Talking Tactics | Hull City v Swansea City
Swansea will look to extend their unbeaten run to four games when they travel to Hull on Saturday and WhoScored.com are on hand to preview the action ahead of the trip to the MKM Stadium-
What to expect from Hull
Back-to-back wins over promotion chasing Blackburn and Bournemouth will have certainly boosted morale in the Hull camp. After their takeover was completed earlier this month, the Tigers have their tails up coming into the final days of January. Those victories, though, were not enough to save Grant McCann from losing his job at the MKM Stadium with the 41-year-old relieved of his duties earlier this week.
That means Hull are something of an unknown quantity ahead of Saturday's welcome of Swansea with Shota Arveladze named McCann's replacement at Hull. The Georgian has been out of work for over a year following his departure from Uzbek side Pakhtakor Tashkent FK. Arveladze enjoyed plenty of success during his stint in Uzbekistan, yet this is his first furore in English football, so there is ample pressure on the 48-year-old, particularly after victories over Blackburn and Bournemouth.
For the most part, Arveladze used a 4-2-3-1 setup during his time as Pakhtakor Tashkent FK head coach, a system that Hull have used fairly regularly this season, though most recently they have been using a three-man backline. Considering his preference for a 4-2-3-1 setup, Arveladze may revert back to that system, starting with the weekend welcome of the Swans.
That would likely see a midfield base of Richard Smallwood and Greg Docherty, the pair ranking among the most used players for Hull this season. The three-man setup also saw Di'Shon Bernard, Sean McLoughlin and Jacob Greaves form a solid defensive partnership, and one that could well be broken up. In the instance that Arveladze goes to a four-man defence, McLoughlin would likely be the one to miss out, though with injury issues at the back for Hull, he should continue with Bernard potentially moving to right-back.
Further forward, George Honeyman and Keane Lewis-Potter are set to feature in the number 10 role and on the left, respectively, with Ryan Longman perhaps getting the nod on the right and Tom Eaves lead the charge having had a direct hand in two of Hull's last three league goals. Hull fans will approach Saturday's game with cautious optimism following the takeover and subsequent appointment of Arveladze, but it's important they maintain the boost in confidence on the back of successive victories.
An issue for Hull this season has been an inability to consistently find the back of the net, a trait that has seen them develop a statistically calculated WhoScored.com weakness of 'finishing scoring chances'. Indeed, only basement boys Barnsley (17) have scored fewer league goals than Hull (23) in the Championship this season, with George Honeyman and Keane Lewis-Potter between them scoring five goals apiece as their top scorers this season.
Denying the attacking pair the chance to go for goal at the MKM Stadium is pivotal and it means defender Ryan Manning and co need to limit their chances on Saturday. While nominally a left-back, Russell Martin has used Manning as the left-sided centre-back frequently and to good effect this season. The 25-year-old scored the winning goal in the 1-0 win over Preston last weekend, that enough to make the WhoScored.com team of the week from that full round of fixtures, and boasting strengths of 'tackling' and 'defensive contribution', the defender has what it takes to keep this Hull attack at bay.
If, as expected, Ryan Longman does start from the right this weekend, though, then Manning needs to be on top of his game to help the Swans to another positive result. Longman's directly contributed to seven league goals this season, three of which came in his last two appearances. The 21-year-old has been used at right wing-back of late, but in a more advanced role, he'll up against Manning as he seeks to help Hull to a third successive league win.
Hull's quest for goals is not for want of trying. A return of eight key passes per game isn't worth shouting home about, nor is it the worst in the division, but a failure to tuck these chances away has proven their undoing time and time again. Only Barnsley (6.6%) and West Brom (6.7%) have a worse conversion rate than Hull (7.3%), so while they will have the wind in their sails after earning six massive points in the last two games, they still have issues in front of goal and if Swansea can exploit that weakness, then they should extend their unbeaten run to four games.