It has been a difficult season so far for Hull City after exceeding expectations last season. Premier League survival and an FA Cup final was a great achievement for the club, but this time round it seems as if they are suffering from the dreaded second season syndrome once again.
The reward for finishing runners-up was a place in the Europa League for the first time in their history. After scrapping through the third qualifying round, Hull disappointed expectant fans by failing to make the group stages. This was the first sign of a tough season ahead. The Tigers are currently 18th but only one point adrift from safety. Their current run of form has been poor, with just two league wins in their last 14 outings. With no cup run to excite the club, survival will be the only thing on Steve Bruce’s mind this season.
The signings brought in over the summer suggested Hull’s ambition to finish in around mid-table with plenty of quality added to the squad. The likes of Michael Dawson, Abel Hernandez, Gaston Ramirez, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jake Livermore were snapped up in what initially looked like a fantastic summer transfer window at the KC Stadium, but unfortunately the majority of these players haven’t lived up to expectation.
Ben Arfa was disappointing throughout his loan spell which is why it was cut short at the start of this month. Michael Dawson hasn’t had the desired effect on the team but has had injury problems to contend with, so too has Hernandez. The Uruguayan has looked impressive when fit but hasn’t been able to put a consistent run of games together. The highly rated Tom Ince was also signed in the summer but hasn’t been given much of a chance in the first team and was shipped out on loan to Nottingham Forest for two months.
The number of injuries Hull have had during the season has played a big part in their struggles. It hasn’t allowed them to put together a settled starting line-up on a consistent basis, with Bruce having to chop and change all too regularly.
In the recent defeat to West Brom, strikers Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez picked up injuries to add to Bruce’s woes. The fact that these two have scored nearly half of the clubs goals between them demonstrates the need to have them fit and firing. If they both miss around six weeks as expected, then Hull could be in even more danger unless more signings are made this month. No less than six other players remain on the sidelines reinforcing the point for players to be brought in during the remainder of the transfer window.
Conceding goals hasn’t been too much of an issue for Hull City, though, with around half the division conceding more. Summer signing Andrew Robertson has been extremely impressive in defence and his ability to get forward means it is crucial to keep him at the club.
The biggest area for improvement has to be up-front. With just 20 goals scored in 21 matches and three out of four forwards currently out injured, Steve Bruce must bring in cover to help keep the club up. The lack of creativity in midfield is also a cause for concern, which is causing the strikers to feed off scraps. Tom Ince could be the answer if given a chance but after the failures of Hatem Ben Arfa, a replacement for the Frenchman wouldn’t go amiss.
Injuries haven’t helped the cause for the Tigers this term. But with money seemingly available, Steve Bruce must add to a very thin squad in order for Hull to be playing Premier League football for a third consecutive season.