'Mini-Mourinho' breathing new life into struggling Hull
It seemed Marco Silva had taken on a near-impossible job when he was hired as manager of Hull at the start of January.
The promoted club from northern England was up for sale, in last place in the Premier League and planning to sell some of its best players. Money was tight, fans were disgruntled and a squad short on big names had been struck by injuries in key areas.
Silva, a 39-year-old Portuguese coach labelled 'Mini-Mourinho' by some after his illustrious coaching compatriot, was new to the English game and was facing a tough and gruelling immediate run of matches across three competitions.
At his presentation as Hull's third permanent coach in a six-month span, Silva said survival in the Premier League would be a "miracle" but urged fans to believe in him. Somehow, though, he's turning things around, just like he did in his first coaching job at Portuguese team Estoril, which he transformed from a second-tier club on the brink of financial ruin to a Europa League qualifier in two seasons.
Silva has worked wonders in the transfer market and on the field.
Operating under financial constraints, he saw key midfielders Robert Snodgrass and Jake Livermore sold from under his feet and reacted by making seven signings predominantly players on loan and rejects from bigger clubs. Striker Oumar Niasse, for example, arrived from Everton, where he had made five appearances and not scored a single goal in the past year; winger Lazar Markovic (from Liverpool) and Omar Elabdellaoui (from Olympiakos) were among others looking to relaunch their careers.
On the training ground, Silva worked hard on team shape and organisation, with defender Curtis Davies saying the coach literally dragged players into the positions he desired. Days off were cancelled. Silva has hard, but fair. His impact was been astonishing.
Hull have won all four of their home matches under Silva, having failed to win any of their previous five at KCOM Stadium. Among the defeated teams were some stellar names, Manchester United in the League Cup and Liverpool in the league last weekend. Hull also ground out a 0-0 draw at United in the league and were regarded as unlucky to lose 2-0 at runaway leader Chelsea, when midfielder Ryan Mason fractured his skull.
Hull a team with an eclectic mix of youngsters, misfits and journeymen have climbed to 18th place and within a point of safety. A trip to Arsenal today suddenly holds no fear for Silva's team, and why should it? The last time Silva was in the dugout at Emirates Stadium, he was in charge of Olympiakos and the Greek side stunned Arsenal 3-2 in the Champions League in September 2015.