Grant McCann was given a great chance to look at his whole squad in midweek during the Carabao Cup victory over Tranmere Rovers.
After making 11 changes to his side for the trip to Prenton Park, seven of which were making their full debuts in black and amber, a first half flurry of goals from Hull City earned them a 3-0 victory over their League One opponents to set up a trip to Preston in the second round.
One of the key areas in McCann’s side currently up for discussion is their three-man midfield. In the opening three games of the season, Jackson Irvine, Dan Batty, Kevin Stewart, Jon Toral and summer signings George Honeyman and Leonardo Da Silva Lopes have all played there, leaving debate over who the Tigers’ best trio are.
We asked supporters from the Hull City Fans Panel for their thoughts on the depth in midfield and who they would like to start there throughout this season.
See the responses below.
Andy Dalton (@JWhittlesElbow)
Batty, Stewart, Irvine. Which, imaginatively enough, is the same as the last league game. It feels a well-balanced trio though. Irvine’s restless energy and creativity, Batty’s assured and improving all-round game, Stewart’s capacity for effective, David Meyler-esque destruction (yes that IS a compliment).
That may be tough on the midfield that won at Tranmere, but a League Cup win at lower-league opposition must be seen in that context, even if it can give useful food for thought. City were torn apart at Brentford last season, and they’re a side that can inflict damage on the best at this level. Lose the midfield, we’ll lose the game.
For now, while acknowledging the legitimate claims of others, McCann could be best served by sticking with what (mostly) worked against Reading at the weekend, safe in the knowledge he has options off the bench if required.
David Batte (@hullcity_pfa)
My three-man midfield would be: Kevin Stewart, Jon Toral & Jackson Irvine.
Stewart would sit the deepest of the three. Kevin has been superb in the first two league games, showing the ability that landed him a move to Liverpool some years ago. His break up play has been excellent.
Jon Toral has been blighted with injuries. However, he’s very talented, with the ability to play defence-splitting balls and contribute valuable goals. His performance at Tranmere showed he’s close to being back at his best.
Jackson Irvine provides goals, strength & height. He links up well with both wide men and provides a vocal presence in the team.
Robert Witham (@RetroKid1966)
Choosing my three-man midfield for City has been made more difficult since watching us away at Tranmere, I’m sure this is a very welcome selection headache for our manager.
Jon Toral was excellent going forward and showed how creative he can be when on form, whether he has done enough to displace Jackson Irvine as our attacking midfielder though is hard to say.
For me, Jackson should get the nod as he played well against better opposition, Reading.
As for holding midfielders, Kevin Stewart has become one of the first names on the team sheet.
After an admittedly awful start to life in Hull, he has turned it around and is producing the type of form that commanded such a large transfer fee.
Work rate, interceptions and regaining possession to restart the attack, he has been incredible.
His performance against Reading was probably his best in a City shirt so far.
The most difficult position to fill would be a second holding midfielder, should City play a 4-2-3-1.
Dan Batty has been excellent and it would be very harsh to drop him, against Reading he looked promising in attack which was good to see he had added to his game, but Leonardo Da Silva Lopes showed excellent composure against Tranmere and really impressed me.
Calmness under pressure, taking no risks and easing the ball back onto the counter attack. I was very excited with what I saw, and I would love to see him get a chance in the league.
It’s a very close call but I would say if we play a 4-2-3-1 then it should be Stewart and Batty in holding with Irvine just ahead supporting the attack, tough call, but Reading is a better benchmark than Tranmere in my opinion.
Steve Atkinson (@ReturnOfTheAk75)
Who makes the three-man midfield?
Now, if you’d have asked me that before Tuesday’s win at Tranmere I’d say the three positions were cut and dried. Irvine, Stewart, Batty. But the Carabao Cup win posed some interesting questions, albeit against a poor Tranmere side. Leo Da Silva Lopes was a bright spark, taking the ball off the defenders beating a man or two and basically being the man we wished Dean Marney should’ve been. Honeyman looked industrious and Toral weighed in with a goal. Poor opposition aside, it looks like we’ve got decent options in there now.
For an away game I’d probably be tempted to drop Jackson Irvine and put George Honeyman in. Especially as Brentford will put us under a lot of pressure. Keep colossal Kev and Dan Batty in and I think we’ve got a midfield that will work hard to keep the Bees at bay.
Jamie Cowperthwaite (@Jam13Co)
When all the signings were coming in before the start of the season it was hard to take stock of who fits where. But now the dust has settled I can tentatively say that we’ve made some pretty good signings. Of course only time will tell if they fulfil their potential, but on paper we could have a crack at tickling the play-offs, if they gel!
That said, I would stick with a three-man midfield consisting of Kevin Stewart, Kamil Grosicki and Jackson Irvine, with the latter sitting and ideally breaking up attacks (and grabbing the odd goal!). Grosicki needs to be left to do his own thing to get the best out of him and the start Stewart has made makes me think he could also flourish.
Michael Winter (@mcwinter172)
My Hull City three-man midfield out of our current squad is Jarrod Bowen on the right for his pace, skill, creativity and goals. In the middle goes Jackson Irvine, 100% commitment and he will do everything for the team. On the left goes Kamil Grosicki; pace, power, assists and goals makes him a match winner, and on his day, quite possibly the best in the league.
Mathew Porter-Welsh (@mthw11)
My three-man midfield would include:
Kevin Stewart - Decent player on the ball and decent off it. Knows how to win the ball back and not afraid to put in a tackle. He would be my sitting midfielder.
Dan Batty - Good young player and always brings good energy to the team. Good at winning the ball back and also not afraid to put in a tackle. Always likes to express himself, when going forward also.
Jackson Irvine - Always a good player on the ball. Likes to drive forward and create chances. Likes to chip in with the goals as well, which is always key to having a good midfield.
Connor Wood (@HCAFC_Connor)
After watching the different options we have available through the Tranmere game especially, it’s clear the players with the high fitness levels and work rates are the best suited for the style of play.
With this in mind, Stewart has to be the holding midfielder for me with his energy levels and defensive output. He looks rejuvenated under McCann and for me is a definite inclusion. I would then opt for Daniel Batty who once more has been excellent in midfield and reads the game incredibly well, despite his young age.
I would lastly include, perhaps surprisingly to most, Jon Toral as the creative, attacking midfielder. When at full fitness, he adds that spark to the team and has shown glimpses of real ability at times - his link up play against Tranmere in that first half was superb in particular.
It is however, hard to name just three because there is genuinely a fair bit of depth and talent amongst the midfield ranks with the likes of new signings Lopes and Honeyman, so it’ll be interesting to see who stands out more and more as the season progresses.
Joseph Kitching (@joekitch91)
Eighteen months ago, the midfield three was a huge concern for the team. Now we have a wealth of talented players capable of holding their own in the middle of the park.
My pick of three would be Kevin Stewart, Jackson Irvine and George Honeyman. I’d put Stewart sitting in front of the back line breaking up the play. Stewart has gone from being the forgotten man to one of the first names on the team sheet. His ability to break down opposition attacks and then offload the ball to the wings is crucial in our counter-attacking style away from home.
On the right of the three would be Jackson Irvine. A hard-working, combative midfielder with an eye for goal and who, let’s face it, loves to commit a cynical foul when needs must. A crucial element of our side now and if we have a successful season, he will be at the heart of it.
The left of the three would be occupied by Honeyman. He seems to be a real leader and looks to have the mix of Stewart and Irvine. Once he is settled into the club, I think he will be a huge part of the team.
Then with Batty, Lopes and Toral to come off the bench I think we have a midfield six that a lot of clubs would envy in the league.
Ryan Bissett (@BissettRy)
After immense performances from Toral, Honeyman and Lopes against Tranmere, it will have definitely given McCann food for thought going into the Brentford game.
All three gave great accounts of themselves, with Toral staking the best claim for a starting berth by claiming a goal which optimises the style of play the new head coach is trying to implement.
However the start to the season the other three midfielders have made, I’d find it incredibly harsh to see any dislodged on Saturday. Irvine and Batty in the more attacking roles have both opened their accounts for the season already and Stewart sitting in the deeper role sweeps up and breaks up attacks before they come close to the back four.
It’s impressive the level of depth and quality City now have in the centre of the pitch, with the players who start knowing one bad game could see them out the team for a while.
For me on Saturday, I’d start Stewart in the deeper role with Batty and Irvine with more attacking duties.
Tom Devereux (@the1devs)
Team Black and Amber certainly have had a fruitful transfer period this summer, culminating in an abundance of competitive central midfielder's all vying for a position within the first eleven. Whilst the new recruits will undoubtedly grow within the squad and offer different aspects to the team, for me I'd go for the following:
Kevin Stewart - of whom I would have sat in the holding role in the centre of the three. Carrying on from the back end of last season, Kevin has arguably proved to be City's best of the midfield bunch thus far this term. For me he has been a man possessed at times, putting in shifts within the centre of a thriving black and amber team so far this season. He will also provide a perception of leadership amongst the midfield line being an older member of the squad.
On the right side of the three I'd have Dan Batty. A youngster among the black and amber ranks, he has also been working hard on and off the field. Could be a big season for him this term and I'd love to have him get a stretch of games and under Grant McCann, this could be quite possible. Dan has become adjusted to the Championship, a future general for seasons to come.
Completing the midfield and playing on the left of the three, I'd start Jackson Irvine. "Long hair never looked so good" has become an elder statesman and a leader amongst the City squad. The old war horse also puts a shift in whenever he wears the colours, thus leaving it all on the field. Jackson has also become a contributing factor to the Hull City goal machine.
For me the above is the starting three I'd go for at present. Yet, with the additions becoming fully adjusted to life at City and after Tuesday’s efforts in the Carabao Cup, it is safe to say Grant McCann will certainly have a selection headache as the season progresses.
John Uzzell (@Uzzell01)
I would keep the same three players that have started the first two league games. Irvine, Stewart and Batty.
All three have done well together so far and all three know each other well having been at the club last season.
Tom Griffin (@TomGriff87)
Despite performing well in the cup, Jon Toral will find it a mean feat to dislodge Jackson Irvine after he scored against Reading. George Honeyman offered real energy and industry in the midfield, but Dan Batty has been instrumental thus far.
The competition for places is hotting-up and there is real depth, particularly in the central area.
Leandro Da Silva Lopes, who operated in the holding role against Tranmere, did well to read the game and was often in the right place to sniff out danger, offering that defensive screen.
However, Kevin Stewart who plays in the holding role, has been a revelation and is one of the top interceptors in the division.
I’d start with the same midfield against Brentford; Stewart holding with Batty and Irvine further forward.
Tom Eggleton (@tomeggleton)
My three-man midfield to start matches at this moment in time would have to be Stewart, Irvine, and Batty.
Batty has really improved so far this season from what I have seen from him in the first couple of matches. Since stepping up from the academy, he was a bit nervy at first but has since proved he has the potential to be a regular starter.
Stewart is a magnificent player in my opinion. Getting the most interceptions in the first game of the season just reiterates what a solid defensive midfielder he can be.
Lastly, Irvine. He is a must pick at the moment as I feel he is going to score more goals this season than he did last season and seems to have more determination this time around.
I would have Honeyman, Lopes, and Bowler on the bench as of now and see who plays well and who does not.
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