Steve Bruce brings his Hull City ‘charges’ to L4 this weekend with the Tigers side sitting just 1 point and 1 place behind the Toffees in what will be our first look at a promoted side at Goodison this season.
Whilst to many his burgeoning head is a source of ridicule, whether it be a cruel comparison to it resembling a steak or any number of overripe vegetables, this should not detract from his track record as a manager. He certainly has more between his ears than most and he has used this nous to lead unfashionable sides such as Wigan, Birmingham and Sunderland to respectable mid table finishes in the top flight – an achievement which has matured in the context of where those clubs currently find themselves. Its early days but they seem the likeliest bet of the promoted sides to retain their league status.
His career win ratio as a boss of 35% is ok, although his record against us is appalling with just 2 wins from 16 matches. If we know anything of the barrel chested Bruce’s teams it’ll be that they will rock up and be hard to beat, play a narrow 4-4-2 when we have the ball and expand with width when they have it, using crosses as their main weapon of scoring.
Yep, that really is stating the bleeding obvious.
Defense is where Hull’s key strengths lies with Curtis Davies – an aggressive centre half who is very good in the air – marshalling a back four which has not conceded a goal in its last three games. Davies can get a bit too tight at times though and Lukaku – the man who he will likely pick up – will fancy his chances against him.
In midfield the ex Spurs duo Huddlestone and Livermore have brought some quality on the ball to the centre of midfield and Huddlestone’s long range capability in particular will be the starting point of Hull servicing the flanks to start attacks. Hull will attack predominantly down the right side with Egyptian wide player Elmohamady arguably their most important player. He can play right back too but will most likely play on the wing. Hull’s most likely way to goal is via crosses – they make the 7th most in the league – and Elmohamady has pitched in with 53 alone, albeit with no assists as yet. On the opposite flank, ex Man United academy graduate Robbie Brady possesses a good left foot and has already delivered three goals and an assist, and could feature after returning to full training today after a hernia op.
They are an industrious side too, as you’d expect I’d guess, and figure in the top 7 sides in the league for fouls, tackles and interceptions on the road, so they are belligerent travellers not lacking in gumption.
Despite being in the middle of the table there is plenty of weak points to expose. Looking at the data, Hull’s average possession of 42% is the second lowest in the league and you would expect us to have bags of the play in Hull’s half and it will ultimately come down to whether we can take our chances when they present themselves.
Hull have shipped the 3rd most shots (50) on the road, and whereas they’ve picked up plenty of clean sheets on home turf they have none on the road and on average concede two per game so the likelihood of them getting a shut out would seem remote. Especially if Paul McShane gets near the pitch.
Going forward they look like a side really short on goals. The most prolific period of Sone Aluko’s career has been banging goals in against St Mirren and Dundee United in the SPL and so far he doesn’t look likely to take the top flight by storm. At least he has one goal though, which is more than you can say for his strike partner Danny Graham, a man who looks Jelavic look prolific, and who is currently into the 25th hour without scoring a goal in top flight football. No wonder Brenny signed him for Swansea. Its little surprise then that Hull haven’t been banging goals in left, right and centre with 4 of their 6 goals so far coming from set plays.
In terms of toffee team news it appears the game will again ‘come too soon’ for Steven Pienaar with Alcaraz ‘only weeks away’ from proving he exists. Darron Gibson – statistically the only man to have failed more late fitness tests than Gazza – is out for the season which knowing his powers of recovery will mean he’ll be back in two seasons. And 2 stone heavier. The only change from the City game then should see Barry return with Osman shifted to the left and Naismith dropping out.
Hull are a solid side and with the exception of the first half at Chelsea have not been embarrassed by anyone. They will look to keep things tight, restrict space and frustrate us, but they aren’t as solid a defensive operation as, say, a West Brom, and we should get at least one goal. I don’t see Hull scoring so it’s a home win for this reader. 2-0 Everton.