Reflecting on Hull City’s 2023/24 Season

As the summer transfer window fast approaches, reflections on the season from Hull City fans are largely of disappointment from narrowly missing out on the play-offs despite the ambition shown by owner Acun Ilcali and periods of great promise on the pitch. 


Should Liam Rosenior have gotten this team into the top six? Yes. But was it a season of significant improvement in a division where the three relegated teams were clearly better equipped than everyone else? Also yes. 


Watching the miracle that Kieran McKenna has performed at Ipswich Town has understandably drawn questions as to why the Tigers couldn’t come close to that level, and whilst there were some signs that they could emulate those heights – particularly away from home – there are some crucial differences between the two.  


Ipswich Town – The Championship’s Surprise Package


Intensity in possession from the off, a fearless mentality of aiming to out-score teams even if that means conceding multiple goals whilst having to adapt attacking style mid-game, and physicality in preventing transitions in midfield from opposing teams are the aspects that stand out. There is a huge disparity in home form because of Ipswich’s unpredictability. 


Ipswich have 26 more points and have scored 24 more goals than Hull this season, yet on the road, the Tractor Boys have just five more points and have scored the same amount of goals. Consistently, they set the standards on home turf, don’t change their impetus to attack with freedom regardless of opposition, and there is no doubt Rosenior needs to take a leaf out of this book, and this is where I think the current squad members will end up come the conclusion of the window: 



With strong expectations that City can aim for those top three or four spots next season, the following is an attempt to showcase what changes can be made in order to do that. 




One of few positions where there was some long-term planning done in January, after spending £1.5 million on Ivor Pandur there should be no need for the club to go in for another goalkeeper this summer. 


Whilst it is surprising that Pandur hasn’t yet been given a single start for the Tigers since his arrival at the start of 2024, the criticism of Ryan Allsop has at times been unwarranted. His worst form coincided with a string of lacklustre attacking performances in recent months, mostly at the MKM Stadium, and as a result some of the blame was deflected onto the keeper from some sections of the fanbase. That being said, Allsop would preferably be a solid backup option rather than a reliable number one. 


Hull City’s Robust Reparation Under Liam Rosenior


The ideal scenario would be that Pandur can display similar quality in his distribution to Allsop, which has been consistently impressive, partnered with a stronger shot-stopping ability and command of his area. These are attributes Pandur appears to have had over Allsop from his time with Eredivisie club Fortuna Sittard, though it remains to be seen how well he can adapt to English football. 




This season has seen Lewie Coyle transform into a constant source of speed and energy in getting up and down the right-hand side, partnered with the dependability and focus to contain tricky wingers for 90 minutes, and there is no doubt that the club captain should retain his starting space next season, but the Tigers have struggled to maintain that quality at right-back in Coyle’s absence and are in need of a rotation option. 


Standard Liege’s Marlon Fossey is a player who fits that mould, just as capable of marauding forward with the ball as he is tracking a runner to the byline to block a cross. He does like to operate higher up the pitch and trust both his technical security in keeping the ball under pressure, and his athleticism to track back over long distances, which will be useful for how City like to push the right-back forward to create a 3-2-5 with the ball, tucking in the left-back to form a back three. 


Analysing Hull City’s Midfield Targets


The fitness it requires to play this role will no doubt be tested during a full Championship season, but Fossey proved during the second half of the 2021/22 League One campaign he spent with Bolton Wanderers that he could keep up with the intense EFL schedule, starting 15 straight matches and impressing throughout, and has since been a regular in the Pro League with Liege. 


Huddersfield Town’s Brodie Spencer would be another well-rounded addition to Rosenior’s defensive arsenal. With 40 senior appearances to his name this season at Motherwell and Huddersfield at just 19 years old, Spencer has played at centre-back and both wing-backs in a back five, and also either side of a back four, all whilst being a consistent performer in a struggling Terriers team. 


Spencer has proven that he’s good enough to be a Championship player and would be a refreshing replacement for the declining Cyrus Christie, though Huddersfield will push to keep hold of him in League One as plenty of their other players are expected to leave. 


Right Centre-Back


Whilst a replacement for Jacob Greaves at left centre-back will no doubt be City’s top defensive target if he leaves, a back-up for Alfie Jones should also be on the list with no one else in the squad currently showing they are capable of making the step up. 


Player Analysis: Krystian Bielik


As a result, Krystian Bielik of Birmingham City would be a smart signing for various reasons. Firstly, he has the ability to play in holding midfield or centre-back with a great understanding of both positions.


His physicality will help significantly in bolstering the midfield depth, and his height and bravery in aerial battles will also come in handy against more physical teams who like to play with a target man. The 26-year-old isn’t necessarily the quickest or most technically gifted, but he is well aware of his limitations.


Out of possession, he shows awareness to give himself an extra yard when sensing an attacker trying to run in behind or when to go touch tight without over-committing. Also, in possession, he is tidy and often looks to play the simple pass well to ensure that his more creative teammates have as much time and space to progress the ball, but can also break the lines with a pass or switch the play with ease. 


Leicester City’s Harry Souttar should also be in consideration as a more expensive but potentially invaluable second option. With the Foxes looking to offload players after promotion, Souttar would add some much needed aerial threat at 6”5 and a generally imposing presence without causing a drop off in technical quality. 


How Stoke’s Youthful Back Three Have Set the Pace for the Potters This Campaign


Whilst Leicester did spend £17 million on signing Souttar from Stoke City just 18 months ago, the club’s financial problems and the lack of playing time the Australian received means that he is likely to leave for a heavily cut price. 


Left Centre-Back


Despite being primarily right-footed, Peterborough United’s Ronnie Edwards has played the majority of the last two seasons as a left centre-back due to his ability to play out from the back with both feet, and his strength defensively either when showing a forward down the line on his weaker side or inside onto his right, which could see him work as a Greaves replacement. 


Aspects of the game that Greaves improved upon massively in the last year were the precision and speed of moving possession on to build tempo, and the aggressive yet methodical nature with which he defends one-v-one situations. These are both areas Edwards excels in, particularly when it comes to playing long passes out to wide men, as the power and accuracy he finds teammates with is done with even more urgency than Greaves. 



However, he can often be too front-footed when defending and eager to win back the ball, which at times leaves him exposed in behind. This was definitely a tendency Rosenior coached out of Greaves which has made him so difficult to beat in those situations, so there’s every chance he could do the same with Edwards. 


Wigan Athletic’s Charlie Hughes is very similar in style, a right-footer who has been used on the left with an infectious confidence that improves the urgency to his team’s build-up play, but can also translate to being over-zealous in trying to impose himself physically on attackers, which has often worked in League One, but can cause issues defensively. 


Both these League One centre-backs will be in high demand this summer, but no Championship team will have as much money or reason to spend in that area if Greaves was to leave, so securing one of the two should be a top priority in the transfer window. 




Arguably the most up in the air position in the squad during the 2023/24 season, the Tigers are in need of someone who can step into left-back and make the position their own week-in, week-out. Ryan Giles shouldn’t be that man purely for his own sake. Using a player who got 11 league assists in 2022/23 – primarily from crosses – as an inverted full-back isn’t a good use of his abilities that other teams could get out of him.



Also, with Matty Jacob, Brandon Fleming and James Furlong yet to stake their claim for starting regularly enough, Derry Murkin would be my choice to take that spot. Another Englishman playing abroad with Schalke, Murkin is similar to Giles in his productivity going forward, but where he differs is that he can carry the ball forward powerfully from deep, where Giles often needs a higher starting point for him to receive the ball and cross as he doesn’t possess quite as much power in his dribbling. 


This means that Rosenior could use Murkin how he wants without nullifying his attacking threat, because Murkin is also sharp in his passing, strong in one-v-one defensive situations and quick enough to carry the ball forward before busting a gut to get back in position. 


Whether such a versatile, highly-rated player would be a feasible signing for a Championship club is another thing, and as such, Jaheim Headley of Huddersfield Town is an all-action alternative who can carry the ball well whilst being technically secure. 


Defensive Midfield


As has been proven since the arrival of the new owners, nothing says ambition quite like delving into the Premier League loan market, so while I think it’s quite likely that Tyler Morton will return, the signings of Steven Alzate from Brighton and Tim Iroegbunam from Aston Villa – likely to be loans but may also move permanently – could go some way to improving a midfield that does have some weaknesses. 



With the ball at his feet, Alzate has Premier League quality. He dribbles with agility, craftiness and poise in equal measure and can unlock a defence or break through an opposing press with an incisive pass, so he would help add some ingenuity to the way the Tigers’ setup at home, where possession and territorial control are essential, but taking risks from deep to create chances and stretch opposition defences when they are sat back has been sorely missed. 


Another player on Brighton’s books who could be on the move is Marc Leonard, who at 22 years old had a breakthrough season on loan at Northampton Town. Leonard has been ever-present in League One and is crucial to so many aspects of his team.


The type of player who plays with urgency when it comes to retaining possession and building play quickly from deep whilst also being able to arrive in attacking areas to make or take chances, he has the capacity to win matches but also be the driving force in helping his teammates thrive when he isn’t front and centre. 


Another glaring deficiency of City’s midfield has been physicality, and Iroegbunam is the difficult to dispossess, tough to take on midfielder that is needed to protect the back four and help to prevent the opposition from killing them on the counter. Next in line for that role would be the previously mentioned Bielik, who with the capability to negate multiple issues and add depth to two positions should be high on the club’s radar. 



There are previous links to Hull City and these clubs as well, with Rosenior having worked at Bielik’s former team Derby County as well as Brighton previously, a connection which helped in the signings of Aaron Connolly and James Furlong. Also, City have helped enormously with accelerating Jaden Philogene’s progression after his arrival from Villa. 


If none of those deals could get done, Lincoln City midfielder Ethan Erhahon is a cheap option to buy who has the potential to fill either of those roles as the more technical or physical of the two holding midfielders. Just as tenacious in the tackle as he is assured in the pass, the 22-year-old has a lot of strong attributes that would suit the intensity Rosenior aims to get out of his midfield with and without the ball. 




Onto the more exciting and expensive end of the pitch, there are going to be countless names in this position bounded about in relation to Hull City. With every current senior winger at the club either on loan, out of sorts or in high demand, there is a strong possibility that three wide players come through the door. 


Top of that list is Crystal Palace’s 21-year-old Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, a name that many Championship clubs have been linked with since his impressive 2022/23 season on loan at Charlton Athletic in League One. Rak-Sakyi is in the same unique category as Philogene in that he combines nonchalant skill and fluidity on the ball with directness, hard work and a consistent end product. It would be hard to replace Philogene, but this just might be the best bet. 


Chris Willock – The Ex Arsenal Man Now Excelling As QPR’s Main Creative Spark


Whilst on loan at Preston North End from Basel this season, Liam Millar has also shown a directness and belief to take his man on when cutting in from the left and solid decision-making and shooting technique when creating space for himself. He only managed five goals and five assists in 35 Championship games, but it is likely he will get more of the ball in good areas for Hull than he has done for Preston. 


As for other wingers that could make the move, QPR’s Chris Willock would be useful in his capacity to play in any of the three slots behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 as well as being a strong, hard to predict dribbler with an eye for goal when chances present themselves. Rosenior likes his right winger to drift inside and link play between the right-back and centre-forward from the half-space, which is an area that Willock likes to operate in. 


A more premium, possibly outlandish option is Red Star Belgrade and Ghana winger Osman Bukari. Comparable to Crysencio Summerville in style when it comes to dribbling and making chances for himself, and substance when it comes to taking them, he will be on the radar of teams higher up than Hull City, though the same was said for Fabio Carvalho in January. 


A lower-budget alternative would be another Ghanaian and another Peterborough player in 22-year-old Kwame Poku, who has 11 goals and seven assists in League One this season. By no means do I expect City to raid Peterborough completely, but if one of their highly-rated, potentially cheap players isn’t signed this window I’ll be surprised, with other names including centre-back Josh Knight and left-back Harrison Burrows also well suited. 


Óscar Estupiñán: Hull’s Towering Colombian Center Forward


In summary, the wingers from this list that are most likely to be both attainable and impactful in black and amber next season are Rak-Sakyi, Millar and Willock. But that is far from the end of the pursuit of attacking signings. 


Attacking Midfield 


What Rosenior wants to do with the number 10 spot was made quite clear by his January signings of Abdus Omur and Fabio Carvalho, but after Carvalho gave everyone a reminder if ever they needed it that he’s probably a level above the Championship, it is expected that the Tigers will need to shop elsewhere. 


Being a creative force with low centre of gravity and a ruthless eye for goal is what makes Carvalho-type players so hard to come by, but 21-year-old Karamoko Dembele has proven this season that he is more than capable of stepping into those shoes. 



Having spent the season on loan at Blackpool from Brest in France, he is another example of League One being a hotbed for young players currently. Dembele will get fans off their feet with an outrageous twist or turn in crowded spaces just as often as he can glide past opponents over distance to create room to shoot or pick a pass. With Brest in a strong position in Ligue 1 to earn a Champions League spot for next season, there is every chance Dembele will be moved on. 


Another relatively good match for that skillset is Brighton’s Andrew Moran, currently on loan at Blackburn Rovers. Capable of the spectacular and finding pockets of space which don’t appear to the untrained eye, another string to Moran’s bow is that he has experience playing in a deeper role and could be effective there if called upon. That being said, he hasn’t yet hit the consistent levels of output Carvalho and Dembele have shown.


Dembele will be hot property this summer, but if the Tigers can use Carvalho as an example of how they would get the best out of him, he could very well be enticed into a move. Moran may be a more viable signing, however. 




Much like Philogene, Liam Delap is another player who will be hard to replace – in truth, the club has never really had players particularly close to either in style – and whilst I’m more optimistic he will stay than Morton and Carvalho due to his injury taking him off the radar somewhat, Everton’s Lewis Dobbin is a player who has the potential to fill that hole.



Dobbin can play as the number nine or off the left, where he has the chance to run the channels and the space to get at defenders with the ball. Although he hasn’t scored a great amount of goals in his senior career to date, he has shown glimpses that there is a finisher in there – a description used for Delap prior to him joining Hull City. 


It is all well and good bringing back Delap (for the record, the club should throw everything at Manchester City to get him back), but what City have lacked this season is a different dimension up top and the ability to adapt when utilising their strikers. 


Before the final home game against Ipswich Town, strikers Aaron Connolly, Noah Ohio and Billy Sharp had combined for three goals in 25 appearances in 2024, and all too often have teams travelled to the MKM Stadium and found it too easy to defend against the Tigers. This is especially prominent in the latter stages of games; since November, Hull have scored just two goals after the 65th minute at home, which were Tyler Morton’s consolation in a 2-1 defeat to Norwich City and Ohio’s recent equaliser against Ipswich. 



In Delap’s absence, opposing full-backs have been able to stay tight to their wingers without fear of forward runners from midfield or strikers running the channels to stretch them, and as good as Ozan Tufan has been occupying the number nine role when it comes to pressing and linking up play in tight spaces, he doesn’t have the positional instincts to constantly trouble defenders with runs in behind or movement in the box. 


Hull have been easy on the eye against the best teams in the league and on many other occasions, but it is rare that a proper striker’s goal has been scored or a bad performance results in a win, which has ultimately been the team’s downfall. 


The aforementioned Alzate could be that progressive runner from deep, but in terms of strikers, new ideas are desperately needed. Whilst a certain degree of technical security is needed to fit Rosenior’s requirements, finding someone who can get into good positions in the penalty box to attack crosses or pounce on loose balls, and help the team grind out wins in any way possible by offering a new dimension to the attack is imperative. 


If the club manage to sell Jaden Philogene and Jacob Greaves for a combined £30-35million, it makes sense for the owner to fork out at least £6-8million on a marquee striker, and Jean-Philippe Krasso of Red Star Belgrade could fit the bill for that price. 



Having scored 25 and assisted 17 across the last two seasons for Red Star in Serbia and Saint-Etienne in Ligue 2, Krasso can play the spearhead of an attack, standing on the last man and picking his moments to move and get goals for his team, but he also knows when not to isolate himself, dropping deep or wide to involve himself and drag centre-backs out of their comfort zone. 


Oscar Estupinan proved last season that a poacher can have a place in Rosenior’s system despite not having the other technical attributes to be trusted as his main striker. Liam Delap’s ability to take defenders out of position and either collect the ball and run with it extremely well or create space for his teammates has been the main catalyst for City’s best attacking play all season. He is also very effective out wide, however, so Krasso might just be the versatile out-and-out striker who possesses a solid combination of these attributes that is needed. 




Having seen the best of what Rosenior is trying to get out of his team since injured players have returned in recent weeks, it’s unlikely that he will stray too far away from the 4-2-3-1 system he has implemented. Therefore, the owner’s trust in his manager’s rigid structure means that bringing in players who add variety and more scope to adapt mid-game whilst being up to scratch technically is the key to improving upon this year. As a result, this is roughly how I think the squad will end up looking going into 2024/25: 



As I’ve touched on, weaknesses that teams travelling to the MKM Stadium this season have exploited are the inability to physically dominate a midfield battle and a lack of understanding of the centre-forward’s role in the team as a result of unfamiliarity born out of sporadic unavailability from Connolly, Ohio and Delap. So, these are two areas that should be addressed. The rest of the signings I’ve picked out are mostly shaped around potential departures and how to respond to the impact of key players leaving. 


Missing out on the play-offs was disappointing, but it would have been surprising for such a young squad to get promoted at the expense of some of the teams above – such is the extraordinary nature of Ipswich’s achievements – but with the quality of teams being relegated from the Premier League looking less intimidating than this time last year, it feels like a club with an owner and a manager who are ambitious and look increasingly accustomed to tackling a Championship season should be in that top six by this time in 2025. 


By: Brad Jones / @bradjonessport

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Gareth Copley / Getty Images