Hull City 2017/18 Season Preview: Tigers look to formulate Premier League return with new look squad

Leonid Slutsky takes charge of his first English team and sights will be firmly set on an instant return to the top flight.

Hull City 2017/18 Season Preview: Tigers look to formulate Premier League return with new look squad
Slutsky has a huge task on his hands (photo: Getty Images/Bryn Lennon)

It has been a busy summer at the KCOM stadium as Hull City prepare for a new era after being relegated on the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season in May.

Dramatic Premier League return ends in relegation

Hull's 2016/17 season consisted of more drama than a spell on Coronation Street as rollercoaster runs of form, regular manager changes and supporter unrest plagued a tough return to the top flight.

Despite guiding the Tigers back into the Premier League, Steve Bruce resigned before he could lead his team into their opening match after falling out with the board over transfers.

Yet Mike Phelan led a small squad to victory over defending champions Leicester City in the season curtain-raiser as a positive spell of results unfolded. However, Sir Alex Ferguson's former assistant could not extend the run for long as Hull slipped towards the bottom of the table with Premier League victories became irregular commodities.

Phelan was relieved of his duties at the turn of the year and aspirational Portugese manager Marco Silva was brought in for the rest of the season. As Phelan's summer signings struggled to make an impact, Silva recruited wisely and an upturn in results followed. 19 points from a possible 21 at home gave Hull a strong chance of survival.

Embroiled in a head-to-head with Swansea City for the last survival spot, Hull suffered a dramatic defeat to already relegated Sunderland that took survival out of their own hands. A demoralising 4-0 defeat to Crystal Palace confirmed their downfall before Spurs put seven past a beleaguered Tigers outfit on the final day of the season.

Several big names depart

Silva was poached by Watford at the end of the campaign leaving the undesired Allam family with a recruitment process for a new manager. They aimed high and handed the reigns to former Russia Head Coach Leonid Slutsky.

The enigmatic character has spent much of the summer trying to refresh his squad. The exit door has been constantly revolving with no less than seven first-team players moving on to pastures new.

Leicester City have been particularly keen to turn Tigers into Foxes, adding goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic and highly-rated central defender Harry Maguire to their ranks for a combined total of around £25 million.

Jakupovic held down the number one spot for much of the campaign at the KCOM last season but was easily persuaded to join the former Premier League champions. He will be looking forward to linking up with Maguire again after the defender proved to be one of Hull's most consistent players last season and was tipped for an England cap.

No less than three full-backs have departed Hull over the summer. Andrew Robertson eventually signed for Liverpool in a £10 million deal after Jurgen Klopp was rewarded for sticking at a long-winded transfer negotiation. Ahmed Elmohamady departed for Aston Villa, whilst Josh Tymon terminated his scholarship with a view to joining Stoke City.

Tom Huddlestone did not enjoy his best season last year and was snapped up by Derby County who will also be looking to push for promotion. The Rams also took veteran defender Curtis Davies from the Tigers to bolster their back four.

Hungry youngsters recruited to bolster young squad

Slutsky had no choice but to recruit and appears to have shortlisted wisely with some exciting prospects joining the club. Midfielder Kevin Stewart made nine appearances for Liverpool last season but has been snapped up for a fee that could rise to £7.5 million.

Youngsters Liam Edwards and Ola Aina join from Stoke and Chelsea respectively, with Slutsky hoping their youthful energy and desire will help push Hull up the Championship table.

Fraizer Campbell rejoins the Tigers after netting 15 times in 34 matches during a loan spell ten years ago. The striker struggled to nail down a first team place at Crystal Palace and arrives with a point to prove.

Talented players remain on Humberside

Hull have managed to hold onto a number of key players thus far. Captain Michael Dawson has over 500 career appearances to his name and will be instrumental in organising a new defensive unit.

Poland international Kamil Grosicki failed to score in 15 games after arriving in January but looked one of Hull's most technically gifted players last season. Blessed with pace and trickery, the winger will test a number of Championship full-backs.

Abel Hernandez was plagued with injury last season but still has an eye for a goal. He scored 20 goals in 39 Championship matches two years ago and Hull fans will hope he can repeat the feat to fire the Tigers towards the promotion places.

Midfielder Sam Clucas enjoyed a breakthrough season in the Premier League and acquitted himself well against some of the best players on the planet. Capable of playing out wide, in the engine room or behind a lone striker, Clucas' passing ability presents a key role for the 26-year old next season.

Youngster Jarrod Bowen did not manufacture quite the same impact as Clucas but began to be a regular face in the matchday squad. The 20-year old is blessed with talent and ability, making seven Premier League appearances last season.

Promotion could be on the cards if a dented defence is bolstered

Hull's chances of bouncing straight back up to the Premier League will rely a lot on who they can keep at the club between now and the end of August. At the times last season, particularly under Marco Silva, the Tigers proved they could compete with the best and they have kept a number of their consistent performers.

They boast a number of talented options in midfield, particularly as Ryan Mason makes progress with his recovery after a horrific injury last season. Two strong and experienced goalkeepers will be important in a tough and long season but the defensive line in front of them must be bolstered.

The loss of numerous defenders leaves Slutsky's squad light in this area, with only four recognised backline players in the senior squad.

Question marks could be raised over Hull's ability to find the net. They struggled last season and will hope the likes of Hernandez, Campbell, Adama Diomande and Will Keane have enough about them to find the target on a regular basis.


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