As Hull City host Arsenal this weekend, optimism is at a premium at the East Yorkshire club. The Tigers currently sit second from bottom in the Premier League table after Burnley’s midweek draw with Stoke.
Hull’s league position is dictated by their poor goal difference, the worst in the Premier League. The 5-1 defeat at the hands of Everton last weekend has not done that particular statistic any favours, nor will it have done much for the team’s confidence as they head into Saturday’s clash with Arsenal.
Positives were hard to come by if you were a Hull fan last weekend; however, they were a couple if you looked hard enough. Tom Cairney’s performance and superbly taken goal was obviously one of them. The 19-year-old yet again put in a performance that defied he’s years as the impressive youngster scored his first Premier League goal.
The second, and final positive from last weekend’s defeat was the return of the ever-popular Jimmy Bullard, his first appearance since December. His on pitch display may not have been as impressive as his midfield counterpart Cairney, but Hull fans will have been happy to see the former Fulham man make it through over 70 minutes without injury.
This Saturday’s match with Arsenal sees Hull coming of the back of two heavy defeats, where as the Gunners head into the game boasting a 5-0 win over Porto in the Champions League. All eyes, from a Hull perspective, will be on Phil Brown’s team selection, something that has been regularly criticised by the fans and was again under scrutiny at Goodison Park. Brown’s tendency to tinker with his team’s formation and selection is a particular gripe with many Hull fans and the fact that he reverted to a 4-5-1 formation against Everton annoyed many.Brown opted to use Amr Zaki as the loan striker and packed the middle of the park with five midfielders. It was apparent that the tactics weren’t working early in the match as Hull struggled to prevent Everton’s midfielders from dictating the play. The 4-5-1 formation was a favourite of Browns at the beginning of the season, but it rarely brought success as Craig Fagan was often preferred to lead the line. Fagan, generally seen as wide right midfielder was used as a loan striker while loan signing Jozy Altidore and Jan Venegoor of Hesselink occupied the bench. Fans longed for a 4-4-2 line-up and Brown eventually obliged, using Fagan wide right and a strike partnership of Altidore and Venegoor of Hesselink. That partnership appeared to bring some success and an understanding between the pair looked to have been forged, typified by Altidore’s first Premier League goal against Manchester City.
Egyptian striker Amr Zaki was brought in during the January transfer window, much to the delight of many Hull fans as they hoped the former Wigan loan star could recreate his form of last season. However, the form of both Altidore and Venegoor of Hesselink meant it would be hard for Zaki to break into the first team. Despite their form Brown decided to break up the partnership and went with Zaki as a loan striker against Everton, a decision he may now regret as the 26-year-old failed to make an impact on the game.
Hull will have to produce a similar performance on Saturday to the one that earned them a point with Chelsea at the KC Stadium early last month. The Arsenal game will be Hull’s first home game in over a month which should make for a great atmosphere for the evening kick-off.
Before the recent break for the KC Stadium, Hull enjoyed a run of three home games in a row, a run that saw them go undefeated, although that may be a hard ask this weekend. However, points are vital for Phil Brown’s side as their nearest rivals in the relegation battle – Wolves and Burnley – meet each other this weekend. No matter what the result in that game, if Hull lose they will also lose ground on either of the two sides.
Former Hull City forward Peter Swan has called for the Tiger’s to ruffle Arsenal’s feathers on Saturday, a tactic used by many sides when playing against Arsene Wenger’s men. A point would be as good as a win and a win would be unbelievable.
After the weekend’s clash, Hull have a run of what many feel are winnable games and manager Phil Brown has highlighted the games he believes his side are capable of coming away with points from and points is what he needs if he hopes to survive another term in the Premier League.