Pre-match analysis: Can Hull fend off the magic of Payet and Carroll?

Pre-match analysis: Can Hull fend off the magic of Payet and Carroll?

The Tigers travel to West Ham with the worst defence in the league.

Chris Lincoln

Hull City's Mike Phelan takes to the chess table against West Ham's Slaven Bilic on Saturday evening, though he could be working with pawns against some of the London club's knights of the capital.

Payet and Carroll's strengths outweigh Hull's weaknesses

West Ham have encountered a lacklustre start to the season, particularly at their new home, where they only compiled their third victory from eight Premier League games during the week. Yet they face a Hull side that have just a solitary victory on their travels, losing six of their eight away games.

However, the Hammers' midweek victory over Burnley and return to form and fitness of Andy Carroll could kickstart their season, especially against a Hull side that have found life difficult defending against the aerial ability of opposing players. In addition, West Ham have scored in their last six home games, whilst Hull have not hit the target in their last four on the road.

Even during the absence of Carroll, West Ham's greatest threat has come from set-pieces, scoring nine of their 18 goals. In comparison, the Tigers have conceded over a quarter of their goals from similar situations, with many occuring in recent weeks. Carroll himself will be guaranteed quality service, as the likes of Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio will ply their trade behind him. The latter is also a serious threat in the air, thus a probable Hull back three will have to be on guard for the whole length of the game.

Hull have given away far too many free-kicks in their third of the pitch this season and they will do well to avoid dropping into that habit on Saturday afternoon. A number of talented attacking players have enjoyed playing against the Tigers and this is where Payet will come into his own. Already a force to knock off the ball with his array of tricks and talent Hull's defence are left with a dilemna. Foul him and he will cause problems with either a dead ball shot or cross; allow him space and he will more than likely pick out Carroll.

Hull have conceded 35 goals this season (photo: Getty Images)
Hull have conceded 35 goals this season (photo: Getty Images)

Hull could threaten a dodgy West Ham defence

With West Ham likely to employ a back three, Hull could find opportunities down the flanks. Andrew Robertson and Ahmed Elmohamady both looked dangerous last weekend when they were granted more room and they will provide a test for Aaron Cresswell and Antonio. Robert Snodgrass will also look to find pockets of space and test a Hammers defence that have conceded 31 goals this season, just four shy of the Tigers themselves.

As Hull continue to face the danger of being cut adrift of the safety zones over the Christmas period, it is these games against fellow strugglers where Mike Phelan needs his side to turn round a poor run of form that has seen them pick up just one win in the Premier League since August.