Steve Bruce has returned to 3-5-2 which brought previous success
14 March ~ Hull City have a knack for losing matches to teams who couldn’t buy a win if their oligarch’s life depended on it. We secured Burnley their first Premier League victory, West Ham’s only win in their past 11 league matches came against us and Leicester City managed to end a 13-game losing streak when they somehow conspired to beat us over Christmas. Yet in recent weeks this embarrassing trend has started to abate and much-needed wins over fellow strugglers Aston Villa and QPR have propelled Steve Bruce’s team up the table and given life to a campaign that was petering out towards relegation.
The improvements need to continue today against bottom club Leicester. Sitting on 27 points and being five clear of the relegation zone could lead many to think that the Tigers are well on their way to safety, but a quick glance at the fixture list would tell you otherwise. Seven of City’s final ten games come against teams in the top half of the table and considering we’ve yet to beat one of them this season, victory this weekend is imperative.
The signs are positive. A switch back to the 3-5-2 system that has given Bruce most of his success during his tenure has brought the defensive stability for which we were once renowned and brings the best out of wing-backs Ahmed Elmohamady and Andrew Robertson. Dame N’Doye is on track to becoming a City cult hero on the simple basis that he is a striker that can actually score goals and, playing alongside the hard-working Nikica Jelavic, they are quickly becoming a strike partnership to be reckoned with. Even Tom Huddlestone in midfield, who so often this season has looked like a bored passenger, is starting to rediscover the range of passing that had him mentioned for inclusion in the England squad.
But he same old problems that have haunted City all season remain and they were exemplified in the 1-1 draw with Sunderland last time out. Too often City have let teams off the hook and they have managed to drop a staggering 15 points from winning positions this season – if you add them on we would have been safe long before now. Leicester may be firmly rooted to the bottom of the table, but they have shown signs of putting up a fight and our former manager Nigel Pearson always seems to relish getting one over on the club he left three seasons ago.
It’s all set up to be a tense match of few chances with both sides knowing the importance of three points, but hopes are high that City have stopped being the league’s soft touch and have rediscovered the steel that took them to the FA Cup final last season. Josh Stephenson