New Boys On The Block: Hull City

Gareth Copley

As we approach the upcoming season, we'll be taking a look at a number of factors in and around the team as they relate to the upcoming season, including a preview of the newly-promoted members of the Premier League. Today, we start with Hull City.

Who: Hull City AFC, founded in 1904. They were last in the EPL in 2010, slumping to a 19th place finish and relegation in their second season back in the top division.

Where: KC Stadium, Kingston-upon-Hull (in the Northeast of England). Seating capacity of 25,586.

Promoted By: Finished second in the nPower Championship last season, in part on the strength on a midseason run of 8 matches unbeaten, and a very strong finish that saw them win eight out of twelve of their late-season matches. The scored 61 goals and surrendered 52. Their top goalscorer was Robert Koren, who bagged nine league goals.

Manager: Steve Bruce, who was last seen in the Premier League getting fired by Sunderland in November of 2011. Bruce bears a career 35% win rate, and is generally seen as a "typical English route one with lots of kicking about" manager, though he did have a fairly significant shift in his tactics last season.

Tactics: In part because of available personnel, Bruce favored a 3-5-2 formation last season. The unorthodox (at least in England) formation worked well for the Tigers, as they allowed only 52 goals all season, good for fourth-best in the league. How long that formation lasts in the EPL could be a telling factor for Hull's chances up staying up; Bruce's wide men would typically press the opposition's wingers and not worry much about fullbacks, because class attackers at the position are much rarer in the Championship. In the EPL, however, the Tigers will need to find a way to manage both sets of wide players in order to keep themselves from shipping goals.

Featured Returning Players: Robert Koren, Hull's #10 and leading scorer last season, will be the squad's primary creative outlet. Tom Cairney, 22, was once seen as one of the rising midfield stars of England, though Hull's lackluster form and a knee injury last season have dimmed his stock. Interestingly, he's the only member of Hull's senior squad left from their last EPL campaign just a few years ago. Ahmed Elmohamady had two separate loan stints with Hull last season, and the Tigers officially purchased the Egyptian wide man this summer. His work rate on the wing will be key to Steve Bruce's formation this season.

New Arrivals: Danny Graham arrives on loan after an incredibly disappointing six months with Sunderland, hoping to resurrect his suddenly flagging career. His efforts in front of goal could be huge for Hull this season. His partner looks to be Yannick Sagbo, an Ivorian who most recently played for Evian in France's Ligue 1. In 88 career matches in France's top division, the 25 year old striker has bagged 16 goals and 10 assists, so Steve Bruce and company will be hoping he finds another gear in England and becomes a little more prolific. Maynor Figueroa and Curtis Davis have arrived from Wigan and Birmingham City, respectively, to improve the depth and quality at center back, which will be of extra importance as long as Hull sticks to a three-man back line. Alan McGregor returned to British shores after a year with Besiktas in Turkey to mind the Tigers' net, with Steve Harper making the trip from Newcastle to back him up.

Outlook: It's honestly a little hard to see Hull making it through the upcoming campaign. The effectiveness of their formation against Premier League quality width will be tested early and often, and they might not have the best personnel in place to switch to a four-man back line. Add that to shaky-looking quality in front of goal, and it could be a long season for Hull fans. Sorry to say it, but this is looking like a one-and-done side, though they've spent fairly smart and could be in position to come straight back up the next season if things break right.

Liverpool Fixtures: Sunday, December 1st (KC Stadium); Wednesday, January 1st (Anfield)

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