Hull City are preparing for life back in the Premier League after a three-year absence was ended on the final day of the Championship last season, pipping Watford to the second automatic promotion spot in the table.
The Tigers had Leeds United to thank, who beat Gianfranco Zola’s Hornets 2-1 as the curtains were drawn on another entertaining season in the second-tier of English football. But amongst the joy and ecstasy of sealing promotion, a couple of months on in Hull’s planning for next season has shed light on one glaring position that must be strengthened in the transfer market this summer – upfront.
Steve Bruce’s side racked up a respectable 79 points in a rollercoaster 46 games in the Championship last year but this feat was measured as even more spectacular considering Robert Koren finished as the club’s top goalscorer, with just nine strikes all season.
In fact, Hull were the joint-thirteenth highest goalscorers in the division, with the likes of Charlton (65) and Blackpool (62) finding the net more times despite finishing lower in the table, thus several strikers have been linked with a switch to the KC Stadium this summer. A deal had been agreed for Burnley’s Charlie Austin but a move broke down due to concerns over his fitness and Bruce also ruled out making an approach for Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner, claiming he would prove too costly for the club.
Three other targets that have been linked with Hull are Yannick Sagbo (Evian), Peter Odemwingie (West Brom) and Danny Graham (Sunderland). Here is a comparison of all three strikers over the last two to three seasons and whether they would fit the bill for Hull in the Premier League.
The Wildcard Option – Yannick Sagbo (Evian)
It’s been two successful seasons in Ligue 1 for Evian following their promotion from Ligue 2 in 2011. Although they narrowly survived the drop zone in 16th last season, Evian also finished as runners-up in the Coupe de France final, losing 3-2 to Bordeaux.
One man who has been linked with a move to Hull is striker, Yannick Sagbo, who is expected to leave the French outfit this summer and could be available for around £3.5m.
Sagbo scored six goals for the club last season, with five of them (83%) coming from inside the penalty box. He has a quick burst of pace and likes to find himself in one-on-one situations with the goalkeeper, but the 25-year-old also scored two headed goals (33%), with the other four coming from his right foot (67%).
The French-born Ivorian furthermore made five assists for Evian but in a season where Saber Khelifa (13 league goals) was being praised from the terraces more than himself, it was the 2011/12 campaign that proved better for Sagbo. That year, he netted ten goals and created four assists as Evian massively punched above their weight in ninth place in Ligue 1.
With Hull being more renowned for their strong defence last season, married with the fact that every newly-promoted side instantly becomes underdogs in most of their games over the course of the season, the importance of scoring early and then closing the game out for crucial points will be something Steve Bruce is likely to consider when looking for a striker.
Out of the 16 goals Sagbo has scored in the last two years, nine of those have come in the first half for Evian and therefore he could offer that incentive to Bruce should the ex-Birmingham and Sunderland boss look to explore that avenue in his tactical thinking next term.
The Safe and Experienced Option – Peter Odemwingie (West Brom)
Peter Odemwingie is an unwanted man at West Brom after publicly falling out with the club over his pursuit of a January move to QPR, which in the end didn’t occur.
The Baggies were upset at the manner in which the 32-year-old striker literally chased down a move away from the Hawthorns, although Odemwingie himself claims he was given permission to do so by the club, and is now likely to leave this summer with Hull and several other clubs interested in his services.
It doesn’t matter how Hull score the goals next season, just as long as enough go in to secure their Premier League survival is all that matters. Steve Bruce may look for a poacher-like striker in the summer and in his three-years at West Brom, Odemwingie has proved just that and would perfectly fit the bill at Hull should Bruce opt towards making a £2m move for the Nigerian.
Odemwingie moved to England in 2010 from Lokomotiv Moscow and has since proved that he is one of the most underrated strikers in the Premier League, as the 30 goals he’s scored since arriving from Russia have been pivotal to West Brom burying their ‘yo-yo club’ tag and emerging as a comfortable side in the greatest league in the world to many.
He is calmness personified when in the penalty box and is extremely intelligent at finding space to score. In his first season in the Premier League with West Brom, Odemwingie scored 15 goals and made nine assists, with 14 (93%) of his strikes coming from inside the penalty box, whilst 7 (53%) of those were with his supposed weaker left-foot.
In 2011/12, Odemwingie again gave evidence the contrary that he is an undervalued finisher, with 8 (80%) of his 10 goals coming from inside the box, whilst once again scoring a majority (70%) of those with his left-foot, despite being right-footed. This is all about how he gets himself into good positions and takes chances early, no matter what foot he is on. He’s doesn’t mess around in that part of the pitch and that is exactly what Hull require.
Sagbo has the advantage in terms of how quick he scores in games but Hull will be in more demand for a striker like Odemwingie, who has a good clear-cut conversion rate in the Premier League, as they will need to make the most of their chances in order to stay up. In 2010/11, Odemwingie’s clear-cut chance conversion rate was 57%, the following season (2011/12) saw it fall to 33% but then last season it moved back up to 75%.
West Brom are understood to be ready to cut their losses with Odemwingie and accept bids of around £2m, therefore when you look at his statistics during his three-years in England, whilst realising he did it initially with a newly-promoted side, Hull should seriously think above making a move for Odemwingie this summer.
The Frozen Out Option – Danny Graham (Sunderland)
When the boyhood Geordie moved to the Mackems during the January transfer window last season, it was something that was always going to cause a bit of a stir but this situation has done so for stronger reasons than his birthplace.
Danny Graham left Swansea, whom he could have won a Capital One Cup winners’ medal with in February, in a £5m move to Sunderland six months ago after dropping to a substitute role due to the form of Michu in his debut season at the Liberty Stadium.
The 27-year-old failed to score in any of the 13 appearances he made for the North East club last season and is understood to be in limbo about his position at the club, following the arrival of Jozy Altidore from AZ Alkmaar and with Steven Fletcher also on the mend from his long-term injury in his position.
Some have questioned why Graham ever wanted to leave Swansea in the first place, as he was always going to be second choice to Fletcher even before Altidore’s entrance at the Stadium of Light, but we shouldn’t forget that he would be a great signing for Hull should a move materialise in the coming weeks.
In 2011/12, the Englishman joined Swansea from Watford and scored 12 goals in a fruitful first season in the Premier League, with 83% of those strikes all coming from inside the box compared to Odemwingie’s 80%.
Graham was near enough on level terms with Odemwingie in clear-cut chance conversion, finishing just 1% (32%) behind the West Brom man in that particular statistic (33%), but Odemwingie (190.67 minutes) was quicker at being involved in a goal or an assist for his side than Graham (203.21 minutes) was for Swansea, who finished one-place behind the Baggies in the table that season.
Both men had a season to forget last year and will be looking to move on from their respective clubs this summer, with Hull a potential destination for both. Graham scored just 3 goals in 31 appearances all season, whilst spurning 11 clear-cut chances for both clubs together, whereas Odemwingie netted 5 goals in 25 appearances, missing just one clear-cut chance. Although these statistics don’t majorly highlight the qualities of Graham, he would certainly be a solid signing for Hull, whether that be on loan or for around the same price Sunderland paid for him in January.
Evaluation – Sagbo v Odemwingie v Graham
Overall, all three strikers have their own individual qualities and each would offer Hull something next season in the Premier League. Sagbo has pace and is quick of the mark, whereas, Graham and Odemwingie both have experience in the league and have proved they can score goals for a side that has just been promoted from the Championship.
In terms of price, but also due to statistics, Peter Odemwingie would be a fantastic signing for Hull in the transfer market and should definitely be considered heavily by Steve Bruce this summer. A loan move for Graham has initially been touted and that would represent a great bit of business if it could be pulled off, considering he is younger than Odemwingie, but it’s more likely that Sunderland will want a fee, just like Evian would for Sagbo. With all that in mind, Odemwingie currently stands at the best value for money in Hull’s quest for a striker, unless they reignite their interest in Charlie Austin from Burnley, who scored 28 goals in 40 games for the Championship side last season.