Striking the right balance
Few outsiders would have expected Hull City to beat the current Premier League Champions, but the Tigers ran them close in an end-to-end encounter at the KC Stadium last Saturday. The home team responded well to Manchester City taking an early two-goal lead and fought their way back into the game with some excellent attacking play.
October 1st, 2014
Liam Rosenior was getting forward and providing dangerous crosses, and both Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez once again posed a major threat. An own goal by Ellaquim Mangala and Abel Hernandez’s penalty drew the Tigers level but they were ultimately undone on the counter attack by Edin Dzeko and then Frank Lampard.
The performance was typical of the new-look team – great going forward but fragile in defence.
New signings Momo Diame and Abel Hernandez have certainly made an instant impact in their opponents’ final third. Both have already scored two each in only three league appearances. The former Wigan midfielder Diame is prepared to run at defenders and is capable of unleashing shots from distance, typified by his scorcher against another former club West Ham. The Uruguayan international striker Hernandez is a great finisher with an excellent record from the penalty spot.
But Hull’s problems lie in defence where they have now conceded 13 goals in five games. They have not had a clean sheet since the QPR win in the first game of the season. Only Everton and QPR have conceded more goals in the Premier League so far this season. They’ve slipped to 15th in the table and results will not improve unless the defence can lock out the opposition.
A combination of factors has contributed to the defensive problems. The new team is certainly more attack orientated and this means they commit more players forward, inevitably leaving gaps in midfield and defence. The new defensive pairings will take time to settle with Michael Dawson coming in alongside Curtis Davies and left-back Andy Robertson joining from Dundee United.
It is fair to say that manager Steve Bruce has not yet decided on his best starting formation. The 4-4-2 utilised in the 2-2 draws with West Ham United and Newcastle United had its strengths, but the attack-minded full backs Ahmed Elmohamady and Andy Robertson occasionally left the team exposed at the back.
Playing a back three of James Chester, Curtis Davies and Michael Dawson would enable Elmohamady and Robertson to fill wing-back slots in a 3-5-2, a formation that helped them keep 10 clean sheets in the Premier League last term.
It is still very early in the season with 32 games still to play, but Bruce will want to quickly strike a balance between the need to attack without compromising his team’s ability to stop the opposition from scoring.
Bruce will want to get the balance right in their next game against Crystal Palace as they have tough fixtures ahead, with Arsenal and Liverpool away and high- flying Southampton at home.