football

Bottom At Christmas: What It Means For Hull City

December 24, 2016

- Grant Whittington

The ominous sound of relegation reverberates around the Kingcom Stadium as Hull City languish at the bottom of the Premier League table going into the festive period. The Tigers will need to rebel against the ice-cold statistics if they are to reverse the abysmal fortunes of sides that are adrift at Christmas.

In the 24 seasons since the top-flight’s inception in 1992, only three clubs in this position have managed to pull off the great escape. Hull’s last league win came in the early part of November and their end to the year doesn’t get any easier with two tough home encounters against Manchester City and Everton respectively.

Mike Phelan’s team are clearly lacking firepower having found the back of the net a mere 14 times – the lowest total in the top-flight and shred investment in January will be pivotal in resurrecting their campaign.

Just two wins separate Hull from Middlesbrough in 14th, but they have found the joy of three points to be extremely thin on the ground. After opening with a stunning victory at home to champions Leicester and then following up with a classic smash and grab away win at the Liberty Stadium, Hull have only managed to add a further six points to their tally. They will be praying they can either create their own Christmas miracle or rely on Pep Guardiola’s side to bring the season of goodwill and giving onto the playing field in four days time.

However, where there is hope there is opportunity. Twelve years ago West Brom became the first team to avoid the drop from this position despite occupying 20th place going into the final day fixtures. Relying on results elsewhere as well as winning their own match at home to Portsmouth, the Baggies spectacularly turned the table on its head by overtaking Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Southampton to spark wild scenes at The Hawthorns.

Sunderland climbed the proverbial ‘Everest’ in 2013/2014 season following a monumental run from mid-April to the end of the campaign which included defeating José Mourinho’s Chelsea to inflict the self-proclaimed ’Special One’s’ first-ever home league loss in the Premier League. The Black Cats ensured another year of Premier League action with a 2-0 victory over West Brom in the penultimate game of the season.

Hull will also need to take inspiration from the Leicester City phenomenon. Bottom at Christmas two years ago, the Foxes won seven of their last nine games to preserve their Premier League status and twelve months later they were crowned Champions of England to complete one of the most remarkable stories in the history of English football.

Swansea sit one place above Hull, albeit on goal difference and their form is worrying having won just two out of their last 13 top-flight encounters. Swansea boss Bob Bradley wants his struggling side to stay united and stop digging holes as they approach a critical stretch of fixtures which includes a crucial ‘six-pointer’ at Selhurst Park early in the new year.

David Moyes’ Sunderland outfit make up the bottom three with an over-reliance on proven frontman Jermain Defoe backing up his manager’s frustration that his lack of goalscorers is a ‘massive problem’.

Crystal Palace are another side in freefall and Alan Pardew’s position is very much under scrutiny. The goals of Belgian powerhouse Christian Benteke saved a pedestrian Aston Villa side for many a season until their fall from grace last year. On the other hand it would be foolish to expect the 26-year-old to save Palace single-handedly, but if he can find his best form the Eagles should have enough to see them over the line.

Other teams that could get dragged into the relegation mire are the likes of Burnley who have excelled at Turf Moor, but in stark contrast have struggled on the road. Leicester have been a shadow of the side that took the Premier League by storm last season and their big players need to step up to the plate if they are to avoid being dragged into the dreaded dogfight.

Points are never easy to come by in the Premier League and Hull need to start accruing them before it’s too late. The odds and history itself may be against them, but all they want for Christmas is three points on Boxing Day. Santa, is that too much to ask for?

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