If, at the start of 2016, you were to ask a Huddersfield fan where they saw their beloved team being in two years’ time, I doubt even the most biased supporter would answer with “sitting seventeenth in the Premier League and involved in an extremely tight relegation battle”.
What the club have achieved since David Wagner took charge doesn’t fall short of being a miracle as far as the fans are concerned. To get to the position they currently sit in warrants the greatest respect and praise for the manager and players.Embed from Getty Images
However, Huddersfield’s form of late has been pretty woeful and, as a result, they have returned to being the favourites to face the drop by the end of the season. The latest team to add to their despairs were Liverpool, managed by Wagner’s good friend Jürgen Klopp, who comfortably saw off the Terriers in a 3-0 victory on Tuesday.
Of course, Huddersfield were never expected to beat Liverpool, even in their own home where they have been so impressive on occasions this season. On this instance though, their performance was fairly dreadful, and the effort from the players was questionable. With so many bottom-half teams beginning to up their game lately, Town will need to buck up their ideas as well, or they could find themselves plummeting into the bottom three.
The match to Liverpool saw Huddersfield play a new formation, with three at the back, but although the intention to counter Liverpool’s pressing tactics and keep a sturdy back line was intelligent, it’s fair to say it didn’t play out to Wagner’s plans.
They may have done it once this season, but the Terriers certainly don’t look like upsetting Manchester United again on Saturday, and a blank in this fixture wouldn’t really be a surprise to anybody. However, in eight fixtures following this tough match, Huddersfield will come up against six bottom-half teams in games that will probably be their most crucial so far. Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City and Arsenal will be their final four opponents of their first Premier League campaign, making picking up points throughout the next couple of months even more important for Huddersfield.
The Terriers gained two new additions over the January transfer window – Alex Pritchard from Norwich, and Terence Kongolo from Monaco on loan. Although these two had, and still have, the potential to be high quality signings, Town have been suffering with their worst top-flight form, and fans will be wondering whether the January expenditure will be enough to protect them from relegation.
One clear area of focus is the defence, as Huddersfield have kept just one clean sheet in their last eleven games. Not only this, they have been guilty on multiple occasions throughout the season of committing silly and unnecessary mistakes at the back, which have often costed them a goal or even a game. Whether this is due to a lack of concentration or communication, it should be ironed out as soon as possible.
The other end of the pitch is also a concern. The signing of Laurent Depoitre and Steve Mounié over the summer reassured Huddersfield fans that a goal threat shouldn’t be a problem in the Premier League. The duo didn’t quite pose the expected threat in the end, and between them they haven’t been able to score more than 10 goals this season. It should be noted though that their record signing Mounié has suffered injury spells during his time in West Yorkshire.Embed from Getty Images
While the past few results have been bleak for Huddersfield, hope is by all means not yet lost. There’s still plenty of games remaining, and the relegation battle at this stage is realistically being fought between ten or eleven teams. If the Terriers can find the same form that they started the campaign with, then they have a good chance of survival.
It looks like they will be right in the thick of the battle for the rest of the season, and with any luck the excitement will continue until the very last day – after all, Huddersfield have plenty of experience with relegation scraps from their time in the Championship. This one just has that extra edge to it that should make it ever more enthralling for the loyal Town supporters.
Written by Harry Mahon.