West Bromwich Albion v Hull City; The Hawthorns, Saturday 20th August 2022, 3pm
Albion’s fifth league match of the season is their first at 3pm on a Saturday and their only such match at the Hawthorns until October, although who knows if that match might get moved yet.
However, inconvenient kick off times is not at the top of Baggies fans’ agenda at the moment as the club currently sit in the bottom three of the Championship table, albeit at a very early stage of the season. A promising start to the season in terms of performances took a turn for the worse on Wednesday evening as Bruce’s team produced a laboured performance and be held to a goalless draw by Cardiff City. I guess it was at least a first clean sheet of the league season!
Albion’s opponents on Saturday, however, should be full of confidence sitting in second place in the table with two wins and two draws from their opening four league games. The last two of those matches were a victory over pre-season title favourites, Norwich City, and a draw away to another relegated side, Burnley. The only real blot on their season so far was a 2-1 defeat to Bradford City in the Carabao Cup, albeit Shota Arveladze fielded a much-changed side.
The Georgian took over at the MKM Stadium in January following the takeover of the club by Turkish media mogul, Acun Ilıcalı, with Grant McCann leaving the club within a week of the ownership change. He did little more than keep the club in the division last season, guiding the Tigers to a 19th-placed finish, but he has been busy in the summer with the Turkish influence obvious. Four players were signed from Turkish clubs including Ozan Tufan and Allahyar Sayyadmanesh from Fenerbahçe, Doğukan Sinik from Antalyaspor and Benjamin Tetteh from Yeni Malatyaspor. They also picked up Jean Michaël Seri on a free transfer from Fulham, Óscar Estupiñán from Guimarães, Tobias Figueiredo from Nottingham Forest and Thimothee Lo-Tutala from Tottenham Hotspur.
Tufan and Estupiñán have had the most obvious impact scoring two goals apiece so far this season, while Seri seems to have taken to life in East Yorkshire better than he did in west London. The Ivorian has a pass completion ratio in excess of 90% and has produced an average of four key passes a game meaning that he is their creator-in-chief. At Albion, only Jed Wallace can match that stat.
Based on their results, it looks as if Hull City are a different proposition to last season, and they will present another tough test for Albion.
After the frustration of Wednesday evening, the pressure is mounting on Steve Bruce and his team to secure that first victory. It would seem a long shot to expect a new striker in before Saturday, but I would at least like to see Cleary on the bench to provide something different. That Adam Reach replaced Grant late on was a reflection of the paucity of options up front, but the youngster would at least be someone who knows where the goal is.
In midfield, it seems clear that Okay must start. He was rated as man-of-the-match by WhoScored.com on Wednesday but it was interesting that Molumby, who replaced Livermore at half time, was rated lowest – he may have been more mobile than Livermore but the stats suggest he had less of a positive impact on the game. Albion were evidently less effective after the break – whether Molumby’s introduction was part of the reason for this, or whether he just became sucked in to the overall malaise, is less clear.
While Livermore is undoubtedly not the player he was a few years ago, he is still an extremely capable and intelligent footballer and the negative fixation on him by some is, in my view, unfair. Based on the first three league games of the season, my midfield two would be Okay and Molumby, but putting Livermore in the mix is by no means a travesty. He still has something to offer and Molumby still has a lot to learn.
John Swift’s performances in the last two games have not matched his displays in the first two, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised having read about his time at Reading. On his day, he is unplayable, but he does not always influence games that strongly, and I guess we have seen that. Let’s face it, if he was on top form week in week out, a Premier League club would have been in for him in the summer. What has mitigated this has been Robinson’s displays off the bench in the number ten role, a role I think suits his skills best. Having those two as alternative options in that position is a real bonus, in my opinion. Robinson frustrated many with his lacklustre performances last season, and he still has a lot of bad feeling to make up in the eyes of some, but I think he has started the season in the right frame of mind and only time will tell if he can maintain that in a role that, more than likely, will be as a backup to Swift.
While Yokuşlu topped the stats for WhoScored.com, my vote would have gone to Grady Diangana on Wednesday. The recovery of his form is one of the biggest positives of the season so far and, once we can give him a striker to finish of the opportunities he is crafting, I think he will become one of Albion’s most important players.
If anyone asks what positive impacts Bruce has had on this squad, the improvement in Grady’s displays stand out for me, along with the general improvement of the team’s football this season. Yes, the Cardiff game was disappointing and, if that type of performance continues, it will be a reason for concern. As it stands, however, it is the outlier when compared against the other games this season.
With Hull City full of confidence, they may be prepared to play a little, and given how frequently Albion managed to win the ball back in the opposition half on Wednesday, they will hopefully present a few opportunities. Who knows what an early goal could do – Albion are yet to take the lead in a league match this season and, if they do, perhaps the confidence will flow along with the goals.
We can but hope!
Albion have lost just one of the last eleven meetings with the Tigers, a record going back to 2014, with the last home defeat to Hull City coming in October 2008 when both clubs had just been promoted and Phil Brown’s side earned a comfortable 3-0 win.
That is, unsurprisingly, Hull’s biggest win at the Hawthorns while the Baggies biggest win in this fixture came in April 1930 when Jimmy Cookson scored four goals in a 7-1 victory. Tommy Glidden grabbed a brace while Harry Boston scored Albion’s other goal – Paddy Mills scored the visitors’ consolation.
Hull City were one of just two clubs, the other being Reading, that Albion completed a league double over last season with Karlan Grant scoring all three goals in the two fixtures. Albion are on a run of fixe successive victories over the Tigers having also completed the league double in 2019/20 (1-0 away and 4-2 at home) and won the game at the Hawthorns in April 2019 when Jimmy Shan’s side came from behind to win 3-2. Tod Kane’s double for the visitors had put them 2-1 ahead after Kieran Gibbs had scored for Albion just before half time, but Dwight Gayle soon equalised before scoring the winner five minutes from time.
Former Hull winger, Kamil Grosicki, scored his only goal for Albion in the 4-2 win over his former club in July 2020. Charlie Austin had given Albion an early lead before Kevin Stewart equalised for the visitors. Ahmed Hegazi put the hosts back in front but Hull equalised again just after the break through Mallik Wilks. Grosicki put the Baggies 3-2 ahead before Grady Diangana came off the bench to secure the points with a fourth Albion goal.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
5 Mar 2022 – League Championship
Hull City 0
West Brom 2 (Grant (2, 1 pen))
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
3 Nov 2021 – League Championship
West Brom 1 (Grant)
Hull City 0
Albion’s Record against Hull City
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