Tactically speaking - Hull City

West Ham United host Hull City in the Barclays Premier League at the Boleyn Ground on Wednesday evening.

Both sides will be eager to achieve a victory that will take them one step closer to safety. Here, the Official Website takes a closer look at how the Tigers might go about winning Wednesday's match, while also focusing on the form of West Ham centre-back James Tomkins.

West Ham United

James Tomkins

Ahead of West Ham's Premier League meeting with Hull City, football statistics website WhoScored.com have previewed the fixture.

In the meeting between the two sides at the KC Stadium earlier in the season, a Robbie Brady penalty was enough to give Steve Bruce's side all three points.

The Tigers have enjoyed a successful return to England's top tier and are currently in 12th place in the Barclays Premier League table. However their away form has been very poor, having lost nine of their 14 league games, taking only eleven points on the road this term. West Ham will be looking to add to this record when the two teams meet tomorrow night.

At the Boleyn Ground, West Ham have impressed against the Tigers, having won each of their last three home league meetings, netting seven and conceding just the one. While Hull boast Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic in their ranks, the hosts will look to the defensive capabilities of centre-back James Tomkins to deny the visitors' strike pairing.

The Englishman is currently West Ham's highest-rated player, with a WhoScored.com rating of 7.2 this term. Having been in the starting XI for nine of the 13 clean sheets they have kept this season, the 24-year-old will be key if West Ham are to deny Hull's attack-minded players on Wednesday evening.

With a statistically calculated style of play of 'clearing the ball out of defence often', Tomkins has the ability to be in the right place at the right time to relieve any pressure on the West Ham goal.

From an offensive viewpoint, the defender can also punish Hull, with the Tigers having developed a WhoScored.com weakness of 'defending set pieces' this season. Tomkins has gained a strength of 'aerial duels' and while this facet of his game will help defensively, when West Ham win free kicks in attacking situations, his heading ability should increase the likelihood of them netting.

Hull have conceded in 12 of their 14 away games following their return to the Premier League and the threat of Tomkins from set pieces will make him an ideal target from these situations.

At both ends of the pitch, the centre-back will be vital to West Ham securing maximum points at the expense of Hull. In turn, this will stretch their impressive home run against the Tigers and, in the process, help them leapfrog Wednesday's opponents in the table come full time.

*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.

Hull City

Possible starting XI

McGregor

Elmohamady  Davies  Chester  Rosenior

Livermore  Huddlestone  Meyler

Aluko

Jelavic  Long

While the vast majority of Barclays Premier League managers have favoured flat back fours this season, Steve Bruce's Hull City have regularly lined up with three central defenders on the pitch.

The tactic, which Bruce has used in more than half of Hull's league games this season, has produced largely indifferent results - two wins, three draws and nine defeats.

In recent weeks, Hull employed three centre-backs in a 4-0 win at Cardiff City and a 4-1 home defeat by Newcastle United! However, Bruce reverted to a flat back four for Saturday's 2-0 home win over West Bromwich Albion and he is likely to stick with that tactic against West Ham United.

Style-wise, Hull are an up and at 'em side who get the ball forward whenever possible and unleash plenty of shots at the opposition goal.

Hull's biggest threat comes down their right flank. There, the energetic Ahmed Elmohamady either works the wing himself or in combination with full-back Liam Rosenior when Hull play with four defenders and the Egyptian in midfield.

In the centre, Tom Huddlestone is the main instigator for Hull, linking things together with his superb range of passing and scoring the odd outstanding goal from long-range.

Indeed, the Tigers are a team as a whole who do not mind taking a pop from outside the penalty area, with 47 per cent of their shots coming from that range.

On the flip side, the Tigers do not control possession as well as they would like - 44 per cent per game on average - and also concede plenty of attempts on their own goal - 15 compared to 12 of their own.

Personnel-wise, Bruce has benefitted from being able to pick a fairly settled starting XI this season - five of his outfield players have made at least 25 league starts. When you consider two of the other five positions are being filled by January signings Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long up front, you can see that Hull's team very much picks itself in many areas.

When fit, Scotland international Allan McGregor is the No1 goalkeeper. Relatively short at just over 6'0", McGregor likes to punch rather than catch when coming for the ball. He is also adroit at saving penalties, having done so from Chelsea's Frank Lampard back in August.

The back four will likely start with centre-backs Curtis Davies and James Chester. A strong all-round defender, Davies is good in the air and the tackle and maintains his concentration well.  Long-serving centre-back Chester began the current season in the starting XI, but has not started a league game since New Year's Day.

Other defensive options include the manager's son Alex Bruce, Honduran Maynor Figueroa, former Hammer Abdoulaye Faye and Irishman Paul McShane.

At left wing-back, Rosenior has filled in since Figueroa moved into a new role in the centre. Right-footed, Rosenior is a typical modern-day full-back in that he can defend and attack in equal measure. On the right, Elmohamady is strong and skilful.

The central midfield three will be anchored by Huddlestone, whose strengths have already been mentioned. Alongside him, Jake Livermore is what you might call a typical central midfielder, possessing all-round talents and great stamina. Republic of Ireland international David Meyler is another who is an all-rounder, rather than being particularly pigeon-holed into an attacking or defensive area.

Should Bruce play four in midfield, Elmohamady would move to the right wing and George Boyd could be drafted into the starting XI. The skilful Robbie Brady, who was the match-winner at the KC Stadium earlier this season, has been struggling with a groin injury.

The elusive and skilful Sone Aluko has recently returned to action after a calf injury and he started for the first time in five months on Saturday.

Up front, January arrivals Jelavic and Long have dovetailed impressively.

Croatia star Jelavic is a goalscorer who comes alive when the ball is in the penalty area, while Long's work-rate and opportunism have become almost legendary. Both will contribute to the defensive effort and not give their opposing defenders a moment's peace.

Bruce's other attacking options include strong Ivorian Yannick Sagbo and Matty Fryatt, who is an accurate finisher whenever opportunities present themselves.