The FourFourTwo Preview: Hull vs West Ham
Ninth versus eleventh. Tickets still available.
- Villa 2-1 Hull (Prem)
- Hull 2-1 Lokeren (EL)
- Hull 1-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Lokeren 1-0 Hull (EL)
- QPR 0-1 Hull (Prem)
WEST HAM FORM
- West Ham 1-3 So’ton (Prem)
- West Ham 1-1p Sheff Utd (LC)
- Palace 1-3 West Ham (Prem)
- West Ham 0-1 Spurs (Prem)
- West Ham 3-2 Sampdoria (F)
Now is the autumn of their discontent. Here we have two teams who really needed that international break. Hull needed it to allow Steve Bruce to hide from the locals irate that he’d jiggered the Tigers’ long-awaited European adventure by playing a second string.
West Ham needed it to give time for Big Sam to re-read his Arses From Elbow training manual. How they've used the time off may dictate how this game goes.
Bruce rightly took the blame for Hull's early, toothless exit from Europe, opting to face Roy of the Rovers outfit KSC Lokeren with a weakened team so he could focus on his top priority – the Premier League and not being sacked.
Of course he made all the right noises about being disappointed at missing out on some big European nights, but Bruce will have been aware that Andre Villas-Boas, Michael Laudrup and Owen Coyle all began last season with the Europa League on their minds and ended it emphatically sacked.
His stance on Europe would have been made more palatable had Hull not then stunk Villa Park out in their next league game. “F**king hopeless today,” wrote Tom Huddlestone in a tweet that summed up the performance of him and his team-mates.
Bruce himself called it a "debacle", the worst performance since he took charge. “I’d like to apologise for the rubbish that was served up in the first half,” he chomped. In the second half his team roused themselves to pull a goal back but still lost 2-1, their first defeat of the season.
He expects far better of a team impressively and expensively assembled and his team owe him a big performance. But if Bruce thinks he has problems, he should try being Sam Allardyce.
Bejiggered by injuries to key players, particularly captain Kevin Nolan, his hapless Hammers have opened the season with three home defeats – one against Sheffield United, the most recent against Southampton.
The same Southampton that was asset stripped in the summer and patched back together inside three weeks by Ronald Koeman. The 3-1 defeat was deserved and would have resulted in more audible calls for Big Sam's head, had the locals not been too busy streaming out in a funk.
“The communication is zero,” seethed Sam after that game. “It doesn’t appear to me that anyone is taking the responsibility.” He addressed this by signing Alex Song, on loan for the rest of the season. “He looks like a bit of a leader to me. He’ll go out there and kick a few backsides on the pitch. That’s what we need.”
Despite swapping Messi and Suarez for Cole and Vaz Te, Song arrived with lofty ambitions. “I hope that we can maybe catch the European positions,” he said, though he may have revised those ambitions since.
Hull have no fresh injuries, so Andrew Robertson and Robert Snodgrass are their only two omissions.
Of West Ham’s six walking wounded, James Collins, Carl Jenkinson and Matt Jarvis are all closing in on returns – the latter is the most likely of the three to feature. Captain Nolan is still nursing his shoulder and reportedly a month away, while Andy Carroll might never play again. New boy Song was seen showboating splendidly on YouTube in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Ipswich last week so should be in contention, as should Morgan Amalfitano, on loan from Marseille having spent last season at West Brom.
Player to watch: Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham)
West Ham need their muscular summer signing from Anderlecht to stamp his authority on games, as he did on the opening day against Spurs and magnificently at Crystal Palace. Kouyate traded Champions League football for a likely relegation struggle but has already shown enough Vieira-esque moments to suggest he could provide the pace, power and character West Ham need – unless Song comes in and takes his place and Big Sam shoves him in to shore up a quite clueless back four. He shouldn’t, but needs may well must.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- W Ham 2-1 Hull (PL, Mar 14)
- Hull 1-0 W Ham (PL, Sep 13)
- W Ham 2-1 Hull (Ch, Apr 12)
- Hull 0-2 W Ham (Ch, Nov 11)
- W Ham 3-0 Hull (PL, Feb 10)
Three league games into the season and Big Sam has sprung to the head of the sack race queue, behind only Alan Pardew but ahead now of Paul Lambert, Alan Irvine and Garry Monk. Allardyce moved to inject a little manly character into his directionless team with the signing of Song, but accepts the club physio will be just as important.
Asked what the Saints loss had told him, he replied: “It tells me I need my injuries back. [They] need to get back, need to get fit and need to get in our team.” If they don't, Big Sam may bite the bullet.
Bruce has no such worries by comparison. He's battling second-season syndrome and his expensively assembled team will need to repay the fiscal backing of owner Assem Allam sooner rather than later, but he should have no worries about seeing the season through. The fact Allam announced on Thursday he’s selling the club may change things. The fact it’s already been up for sale for five months might not.
Facts and figures
- Hull have been reduced to 10 men in 3 of their last 4 Premier League meetings with West Ham.
- Carlton Cole has scored 4 goals and 1 own goal in his last five games against Hull.
- The Tigers have had fewer shots than any other Premier League side this season (18).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Both teams need a reaction, Hull should edge it. 2-1.
Back 2-1 at 10/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication