2020 started well for Hull City. On New Year’s Day, The Tigers ventured a short distance across Yorkshire to Sheffield Wednesday where, despite a fairly dominant Wednesday performance, Jarrod Bowen scored the only goal of the game to give Hull all three points.
The win moved Grant McCann’s side up to ninth in the table, just two points behind sixth-place, sitting in a promising position to challenge for promotion.
However, flashforward nearly two months and Hull are yet to win a league game since the opening day of the year.
Losses to play-off contenders Fulham, Brentford, and Preston North End have contributed to their poor form, yet it is results against the likes of Reading and Huddersfield Town that will be troublesome for Hull fans.
Since New Year’s Day Hull have dropped from ninth down to fourteenth, fifteen points of the play-offs and just seven points above the relegation zone.
Do the Tigers have enough about them to stop the bad run of form or will they be dragged into a relegation scrap despite such a promising position at the start of 2020?
What has gone wrong?
Undoubtedly, the sale of Hull’s two most creative players on transfer Deadline Day has played a part in their recent demise.
Kamil Grosicki left Hull for table-toppers West Bromwich Albion with a tally of six goals and five assists this season. No player in the Hull squad averages more key passes per game than Grosicki who signed for Hull on Deadline Day three years previous.
In his time in Yorkshire, the Polish international has turned out over one-hundred times for the Tigers, finding the net on twenty-four occasions in the league.
Grosicki’s importance for Hull over the past few seasons has been masked by one factor, the emergence of Bowen.
If the sale of Grosicki wasn’t enough, Hull pained supporters even more on the last day of January, as star man Bowen joined Premier League side West Ham United for an initial £18m.
Bowen’s sixteen goals for Hull makes him easily the club’s top scorer and still, despite a month away from the division, the fourth top scorer in the Championship.
Bowen’s departure from Hull has been inevitable for some time. The now 23-year-old has carried his side for the past couple of seasons; he has finished as the clubs top scorer and Player of the Year in both the 17/18 campaign and the 18/19 and is well on course to do the same this year.
Without Grosicki and Bowen, Hull lack any creativity on either wing and have subsequently seen their goalscoring prowess significantly worsened.
Since New Years Day Hull have failed to score in three of their last eight games; their tally of eight goals is far from the worst in the division over this period, yet this includes a frantic 4-4 against Swansea City.
However, it is defensively where Hull have succumbed in recent weeks. Having conceded thirty-four goals in their first twenty-six games, an average of 1.3 per game, they have conceded nineteen in eight, meaning their average has shot up 2.3 goals per game.
If McCann is to reverse the bad form at Hull, he must resolve their defensive frailties in order to find their second win in 2020.
How do Hull stop the rot?
Whilst their current form has of course been affected by the absence of their two key men, their run of tough fixtures has proved to be the driving factor in their slump down the table.
Hull have played five of the top nine in their last eight games. Their next six fixtures see them take on four teams below them in the table, a real chance to turn around their fortunes.
If McCann can motivate his side to pick up wins against the four teams below Hull, they will easily move into the top half of the table.
However, the issue of replacing Bowen and Grosicki still remains. The club signed winger Malik Wilks, who scored fourteen under McCann at Doncaster Rovers last season, on loan from Barnsley in January and the winger has managed three goals in five starts for Hull so far.
Other than Wilks, Hull are lacking offensive creativity and if they do stop the bad run and survive, McCann will be looking to expand their attacking options in the summer.
Whether Hull will be drawn into a relegation scrap remains to be seen. If they fail to find desired results in the next few games, they could easily sink into the bottom five at a crucial stage of the season.
The club is desperate for a new hero to replace Bowen and with a vital few months coming up for Hull, the stage is set for someone to step up and save their season.