If Fulham finds some way to get themselves back into winning promotion for the Premier League this season, let it be known that it all started with that 4-2 win over Cardiff City. That was the date that despite being outshot against the second best team in the league, Fulham played the shot quality game and outclassed the Bluebirds from start to finish. It was not an easy win for the good guys. There has rarely been one of them all season in fact. But if anything else, Fulham put in a performance that they can lay claim to being season-defining. Now, they have to continue this positive momentum by putting a weaker side to the sword.
That has not been an easy feat for Slavisa Jokanovic’s team this season with losses to Sunderland and Burton being the most obvious reasons. But with their deficit towards a playoff place being six points coming into today, the opportunity is knocking loud. However, Hull City is not a team to look passed. That is quite a strange thing to claim when you consider that they currently sit 19th in the Championship. However, Nigel Adkins has come in after Leonid Slutsky’s sacking and have, at least, made his squad put in solid shifts despite not delivering the results that match them.
Since he has been hired, the Tigers have outshot their opponents 50-34 and have had a 4.9-3.5 expected goals advantage. Instead, Hull has been outscored 3-4 and have been shutout in their last two fixtures. Things will turn around for Adkins’ club and knowing how life usually works, it could be against Fulham. You really don’t think misery ends completely by giving up Sunderland’s first home win of all 2017, didn’t you? Basically, you know where Fulham’s destiny is depending on the result of today’s game.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at who’s performed well for Hull since Fulham’s 2-1 win against them last October.
With the side littered with 21-year olds or younger that is starting on a regular basis, Bowen has not only been the only one not on loan from Chelsea but also the best of the bunch. In fact, with ten goals to his name, he is already the Tigers’ most lethal goal scorer. But as his radar indicates, Bowen still has a lot to learn in order for him to be a complete attacking midfielder in English football.
With no assists and just 0.94 chances created per 90 minutes, he can stand to be a more threatening passer of the ball. Otherwise, Hull is better off, in the long run, to move Bowen over to center forward where he can terrorize the opposition in space. At 5’8.5”, who knows how ideal that is for a player his size. Ross McCormack and Wayne Rooney were able to have successful careers further down the pitch, but they were in need of another striker next to them to give them space to run. Either way, it is food for thought for Adkins and Hull City to consider in the long run.
In the present, Hull will hope for Bowen’s astronomically high 26.3% goal conversion rate to continue. To put things in perspective, Harry Kane’s goal conversion rate for his Tottenham career in the Premier League is just 15.7%. The England star is not thinking about picking and choosing. He’s thinking about getting the ball at his feet and shooting from everywhere until that ball goes in the back of the net. With 1.88 shots per 90 minutes, Bowen is just not there yet to be a full-fledged attacking player yet. Because once the goals dry up, another skill will have to be present in his game. So far, that hasn’t been seen to help out Hull City.
One thing preventing Bowen from starting further up front has been the resurgent season of this former Premier League veteran. At 30, Campbell is seeing career highs in chance creation (1.29 per 90 minutes) and shooting percentage (55.6%!). Among league seasons in which he has played over 1,000 minutes, he is also witnessing career highs in goal scoring (0.40 per 90 minutes), conversion rate (18.5%) and shooting (2.18 per 90 minutes). However, those types of long periods of play have been few and far between for the former Manchester United Academy product.
If Campbell were to play a full 90 minutes, he would already surpass the most minutes he has played in a league season since 2013/14. That season, he recorded 2,256 minutes out of 37 games and racked up just six goals and two assists on a Cardiff City side that would get relegated. But if nothing else, Campbell would love it to maintain a starting role for the rest of his career. Whether that is back in the Premier League is a little more uncertain.
We lastly turn our attention to another veteran in Hull City by the way of a former Sunderland regular. Hopes were that the 32-year old Larsson would be the veteran presence needed to guide the Tigers back into the Premier League in one season, but that hasn’t been the case. That being said, it’s not like the 96-times capped Sweden International can’t say that he has been trying out there on the pitch. The radar will show that he has been more prone to putting out long ball passes than darts that puncture a defense, but the rest of his data goes mostly hand in hand with his career output.
At the end of the day, Hull just doesn’t have enough of versatility within their midfield to play a well-rounded game. Larsson is just too old to be counted upon to support a backline and David Meyler and Kevin Stewart have not been able to stake a claim for the holding midfield role in Hull’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Further up front, we’ve already discussed Bowen’s quandary and while Kamil Grosicki has been brilliant all season, he just can’t be able to do it all on his own. That’s where we look at Jackson Irvine, and while he was great at Burton in 2016/17, he has to take his game up another level for him to be more than just a number 10 for mediocre Championship clubs. In Lehman's terms, Hull could use an almost complete makeover in that department in 2018/19, no matter what happens to them the rest of the season.