This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Comment’ series, this content strand is where the author of the article issues their personal opinion on the topic at hand….
Grant McCann’s arrival at Hull City from Doncaster Rovers came as a surprise to some supporters in the summer. He came with a pedigree of playing pressing, attacking football where defensive vulnerability is risked.
In this piece, a review is provided on Grant McCann’s time at Hull City so far.
McCann could be forgiven for Hull City’s lowly position of 17th given the turbulent January he faced at the club. The loss of two match-winners in Kamil Grosicki and Jarrod Bowen had the expected detrimental impact on the squad, whilst in the background he’s had to face a catastrophic injury crisis.
He began his time in East Yorkshire by operating with a high press, an appealing style on the eye that brought significant defensive problems. Though entertaining, McCann would soon have to rethink his attacking style after his side were leaking goals; three against Bristol City, Queens Park Rangers and then, bottom side, Huddersfield.
However, in the match where City dispatched Fulham 3-0 at Craven Cottage, McCann highlighted his tactical knowledge. He operated with a low block, limiting space in the thirds for Fulham’s attackers and breaking quickly with Bowen and Grosicki.
Much like his side’s results, McCann’s style has created a plague of inconsistency, he has been criticised for his lack of ‘Plan B’ and his substitutions have often come under scrutiny. His stubbornness to alter the system when the opposition were combatting his favoured 4-3-3 variation has cost City in some matches, such as; Huddersfield 3-0 Hull and Barnsley 3-1 Hull.
Though the Hull boss has faced criticism for his choice of substitutions, he can take huge credit for his substitutions in the recent game against Reading where both substitutes; Keane Lewis-Potter and Mallik Wilks, had a hand in City’s equaliser.
He should also be praised for his tactical set up away at Nottingham Forest where the Tigers claimed victory, despite having 10 men for 60 minutes. The Josh Magennis sending off forced McCann to play with a low block, a defensively superb performance with a clinical edge in attack.
When McCann had a settled eleven with limited changes over the period from November – December, City played their best football moving into surprising play-off contention by New Years Day – two points shy of a play-off place.
By utilising the pace of Bowen and Grosicki on fast-breaks, City were able to soak up pressure and cause teams problems on the break. During the period from November to December, McCann’s side scored 19 goals, but conceded 13. Though City found their free-flowing style in attack, the number of goals conceded did highlight their defensive vulnerability.
In the past month, City have endured a slide down the Championship table, however, it would be tedious to blame McCann for factors completely out of his control; players leaving and a long list of injury casualties.
The signings he made in January have made a promising start, Barnsley loanee Mallik Wilks has scored two in his last three, whilst Marcus Maddison has added creativity and close control drifting in from the right wing.
On a whole, McCann’s time in East Yorkshire could be best described as inconsistent, his side could be at their best for periods in a game and then a lack of concentration would erase all the hard work that had been done.
There’s still a swagger in attack, but defensively McCann must be concerned. A 4-4 draw with Swansea City last time out underlined where that concern should be, with the Tigers under McCann very much a work in progress.