Hull City 2016/17 Season Preview: Tigers in for a battle at the bottom

The Tigers will be looking to avoid the drop after bouncing straight back into the top flight following their relegation two seasons ago.

Hull City 2016/17 Season Preview: Tigers in for a battle at the bottom
Hull City won the Championship playoffs last season | Photo: Cammy Anderson/VAVEL

Hull City return to the Premier League after gaining promotion with a victory over Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday in the playoffs last May.

Play-off promotion last season

Hull were a picture of inconsistency last season. At times they played some quite stunning football and looked set for automatic promotion in the early stages of the campaign. Yet too many dropped points after a handful of lacklustre performances caused the Tigers to be forced into settling for a playoff position. 

They showed their Jekyll and Hyde performances oncemore as they blew away Derby County in the semi-final first leg to lead 3-0, before being forced to hold on to their advantage in the second leg. The team were a lot more composed at Wembley and a Mo Diame strike secured their passage back into the Premier League.

An attractive style of play, but under who?

With a talented central midfield comprising of Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone, Hull like to get the ball down and play short passing football. When they are at their best, the Tigers are fluid, fast and dangerous against any opposition.

However, they are likely to spend the majority of their matches without the ball as they prepare to face a relegation battle. The Tigers were strong in defence last season and will look to be composed and organised, despite losing Moses Odubajo, Alex Bruce and Michael Dawson to long-term injuries during pre-season.

Huddlestone and Livermore have Premier League experience (photo : Getty Images)
Huddlestone and Livermore have Premier League experience (photo : Getty Images)

Transfer window, a disaster...

The fans have described pre-season as "a complete disaster". With the Allam family ready to sell the club and the departure of Steve Bruce, any transfer signings have been put to the side. Hull have been linked with a number of players but so far they are yet to sign a senior professional with just three weeks left of the window.

They have managed to hold on to most of their star players so far, though they were dealt a hammer blow when powerful midfielder Mo Diame was signed by relegated Newcastle United for £4.5 million after they matched the release cause in his contract.

Pre-season so far 

Despite the turmoil off the pitch, Hull have gradually grown on it and only suffered one defeat throughout pre-season under the experienced eye of Mike Phelan. After a lacklustre goalless draw against Grimsby Town, a more youthful side defeated North Ferriby United after a high intensity training camp in Portugal.

The Tigers edged victories at Mansfield Town and Scunthorpe United, before rescuing a draw against Barnsley. They performed much better when they defeated Nottingham Forest 2-1 and  also enjoyed the winning feeling against Turkish side Caykur Rizespor during a five day tour of Austria. However, they did experience their first defeat of the summer when they lost 2-1 to Torino at the end of the tour. 

What's left of the Hull side have enjoyed a training camp in Austria (photo:Twitter/Hull City)
What's left of the Hull side have enjoyed a training camp in Austria (photo:Twitter/Hull City)

Strengths...

Hull's strength lies with the midfield duo of Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore. With undoubted passing ability, adaptability to defend and popping up with the odd goal, the former Tottenham Hotspur pairing are central to everything for the Tigers.

Hull have also done well to hold on to their top goalscorer last season Abel Hernandez. The Uruguayan had been linked with a return to Serie A but will provide valuable goals in the Tigers' survival hunt.

... and weaknesses

A few weeks ago we would have been talking about Hull's defence as another strong area. Though long-term injuries to Bruce, Odubajo and Dawson and a lack of pre-season action for Harry Maguire due to another niggle has left them short in this area. Manchester United's Phil Jones has been recently linked as a potential partner for captain Curtis Davies at the back.

Hull could also do with another striker to take the pressure off Hernandez. Adama Diomande has chipped in with a few goals during pre-season but is an unknown quantity in the Premier League. Hal Robson-Kanu looked likely to sign for the club, until the departure of Steve Bruce put the move on hold, whilst Rudy Gestede has also been linked to the club.

Youngsters could burst onto the scene

The injury crisis and lack of signings has given the likes of Josh Clackstone, Sam Clucas, Greg Olley and Greg Luer the opportunity to impress in the first team.

Bowen has been in fine form during the summer (photo : Twitter / Hull City)
Bowen has been in fine form during the summer (photo : Twitter / Hull City)

One man who has really stood out is Jarrod Bowen. Chipping in with a couple of goals and assists, the youngster looks as if he could be ready to experience first team football.

Season prediction 

19th - Hull have hints of quality throughout the team but the demands of the Premier League require large squads and the Tigers are looking threadbare. Some fans have expressed concerns that they may not even reach the Premier League's lowest points total set by Derby County.