Hull need nouse and more depth to sustain effective challenge
Premier League consolidation is no longer acceptable for Hull City. Granted, they won’t win the Premier League next season, or secure a top seven spot, however at 7/2 to finish in the top 10, this is an achievement that they should be aiming for.
Steve Bruce is a winner, bred by Sir Alex Ferguson in the Manchester United way of the 1990s. In Hull, he has a team capable of asking the right questions, underpinned by his own philosophies that were ingrained in him as a successful player. Honesty, hard work, and determination are three principles Bruce values in his players, as exemplified in the FA Cup final against Arsenal. Add courage to that list.
The Tigers, although eventually beaten 3-2 by the Gunners, were unlucky not to lift the trophy. Bruce’s team played like champions. They never gave up. One trait that the manager himself has obviously, and effortlessly passed on.
It is encouraging for Hull, and they have added some quality to their ranks over the summer. With battle-hardened centre forwards Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic leading the line, Robert Snodgrass will take up a berth on one of the wings. A signing from Norwich for a fee in excess of £6m, feeding the front two should be like taking candy from a baby for him.
Bruce has also taken a punt on former teammate Paul Ince’s son Tom, who clearly has talent and will also compete for a spot on the wing. The big worry for Hull next term is whether they have enough strength in depth to challenge effectively in the Premier League and the Europa League.
Tom Huddlestone is their heartbeat, and keeping him fit is a priority. With Jake Livermore alongside him providing legs, and David Meyler providing support from the bench or on the pitch if Bruce goes three in midfield, but beyond that they are light in the engine room.
What Hull ideally need is a few loan signings, however, they are not a long-term solution. The board has showed that they are willing to spend if the right targets are identified, though the tricky part is finding players who are available.
Interestingly, if the plans go wrong on Humberside next season and they get relegated, Bruce, whether inadvertently or strategically, has assembled a team capable of bouncing straight back into the top flight.
Should the east Yorkshire side progress through the qualifying rounds and into the group stage of the Europa League, they will realistically need to reinforce. On the flip side, they will attract better quality players, however face the prospect of being drawn against the likes of Inter Milan and holders Sevilla.
In defence, Curtis Davies and James Chester have shown an impressive resistance to top strikers such as Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez. If they can secure the signing of Tottenham’s Michael Dawson, who they have been linked with on numerous occasions this summer, the 30-year-old would add European experience as well as organisation to the Tigers rearguard.
Hull have also added 21-year-old Harry Maguire, and 20-year-old Andrew Robertson to their defence and, in time, they will be future stars, though may get found out against top European strikers.
At 3/1 to be relegated next season, Hull have more than enough to stay up, though to compete on both fronts, they need a bit more strength in depth.