Another international break, and another defeat for Alex Neil and his men. As we mentioned on the latest episode of the From the Finney podcast, that’s 9 defeats from 11 games immediately following international breaks. Something has to give sooner or later but what exactly? I’m not sure.
However, Wednesday night presents an opportunity that in the past, more often than not, we have taken this season. Hull are no mugs though. Despite a shaky start to the season which yielded only 2 wins in their opening 9 games of the season (the first 2 months), they have picked up a bit with 4 wins from their last 8 games but only 1 draw.
They currently sit in 14th position in the Championship table after a 2-2 stalemate with Middlesbrough on Sunday afternoon. Since his appointment in the summer, I would imagine Grant McCann will be okay with his start to life managing in the Championship. His Tigers side are by no means out of the play-off picture as they are just 6 points off 4 teams who all sit on 29 points from Bristol City in 7th to Fulham in 4th.
Alex Neil’s side, on the other hand, are currently 3rd in the table, a position I suspect no one would have had us down as currently occupying at the start of the season.
We lost our 4th game of the season on Saturday away at Derby County in a game that, by all accounts, we didn’t play very well in. However, one thing that we seem to have been able to do this season, at least thus far, is to put a run of positive results together immediately following a defeat.
We lost on the opening day away at Millwall, won our next game 3-0. Granted we then lost away at Swansea but we then went on an 8-game unbeaten run in which we faced 4 of the current top 10 in the Championship and picked up 8 points from a possible 12, not too bad. Let’s hope that Wednesday night in Hull sees us bounce back from defeat at Derby with a positive result and performance and avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time this season.
First and foremost, let’s get the blatantly obvious one out of the way first. Jarrod Bowen. The 22-year old hasn’t really been out of the limelight since he broke into Hull City’s first team when they were up in the Premier League in the 2016/17 season.
Since then he has gone on to make 117 appearances at Championship level scoring 49 goals. That’s a goal just slightly over every 2 games. For a 22-year old wide player, that’s a damn good record. He already has 11 in 17 this season for the Tigers so without a doubt, it’s going to be a tough night for either Joe Rafferty or Andrew Hughes, if he’s fit and the gaffer chucks him in.
Kamil Grosicki is another one that North End should have a sharp eye, he has 4 goals and 3 assists to his name already this season but he’s a fairly obvious one to point out. For me, the other player that we should keep an eye on is Kevin Stewart, the “heartbeat” of Grant McCann’s Hull side this season.
Juergen Klopp once said of Hull City’s number 6: “I have said a few times, he’s the best challenger in the squad, one-on-one he is really ugly to play against.”
However, he is now starting to find his feet under Grant McCann and his performances this season have begun to earn him the trust of his manager.
He has made 16 appearances so far this season with 2 of those coming from the bench but he leads the way for tackles per 90 with 4, of players who have made 10 or more appearances so far this season. Stewart also leads the way of players with 10 or more appearances for intercetptions per 90 with 2.
This week, Rich from Hull City Analytics is joining us for a second time this season. You can find him on twitter here – @hullcitydata. Now, for Rich’s words…
The season has gone pretty well from our previous tie in the cup at the end of August. We have taken 19 points from 36 in the league and we are currently sitting in 14th. We’ve had some strong performances in games we havnt won and when we do play well it’s frustrating to see us come away with nothing.
Our wingers have been exceptional for us so far this season contributing to 20 goals between them. Jarrod Bowen currently sits on 11 goals and 2 assists and Kamil Grosicki, as mentioned, has 4 goals and 3 assists. However, Grosicki seemed to be tired after international duty as he was terrible away to Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Summer signing Tom Eaves has played well up top for us too but he is still struggling to find the back of the net. Losing Toral again to injury is a blow as we look so good going forward with him in the 10 position.
McCann has been fabulous as our coach so far this season. He isnt afraid to change things up a bit when we need it and he won’t let the team get away with another poor half like at Boro. I hope at least.
As for the rest of this season, I want to see us carry on being competitive and pushing the pace in games. We seem really settled now as a side, as a squad and with the gaffer so we need to start to make that count on the pitch. I said I’d be happy for mid table at the start of the season and I’ll still say that although a push toward the play-offs would be a bonus.
The game against North End I think will see McCann play the same side but I would be quite happy to see the odd change made, just to freshen things up a bit.
Maybe Magennis in for Eaves, Bowler for Grosicki and it would be nice to see Batty and Honeyman start in midfield. I would punt for a 4-3-3 as follows: Long; Elder, De Wijs, Burke, Lichaj; Batty, Honeyman, Irvine; Bowen, Bowler, Magennis.
As for a score prediction, I can see us sneaking this one with a 2-1 win.
As I mentioned earlier on in the piece, I just hope that we can avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time this season. It’s going to be tough, we haven’t fared overly well when visiting the K-Com recently.
I think there will be changes in the side tonight. Alex Neil may well be forced into a change and I think Gallagher will come in and I think Nugent will come in for Stockley too. My XI would be: Rudd; Fisher, Bauer, Storey, Rafferty; Gallagher, Pearson; Barkhuizen, Browne, Maguire; Nugent.
I think he will start Browne in the 10 for his energy. Admittedly, he’s not as creative as Johnson, if you will, but his energy, hustling and harrying up the top end of the pitch and his interchangeability alongside Barky and Maguire could pay dividends for us. Having Johnson as an option off the bench too could prove to be an added bonus incase we need him.
It’s going to be a tight game, I don’t think there will be many goals in it so I will punt for a 1-0 win for us with Nuge finally getting off the mark.