The start of the upcoming Championship is just around the corner, and for Hull City fans they can look at the campaign with slight more optimism than maybe they could two weeks ago. The last two summers have seen big changes at the KCOM stadium and with the owners still looking to sell the club the resources available at the club is highly up in the air. Despite the parachute payments from the relegation from the English Premier League last season, the club has only singed one player requiring a fee this summer, so the coming weeks will indicate just how much the club are willing to invest to take the club back to the top level of English football. The appointment of Russian manager Leonid Slutsky is something a coup for the club, his European pedigree is invaluable and has connections not just with the highly documented relationship with the owner of Chelsea but stretching across the continent.
The former CSKA and Russia National Team manager has had an unsteady introduction to English football. The sales of Andrew Robertson, Tom Huddlestone, Curtis Davies, Harry Maguire, Josh Tymon, Eldin Jakupovic and Ahmed Elmohamady has left massive gaps within this Hull City side, this is also on top of the return of loan additions last campaign of Andrea Ranocchia, Omar Elabdellaoui, Alfred N’Diaye, Lazar Markovic and Dieumerci Mbokani. Slutsky has a big job of filling a lot of quality from this squad now after Marco Silva now the manager of Watford had brought in such quality for the spirited fight back against relegation last season. The last ten days has lifted the spirits around the club and with the fans seeing additions coming into the club however and with Slutsky confident of adding more to his current group there can be a sense of looking forward for the Tigers. Looking at the departures from the club quality is missing but losing Robertson and Huddlestone is the two sales that could really hurt the club the most, everyone knows how good Huddlestone can be on his day and with the right partner alongside him and Robertson is a gem of a player, who perhaps looks wasted just moving to Anfield to play left back without improving his game to the next level. The left hand side of the pitch looks the biggest weakness right now in this current team, losing Tymon who would have looked a shoe in to start this season is another big blow and with still speculation surrounding Kamil Grosicki and whether his future could be away from the KCOM.
The opportunities could really be for two of the younger players this upcoming season, James Weir is highly rated within the club and can play out on the left or in the centre of the park and Jarrod Bowen who can operate on either flank or through the middle. Weir and Bowen are 21 and 20 years of age respectively and this upcoming season could really give the two lads a platform to show the talents and cement a place within the team. Bowen scored the winner in the recent friendly against Benfica for an impressive win for Hull, but his performances in pre-season has been met with high praise from the fans and manager so to see Bowen get the opportunities this season, he could be the breakthrough player this season not just for Hull but within the whole division. If Grosicki stayed at the KCOM this season he would also have to considered amongst the best individual players within the whole division and would be a massive coup for the club to keep hold of him. The final third is definitely where the club needs to invest and bring real quality as well as depth, as we all know how competitive and long these campaigns are in the English Championship. Filling the void at left back will be high on Slutsky’s agenda right now and a move for Brentford left back Rico Henry has been the biggest link thus far, who would add the natural athleticism that Robertson brought to the team. Ola Aina has filled the gap there so far in pre-season impressively however he should find himself starting the season at right back. The Chelsea youngster looks highly impressive, and could really make a name for him this season at the KCOM stadium. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson should be high on the list for Slutsky to fill the gap at left back, the Manchester United player is still only 20 but he does not seem to be anywhere near Jose Mourinho’s plans at Old Trafford. His loan move to Wolves last season did not work out for Borthwick-Jackson, however Hull could really give him a platform to excel, either a loan move or permanent deal could be on the cards, and with Ajax known to be stepping up their interest in the player a move should happen sooner rather than later for Slutsky.
Michael Dawson was Hull City’s only recognised central defender ten days ago, now the free signing of Czech Republic international defender Ondrej Mazuch and the loan of Chelsea’s Michael Hector has added real competition already in that position. Mazuch is highly experienced and is a big physical presence, the lack of pace alongside Dawson could provide an issue if Slutsky moved forward with this partnership, but adding such quality and experience to the group is smart business for the club. Michael Hector is another who knows the division so well, and with his serial loan moves he could look to get a permanent deal out of this loan move. The former Reading man can operate in a defensive midfield position which will be invaluable to this team for the upcoming campaign and his qualities on the ball playing from the back will bring real stability to the team. Slutsky might just look to add another central defender to the team with most managers liking to have the four especially in the Championship; another loan move could be used to fill this void. Tosin Adarabioyo from Manchester City could be one of many loan players on the move this summer from the Premier League and the highly rated centre back would develop well at Hull, with the experience of Dawson with him and with Slutsky’s experience he would be a welcomed addition at the heart of the Hull City backline. As I mentioned Ola Aina would be the man who should have the right back position by the start of the season and with Moses Odubajo sidelined further, Slutsky might just look for a right back to help compete with Aina in this position. Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles would be a fantastic loan addition for Hull; he would provide versatility all over the pitch. Competition with Aina at right back is needed and this highly talented young man could be the answer to Slutsky and Hull.
There is not too much speculation surrounding Abel Hernandez, but should the club rely on him for the goals this season only time will tell for the Uruguayan international but to say he has not exactly fulfilled his potential at the KCOM would not be considered an understatement. Bringing Frazier Campbell back on a free is smart business by Slutsky and the club. Campbell does have the experience and he does have talent with his movement around the box, with service he could get goals this campaign, but now it is time for Campbell to show his class and cement a place in the first eleven, something he has not done too often in his career. Whether Slutsky decides to play the two up front this season will depend on whether another striker comes into the club, with Will Keane still sidelined and Adama Diomandé still yet to really prove himself, another addition in the striker department would very much be welcomed. Recent links with Aston Villa’s Ross McCormack could be a good addition to this team. Another player who knows this division extremely well and is a proven goal scorer at this level, however there are question marks over his attitude and whether Slutsky would want to bring a potential disruption into this squad. Kenneth Zohore from Cardiff now looks a no go in the current transfer market, however with the business Middlesbrough have done in their striker department, surely Hull could potentially make a move for the unfortunate Rudy Gestede. Gestede would add physicality, toughness and a target in the final third for Hull City also adding a different dimension to the style of play for the Tigers.
Ryan Kent looks firmly in Slutsky’s sights, the Liverpool youngster is highly sought after this summer with another loan move on the cards, Kent could be the pace and directness Hull City need in the final third, it would be his final decision that they would need to address should he make the temporary move to the KCOM stadium. Adding Kevin Stewart from Liverpool to the squad looks a bargain signing, Stewart should have felt hard done by at Anfield as he never let the Kop down any time he reperesented the club, however never got a real chance under Jurgen Klopp. Stewart will provide protection to the Hull back four as well and his qualities on the ball. His ball retention is extremely good and his ability to see passes around him is very smart, just adding that killer pass dimension to his game could really propel the talent of Stewart; he could really thrive for Hull City this season. Central midfield is one area Hull look steady enough, however should Clucas leave this could prove a big problem for the team. Other areas will be a priority for Slutsky no doubt but to see another central player come in with real quality would certainly be welcomed. Brentford’s creative spark Jota would certainly be the one name I would look to bring to the KCOM this summer.
Leonid Slutsky will certainly have a massive job on his hands to try and get Hull City back into the Premier League, but he might just prove to be the man who can do this. His appointment was somewhat of a surprise and with his Russian connections, the club could welcome some more names that perhaps the fans and the media are not too sure of, one thing is for sure the Hull City fans certainly seem to trust the popular Russian manager.