The Breakdown: Hull City preview

We are back in Premier League action against Hull City on Saturday, and ahead of the game tactical expert Michael Cox and former Gunner Adrian Clarke assess our opponents.


MC: Many were surprised when Hull sacked Mike Phelan and replaced him with little-known Portuguese coach Marco Silva, but the impact has been impressive – victories over Bournemouth and Liverpool, a creditable draw at Old Trafford, and a respectable performance in a loss at Chelsea. Having worked wonders with relegation-threatened Estoril in his native Portugal, Silva is proving well-suited to this challenge.
AC: Too many people were dismissive of him because they didn’t know him or anything about his background, but you just have to look after the stature of the teams he’s looked after and where he’s taken them. Has he improved every team he’s been at? The answer is yes. What’s really impressive is how quickly his coaching methods has transformed the Hull team who were really struggling. They were really porous at the back but now they look a completely different kettle of fish.


MC: Silva has chopped and changed in terms of system and personnel so far, fielding a three-man defence to match Chelsea’s formation at Stamford Bridge, but otherwise using more of a 4-5-1, with the lone striker extremely isolated. Up front, Silva has rotated Abel Hernandez, who scored two against Bournemouth earlier this month, and Oumar Niasse, who sealed the 2-0 victory over Liverpool last weekend with a late breakway goal. Hull’s approach depends heavily upon knocking the ball into the channels for their centre forward to chase. 


MC: Set-pieces could be a promising route for Hull – they opened the scoring against Liverpool with Alfred N’Diaye’s goal in the aftermath of a corner. Watch for their peculiar tactic of placing both a right-footed and a left-footed player over the ball at corners, keeping the opposition guessing about whether it will be an inswinging or outswinging delivery.
AC: It’s a bad time to play Hull City I’m afraid. They’ve kept clean sheets against Manchester United and Liverpool, and they weren’t lucky clean sheets either. It wasn’t as if they were hanging on. Marco Silva has organised this team and he’s getting a tune out of them. They’re well-drilled, everybody knows their job and there’s a little more confidence coursing through their veins from back to front. 


MC: Tom Huddlestone anchors the midfield and attempts to pull the strings by playing long, searching diagonals to the flanks. If Arsenal shut him down, Hull can struggle to build play.
AC: One player who has stood out for me is Sam Clucas. He’s naturally a left-sided midfielder but he’s played there, at left back, at wing back, as a holding midfielder and at the moment he’s playing in behind the front man. The two or three different managers he’s played under have deemed him suitable to play in all those roles and that tells you everything you need to know about his ability and football brain. 


MC: The back four hasn’t played together for long: right back Omar Elabdellaoui and right-sided Italian international Andrea Ranocchia are both new arrivals, while Harry Maguire likes carrying the ball forward and Andrew Robertson depends upon overlapping to showcase his crossing ability. It remains to be seen whether they work together as a unit, although they performed very well in last weekend’s win over Liverpool.
AC: To beat Hull City, you have to play with tempo and you also have to be ready from the start. Watford caught Arsenal cold, Chelsea caught Arsenal cold, so we’ve got to be ready from the first minute in this match. We cannot afford to go behind because Hull City are on fire at the moment. We need a fast start and a fast tempo. We need to pull those defenders around.




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