The Tigers adopted a 3-5-2 set-up in the midweek League Cup victory at Bristol City. It was the first time this season that Hull had switched to a formation much favoured by Steve Bruce for large chunks of his reign in the East Riding.
Injuries to Moses Odubajo and Andrew Robertson mean Hull do not have a recognised full-back in the squad, hence Phelan’s decision to opt for a system that better suits Ahmed Elmohamady and Sam Clucas in wing-back roles.
“Circumstances have made that happen,” said the Tigers’ head coach ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League trip to Watford.
“We have lost Robertson and lost others, so in a way it was a case of playing to our strengths with the centre-halves. It fell into a three and we have got decent wing-backs as well.
“I will have to move Clucas into that role against Watford but I felt Josh Tymon (who started at wing-back against the Robins) was accomplished. He stuck at his task.
“He had a game there against Arsenal last season and did really well. He then played against Exeter this season (in the Cup) and didn’t do so well. He is a development, a work in progress. We gave him a chance and he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Hull need to harness the positivity of their performance at Ashton Gate to end a damaging five-game losing run in the Premier League that has seen Phelan’s men concede 19 goals.
Goalscoring has also been a problem with the Tigers netting just three times during that time.
Last season’s top scorer Abel Hernandez being back in the starting XI for the first time in four games gave Hull much more potency in attack at Bristol where he linked up well with Adama Diomande.
“It is always nice to see two strikers,” said Phelan, who in the last two league games has played Will Keane as a lone frontman.
“That is part of the game and everyone loves to see that. Sometimes at the highest level, having two strikers means you could be weak elsewhere. We have tried it and it’s worked.
“We will probably use it again at some point but every player needs to be firing and willing to do the hard miles. People like Abel and Diomande and Keane, when they do that we’re okay.”
Diomande has been charged with violent conduct by the FA following an altercation towards the end of Tuesday’s game.