Hull City: New signings, new formation options


There’s no game for Hull this weekend, as they have to wait until Monday to take on West Ham under the KC Stadium lights.  Ordinarily that would be a rather mundane fixture, but in this instance it’s one to look forward to - the lingering question from deadline day is over how Steve Bruce will accommodate his new signings, and in two days time we’ll find out.

Before the international break, Hull lost to Aston Villa and Bruce lined his side up like this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 16.08.29

Other than the new arrivals, you can expect James Chester to return to the starting line-up after the expiration of his one-match ban - he’ll take Paul McShane’s place.

Beyond that, however, there are all kinds of possibilities.  Mohamed Diame, Hatem Ben Arfa, Gaston Ramirez and Abel Hernandez are all now available to Bruce and here are a couple of ways in which he could shape his side around them:

i) Within the same formation, but with Hernandez and Diame replacing Nikica Jelavic and Stephen Quinn respectively.  It’s the easiest change, obviously, because it would involve very few structural adjustments.

ii) Something fun, something reckless.  Jelavic and Livermore are sacrificed for Ramirez and Ben Arfa, creating a front-three loaded with guile and flair.  The problem with Ben Arfa is that he does not, will not, absolutely refuses to defend, therefore Bruce must find a way of playing him without compromising the structure of the rest of his side.  Ben Arfa is wonderfully talented, but he can potentially do as much harm as good.  This would be a very watchable side, but not a resilient one - and not one which Bruce could realistically field away from the KC against top-half opposition.

iii) At a guess, I’d probably say that seeing Ramirez and Ben Arfa on the pitch simultaneously is unlikely, and that the shape above is Steve Bruce’s most obvious option.  Abel Hernandez is the club’s record-signing and is clearly going to play and you would imagine that Nikica Jelavic will suffer long-term as a result.  Employing a supporting-forward behind the Uruguayan opens up a slot for three different players (TI, GR, HBA) and still allows Hull to retain their numbers in the centre of midfield.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 16.38.04

iv) And finally a painfully fashionable 4-2-3-1.  Elmohamady and Robertson drop to orthodox full-back roles, Huddlestone and Diame create a double-pivot in deep-midfield, and Ince, Ramirez, and Ben Arfa create a fluid attacking-midfield trio behind Hernandez.  It’s a voguing formation for a reason: it provides both a flexible attack and a stable back-four, whilst also potentially allowing a manager to drop an extra player into the middle of the midfield if the circumstances dictate.

The Premier League has become a notoriously diverse challenge for managers and having a squad capable of morphing into several different shapes is an essential part of being successful within this competition. Whilst Hull’s transfer-window appeared to, at times, double and triples their resources in single areas, it actually provided them with a really useful degree of flexibility.

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