There is seemingly endless discussion of the top four in recent times, with talk of Liverpool's woes and the chances of the trio of pretenders (ourselves, Tottenham and Aston Villa) who are banging on the door waiting to take their place. Whilst Roberto Mancini has introduced a consistency and stability to the side since his arrival, the Italian has yet to shake the side out of their away-day funk. The past two fixtures in the league have resulted in defeat, and since an early pair of victories to open the season we have posted just one win on our travels.
Mancini was correct when he lamented our start, but there were similarities to the Everton defeat in that we were too slow from the start and struggled to impose any authority on the game which allowed Hull to take the initiative. Hull in general are a lively side, full of energy and running and rather than come out and attempt to dominate the game we were passive and listless. Defensively we struggled to cope with the attacking threat of Venegoor of Hesselink and Altidore, who were supported well by Stephen Hunt and early bookings for both Toure and Boyata (another new partnership at the back)
In hindsight, the pace of Shaun Wright-Phillips would have been an ideal weapon if we were looking to soak up pressure and hit Hull on the break. Perhaps Mancini is happy operating at 0-0 for the most part before attempting to step up the pressure late in the game and we have looked good when we have controlled games.
Today was not one of those days though and it was not until we were 2-0 down (through two good goals it has to be said) that we looked as though we tried to really get a hold of the game, and after getting back into the game quite quickly I did think we would go on to salvage a point and we did then have a spell where we looked as though we may get a second. We could not sustain this though and despite Hull conceding ten goals in the last ten minutes of games this season, the game ticked away and despite the introduction of debutants Vieira and Johnson, the game was beyond us.
Positives to take from the defeat were the debuts of both Vieira and Johnson, who both look to have settled in well and I am certain that Vieira will get a start on Tuesday night against Bolton where we will be expected to get back to winning ways back on home turf.
A worrying aspect though has seen us allow opportunities to slip by us as we have failed to take advantage of results elsewhere. We are still in a strong position in the table, but have failed to capitalise at times this season and unless we can marry some consistency on our travels to the home form we have shown then Champions League qualification will be a step too far this season.