 3-1, the same team and same tactics, another loss.” Fans feared the worst when the starting XI (above) was announced. Seb Larsson was ineffective operating in a playmaking role while Jackson Irvine was criticised for his lack of defensive discipline out wide which exposed his full-back.
Hull 2 – 3 Nottingham Forest
“Full-time, the booing well and truly deserved”, “This performance should not be sugar-coated. It was awful”, “Forest were much slicker, quicker and accurate on the ball. Our midfield is the worst I have ever seen playing for this club”, “I’m sick of this club ruining my weekends”, “I need a beer.”
Kieron Dowell exploited the space afforded him to give Forest a two-goal lead with finishes on 29 and 71 minutes. Jarrod Bowen pulled a goal back with a fine strike on 76 before Dowell bagged his hat-trick with a spot-kick on 83 minutes. Hector grabbed an 88th minute consolation for the Tigers.
“This season I wonder what will happen whenever the opposition get in our half”, “We were poor defensively, giving Forest too much time and space to get a strike away. There was no closing down. Forest looked like they had an extra man on the pitch given the way they passed the ball with ease.”
“Markus Henriksen keeps his place.” There were groans when the Norway international’s name was listed in the starting line-up (above). He has been heavily criticised for his recent displays and many fans felt that this game completely passed him by. “Those three central midfielders were appalling.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Only one man has played well in virtually every game this season and that’s Allan McGregor.” The 35-year-old one-time Rangers keeper spent part of last season on loan at Cardiff. “I promise you that our goal difference would be 10 to 12 worse but for his saves. He has kept us in so many games.”
Allan McGregor at Cardiff City
“McGregor has almost faultless apart from his kicking”, “He struggles to keep the ball on the pitch from his goal-kicks”, “He is weak dealing with long shots and still takes a step to his right before he moves when defending freekicks. He always has. At this stage it won’t to be coached out of him.”
“Max Clark is a work in progress at left-back, but at least there appears to be progress.” The 21-year-old youth product “looks better but he still gets done all end up when opponents run at him”, “He is solid and holds his position well but he then gets skinned by players charging at him with the ball.”
“Clark had a torrid start to the season but is quietly getting on with it and doing a steady job now”, “He can tackle but his distribution is poor, far too many hoofs”, “Against Middlesbrough he had an awful game. He looked like a Sunday League hoofer but he had no support from his wide partner.”
“Of all the Chelsea loan signings, Fiyako Tomori is the only one that looks to have anything about him in a defensive capacity.” The 19-year-old was on loan last season at Brighton. “He’s a central defender who seems better suited to playing in a four at the back, making decent interceptions.”
“Tomori is assured, quick and he reads the game well”, “He never gets a solid head on anything, and he screwed up a header up for Reading’s equaliser in September”, “He is a real prospect for the future and is consistently impressive at centre-back”, “He’s a significantly better right-back than Ola Aina.”
“Ola Aina is a very talented footballer, not yet always making the right choices.” The 21-year-old is also on loan from Chelsea. “A right-back who doesn’t look like one. He battles on but positionally he’s a disaster”, “As we know, he’s all over the place defensively”, “It’s clear Aina cannot defend.”
“I have seen some rubbish in my time in a City shirt but am struggling to think of a worse player than Aina”, “He can’t defend, give him a chance at right midfield”, “He needs to be higher up the pitch”, “He shouldn’t be on the pitch, never mind further up it, “His energy is a plus, but he’s beyond naïve.”
“How many goals has Michael Hector cost us?” The 25-year-old former Reading man, who is also on loan from Chelsea, “is tough every so often but far more often he’s a 6ft 4in coward”, “He’s a showboating centre-half and we concede goals with him in the team”, “A total liability defensively who should have been dropped ages ago.”
Michael Hector playing for Reading
“Hector can be doing okay but then makes a stupid mistake. He has no pace so we’re slow in central defence”, “He looks good at times but then looks like Bambi on ice when opponents run at him”, “He looks like a League Two player”, “Playing alongside a wreck like Hector hasn’t helped Dawson.”
“There is no way Dawson should be playing. He has been poor all season. If he had backed off any further against Forest he would have been in the crowd. He needs to tackle, he isn’t just in there to block”, “He is on the slide, but there is only so much he can do to compensate for his team-mates.”
The 33-year-old former Forest and Spurs centre-back “is losing his own game because he is having to master an incompetent backline”, “He’s not as commanding as he should be and his distribution has been poor”, “Because of Dawson’s lack of pace, he needs a fast defender in there alongside him.”
“Dawson is an old head organising the back four, but he is simply unable to do it all”, “When Hector was sent off against Boro, Dawson set about organising the team and he looked for instructions from the touchline. All he got was Slutsky with his head down pacing up and down in the technical area.”
“Jackson Irvine reminds me of a poor man’s Jimmy Bullard. I mean that in the nicest possible way.” The 24-year-old summer arrival from Burton has been on international duty with Australia and is a doubt for Saturday’s game given the distance he has travelled. “He is impressive and industrious.”
“Irvine looks feisty when he plays, it’s about time somebody did”, “He’s at his best when he plays just off the striker. He lost his man for Boro’s second goal when playing on the left and allowed the cross to come in”, “He’s a workmanlike player who puts himself about and wants to be involved.”
“How is Evandro Grobel’s four-month-long two-week hamstring injury going?” The 30-year-old ex-Porto attacking midfielder has been out since pre-season but may feature off the bench on Saturday. “He will help us keep the ball better and from what I have seen he should be great in this league.”
“What does Slutsky see in Kevin Stewart?” The 24-year-old July addition from Liverpool “didn’t track his man for Sheffield United’s second goal. We were 1-0 up, he comes on and we lose 4-1”, “He is a defensive midfielder who likes a hard challenge and a foul or two from what I have seen of him.”
“Stewart is in a position where we need experience. He was properly poor against Boro”, “He does not look half the player Tom Huddlestone was based on what we have seen”, “He hasn’t looked the £4 million player we bought but he will hopefully come good when fully match fit after his ankle injury.”
“Markus Henriksen should definitely be used today. I would suggest ball-boy is his best position.” The 25-year-old former AZ Alkmaar man “doesn’t have what it takes to get stuck in and battle for the ball when the boots are flying”, “He’s just not interested in covering ground and getting involved.”
“Henriksen is a total waste of oxygen. Get that idiot off the park and let’s play with 11 men. He’s a disgrace”, “He drifts away from the ball and doesn’t look like he really wants it. He gets wafted off the ball by air currents created by other players”, “He’s particularly notable for his pointlessness.”
“David Meyler grafts, but he is a clumsy player and therefore is a liability. He gets stuck in but his passing is woeful.” The 28-year-old ex-Sunderland man “tries to do the dirty work and his game is all about pressing the opposition into making mistakes”, “He puts it all in and God knows we need it.”
“Meyler had a stinker at Bramall Lane, lumbering about like an old man”, “When on form he grabs games by the balls, but he having no influence at the moment. We need the old Meyler back”, “He had some absolute stinkers lately, aimless passing, losing possession and breaking up our attacks.”
“We miss Huddlestone, instead we have Larsson.” The 32-year-old former Sunderland man “is a clear favourite of Slutsky but has struggled for consistency”, “He has no pace whatsoever and has nothing creative to give”, “Two of his mistakes in the last two matches have directly led to goals.”
“Larsson is one of our few good players winning the ball. He has to do the work of two midfielders when paired with Henriksen”, He keeps things ticking over, but he holds on to the ball for too long and his passing is poor”, “To sum it up, Sunderland, who are worse than us, did not want Larsson.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Jarrod Bowen gives us some hope.” The 20-year-old ex-Hereford United man “is pacy, dangerous and niggly, the kid gets better and better”, “A talented player with a brilliant attitude and clever movement”, “Nobody makes the runs Bowen does, it looks like he has a real attacker’s instincts.”
“You can’t fault Bowen. He may not have loads of skill but he’s in the right place at the right time and he keeps running”, “He tracks back and puts in great blocks”, “He combines strong defensive coverage with attacking breaks”, “Effort and talent coupled with enthusiasm, skill and finishing.”
“Kamil disappears for 80 of the 90 minutes, but I always hope he can create something in his 10-minute spell to get us a goal.” The 29-year-old ex-Rennes left winger “is greedy and wants to shoot at every opportunity, but he’s all we are left with when all everyone else wants to do is pass it”.
Kamil Grosicki and Jarrod Bowen
“Grosicki shows a complete lack of interest when opponents have the ball”, “He can’t be bothered to defend and that is where things break down because the player behind him is an inexperienced full-back”, “An attacking winger who can’t tackle or head the ball, he’s a luxury who does no defending.”
With Uruguay international Abel Hernandez not featuring for the Tigers since picking up an Achilles injury in August, the lone striker role has fallen to Fraizer Campbell. The 30-year-old former Palace man has been praised for selflessly chasing lost causes, but he is suspended for Saturday’s game.
“The strange case of Adama Diomande who has not had a proper look-in since a solid display against Bolton.” The 27-year-old one-time Dinamo Minsk man “is energetic, he works hard and gets involved in the game”, “He seems to be more a striker than a winger but he lacks the confidence to shoot.”
“Diomande is tenacious when in form”, “He gives the ball away too much, but it’s great to see him running with pace and power on the ball. He is a raw talent”, “His close control is absolutely brilliant, this league should suit him”, “He’s a tidy player who didn’t get much of a chance last season.”
“Dicko is a proven striker who can look after himself, but one who is also pretty quick.” The 25-year-old ex-Wolves man “runs his backside off but to no avail. He needs support from another striker”, “He looks uncomfortable as a lone man up front and he is constricted far too easily by defenders.”
Nouha Dicko for former club Wolves
“I feel sorry for Dicko, we aren’t playing to his strengths”, “If Dicko plays we really need to keep the ball on the floor. He’s not the biggest and tall centre-halves will dominate him in the air”, “He is up against giants and we bomb the ball up to him. Give him service on the floor or we will struggle.”
“It wasn’t until Dicko came on that we began running at Middlesbrough and challenging them”, “He has done nothing in some games and not looked hungry enough”, “He is not capable of holding the ball up and has been hung out to dry by Slutsky. At times I thought we had signed Aaron McLean.”
Tigers’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“I wouldn't want a ticket v Ipswich if you gave them away for free”, “Ipswich haven't been doing too badly this season. It's some way to fall when you can't see a win coming against somebody as standard as Ipswich. It will be a draw somehow I think, regardless of who is picked.”
City fans have had little to say about either us or the game and the prevailing mood is a strong sense of apathy. Prediction leagues are evenly split on the outcome which is pessimistic for a home side’s fan base. One interesting fact is that very few clean sheets are being forecast for either defence.
“I can't see Jackson Irvine starting, He only gets back on Friday night after flying for around 24,000 miles [with the Australia squad]. I think Slutsky will go with Seb Larsson in the number 10 role behind either Adama Diomande or Nouha Dicko and maybe substitute him at 60 minutes for Evandro.”
Tigers have been reduced to debating which returning internationals will feature and who will lead the line in the absence of the suspended Fraizer Campbell. “Diomande must be demotivated after playing well and losing his place. I would happily start him ahead of Dicko on what I've seen of both.”
Photo: Action Images
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