Hull City 2-1 Leicester City: How did the Tigers tame the Foxes?
Hull produced a fantastic team display against Leicester (photo: The Mirror)

Not many people gave relegation favourites Hull City any sort of hope against Premier League champions Leicester City on Saturday lunchtime but the Tigers executed Mike Phelan's plan to a tee as they went top of the league for 24 hours.

Flexibility in the formation

Phelan is tactically astute after a spell under arguably the greatest manager of English football history, winning three Premier League titles with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Even though "the team was easy to pick" as Phelan only had 13 senior players to choose from on Saturday, he organised and prepared them in a way that was enough to more than compete with the champions.

Jake Livermore filled in at centre back alongside Curtis Davies which is not his regular position but turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Livermore's quality on the ball was evident and it allowed the hosts to play out from the back when opportunities arose.

Much of Leicester's success last season came from the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez creating opportunities from midfield. Though Hull's 4-5-1 formation swamped the midfield whilst also allowing flexibility. David Meyler and Tom Huddlestone provided the legs in central midfield, whilst debutant Sam Clucas was impressive at the base of the engine room. Adama Diomande adding to the numbers on the left hand side and when the Tigers won the ball back, he would join Abel Hernandez up front, as Hull converted to more of a 4-4-2 formation.

Some fans have suggested such a result would not have been possible if a more defensive-minded Steve Bruce was still in charge. Not only did Diomande add to numbers in attack, but the Tigers were not afraid of commuting players forward. Robert Snodgrass was the creative force, whilst full-backs Andrew Robertson and Ahmed Elmohamady were always willing to join in. Like Livermore, having Elmohamady playing out of position again worked in the hosts favour as it provided more numbers in attack and he duly created the winning goal for Hull.

Snodgrass was dangerous every time he got the ball (Photo: The Sun)
Snodgrass was dangerous every time he got the ball (Photo: The Sun)

Foxes lose their guile

As for Leicester they looked a shadow of the team that won the league last season. With everyone aware of their favoured style of play, sides are now able to adapt accordingly and Hull did just that. With ten men behind the ball, the likes of Drinkwater, Mahrez, Demarai Gray and Andy King were constantly greeted by amber and black shirts whenever they looked up to play the ball, suffocated for space and routes to their strikers.

Drinkwater in particular enjoyed playing long balls over the top for Jamie Vardy and Mahrez to run on to last season. With Gray and debutant Ahmed Musa adding to the pace, Hull responded by sitting deep so there was no space in behind their defence, thus cancelling out the long ball problem.

The balance in Hull's side also ensured they could add players to their attacks, whilst not being threatened by a Leicester counter. Clucas was disciplined in sitting in front of the defence, whilst Huddlestone would always play behind the ball.

The final ingredient in Hull's victory was an ounce of luck. Vardy wasted a couple of opportunities that he would have buried last season, perhaps down to fatigue and a shorter pre-season following Euro 2016. Mahrez also looked rusty, whilst the Foxes looked shaky in defence. Big gaps often opened as Wes Morgan was left without his usual defensive partner Robert Huth due to suspension.