Now ten games old, the Championship season can be broken down and analysed in two equal parts - before and after the transfer window shut, which also coincided with an international break. In some cases, the contrast was stark. In others, not so much.
Both Sheffield Wednesday and Hull needed the September interruption but could have done without the October one. Uncertainty during the transfer window had held both teams back - in different ways - but once business was complete and final squads were known, some quality-time on the training ground translated into marked differences on the pitch.
For Hull, results were actually better over the first five games, which serves only to illustrate the quality in their ranks. They picked up ten points without ever being at their best in August but the eight points taken since then have been rather more satisfying, not least because of two wins gleaned from tough away trips to Cardiff and Nottingham Forest.
Steve Bruce is happier now because the Tigers are finally showing the defensive resilience he believes will be crucial to any promotion push. Only Charlie Austin and Jordan Rhodes have netted against the Tigers in nine hours of action, with opponents testing Allan McGregor, on average, only once every 24 minutes.
It’s no coincidence that Hull’s last eight matches have produced exactly one or two goals, yet only leaders Brighton have stopped them from scoring. For now, it’s all about keeping things sensible. A back four marshalled by Michael Dawson and Curtis Davies - or back three if you throw in Alex Bruce - is never going to concede many when a compact shape is kept and a game never gets too stretched.
The downside is the effect on forward cohesion but any team that boasts a settled Abel Hernandez in attack is always capable of nicking a goal, although it remains to be seen whether the Uruguayan international will start after travelling back from World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia and Colombia. He scored in the latter game, his sixth goal of the season.
Either way, a Sheffield Wednesday clean sheet seems unlikely. The Owls have been much-improved since adding Barry Bannan, Michael Turner, Daniel Pudil and Fernando Forestieri to their ranks but have shipped seven goals in their last five league outings, which includes three in home games against Fulham and Preston, although they haven't fallen behind at any stage since the turnaround game at Burnley.
Carlos Carvalhal’s men head into this clash with confidence on the back of four straight wins, landing the overs and ‘both teams to score’ in each of their last three league outings. But the opposition - Fulham, Brentford and Preston - haven’t been up to much and the Owls have benefited from the sort of defensive howlers that simply aren’t on the menu here.
All things considered, this could be a reality check for the home side, a chastening reminder that they’re not quite on a par with the big boys just yet. That said, there’s not a huge amount of value in the match betting. Instead, take what we know about the way Hull are going about their business and back them to win the game 1-0 (bets odds 8-1). A set-piece might be enough.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.