The Relegation Rumble: Hull City
This is the second in a series of relegation assessments. For a similar look at Bolton Wanderers. Check here.
Hull City surprised everyone at the start of the season, winning six of their first nine, knocking off an over-confident Arsenal. The club lost composure. Phil Brown lost his sweet goatee, and perhaps his sanity. Hull won just two of their next 21 games, drifting from a solid European challenge to treading above the relegation zone. They currently set in thirteenth place, a mere four points over the drop.
Form: Hull have done nothing recently to suggest a resurgence. They have won just one of their last eight, and lost four. Shoring up their defense slightly may inject a bit of optimism, though, as the most generous side in the league (52 goals allowed), a 5-0 defeat seems perpetually possible. Hull may stay, but probably not because of a massive fortune turn.
Schedule: Hull’s schedule has difficult tests, though there are points available. The Tigers host both Liverpool and Manchester United, but have softer ties against Portsmouth and Stoke City. Hull also travel to fellow strugglers Middlesbrough and Sunderland. They also play Bolton and Aston Villa. A couple good results, particularly at the expense of clubs such as Middlesbrough and Sunderland could do a great deal to keep them up.
Injuries: Injuries have hurt Sunderland in midfield. George Boateng and Jimmy Bullard are the exact type of experienced, steady midfielders Hull needs to keep the ship upright. Unfortunately both are crocked. Boateng may be back by the end of April, but January-signing Bullard is out for the season. It’s difficult to replicate that type of presence.
Prognosis: Hull City should stay up. They have had an atrocious run of form. If they replicate that in the last eight matches, that would put them on 39 points, giving them a good chance at staying in the Premier League. Their first start and subsequent fall affect perceptions, but being in the position to stay up is an incredible feat, given their squad and pre-season expectations.