Mike Phelan Providing Hope For Hull City
Of all the preseason predictions and declarations, Hull City's relegation was said with the most certainty and confidence. After all, their beloved manager Steve Bruce quit, and they didn't sign players due to the lack of a manager. They're actually changing hands of ownership, as well. If anything, it could be reasonable to think the Tigers would face tough competition from the Championship's best sides.
Then, Hull snatched a 2-1 victory from defending champions Leicester City. Interim manager Mike Phelan joyously celebrated with his players as the rest of England laughed and said, "What can you say? That's the Premier League." But now that Hull have grabbed a follow-up 2-0 win over Swansea City, it seems apparent that the Tigers may have hope for this season yet.
How Are They Doing It
In the early going, it seems like the answer may be the in-form Abel Hernandez, who's scored two goals in two games. Perhaps it's Curtis Davies, a leading defender in the Championship last season and one who has been replicating form against raised competition. But let's look at Phelan himself.
Phelan only arrived at Hull in 2015 as an assistant to Steve Bruce, but when one considers the magical journey the Tigers took to promotion last season, it makes sense. He's not just familiar with this squad, he came up with them. Reportedly, key players have shown support for Phelan, and it's making it more and more difficult for Hull's higher-ups to pick an outside man.
And they likely shouldn't, at least for the time being. The squad is playing well, and Phelan has turned them into a stout defensive side. They've been solid at the back while taking the chances they're getting in the final third, and a bit of luck has seen that translate into positive -- if not spectacular -- results thus far.
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And this is all without mentioning the injuries that have defender Michael Dawson, midfielder Alex Bruce, goalkeeper Allan McGregor and full-back Moses Odubajo on the sidelines. While Hull certainly need reinforcements to continue competing in the top flight, the return of those players will provide useful depth.
Before his departure, Bruce said the club would need at least six new players to make a challenge at staying up. That's no small number, and the transfer window's conclusion is just over a week away.
Bruce's assertion is probably correct, despite the hot start, as Hull is thin in the attacking third. Other than Hernandez, they didn't have a bulk scorer last season. One striker isn't enough, especially when second-leading goalscorer, Mo Diame, has already been sold.
Their defense is a solid unit. They only let 35 goals last year in the 46-game schedule in the second flight. Getting someone to put the ball in the opposing net is the top priority for the Tigers.
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Besides depth, what Phelan could use more than anything is a few players with top-flight experience and quality. Disrupting the backbone of the team -- Dawson, Davies, Tom Huddlestone, Ahmed Elmohamady, to name a few -- isn't something he's likely to do, but that is something an outside hire might change. The understanding of his pieces is crucial, and getting Phelan veterans to mesh into the starting lineup alongside the aforementioned backbone is probably the route they'll take.
The sooner Hull decides on a manager, the sooner they can bring in the infusion of talent they so desperately need. Considering Phelan's positive start and familiarity with the squad, it seems like he warrants a chance and backing through new players. And if they can't bring in any significant additions, Phelan has already shown he can get results with an underhanded squad.