David Wagner’s men exceeded everyone’s expectations by holding on to their Premier League status last season. The league’s underdogs were tipped to finish bottom at the start of the season, but Huddersfield Town refused to cater to this and will take part in their second ever Premier League campaign.
And it’s now onwards and upwards to the all-important second season for the Terriers. This is the season that clubs can really establish themselves in the Premier League, and Huddersfield will be looking to do just that in the 2018/19 season, despite again being one of the favourites to get relegated. They’ve defied the odds once before, so what’s to stop them doing it again?
Finishing 16th last season was described as a “miracle” by manager David Wagner himself. Just pulling themselves into the Premier League was a gruelling process. The Terriers managed to get themselves promoted by finishing 5th in the Championship with a negative goal difference before going on to beat Reading on penalties in the playoff final.
Perhaps the most surprising candidates ever to enter the Premier League, not many were expecting Huddersfield to even come close to surviving. True, they were involved in the relegation battle throughout most of the season, but some huge results against Manchester City and Chelsea eventually finished the job off, sending the Huddersfield fans both inside and outside of Stamford Bridge into dreamland.
Manager and Preferred Tactics
David Wagner became manager of Huddersfield towards the end of 2015, and by the end of that particular season, the Terriers finished in 19th place. But, in his first full season in charge, he sent Huddersfield into the Premier League. In his second season, he kept them there. As a result, the Huddersfield team have been classed as one of the most inspirational underdogs of the Premier League era. A great accolade for David Wagner to cherish.
Wagner himself is a very modest and humble manager, with an emphasis on mental relationships between players. Whether you’re a Town supporter or not, it’s hard not to warm to the American-German manager, who has created a real bond between those at the club.
A couple of his signings last year made his tactical intentions clear. Laurent Depoitre and Steve Mounié joined Huddersfield on the back of the huge pay-out made to the Terriers following their playoff final victory. Both stand at 6 ft 3 and were evidently signed to latch on crosses from the wing.
What seemed like a sound tactic on paper perhaps didn’t turn out that way. Mounié bagged nine goals in total last season, while Depoitre scored six. These aren’t diabolical returns from the strikers, but at the same time are not hugely impressive either. David Wagner’s men scored just 28 goals in the Premier League last season – the joint worst along with relegated Swansea. The 46-year-old Huddersfield boss may need to alter his attacking strategy this season in an attempt to bag more goals.
We’ll start this section with Town’s 2017/18 player of the year, Christopher Schindler. The centre-back played in all but one of Huddersfield’s Premier League games and was solid in stopping attacks in some crucial matches. An all-round consistent defender, the German made 265 clearances last season – the third most in the league – and if Huddersfield are aiming to improve on their defensive record of last season, Schindler will be pivotal to that.
Aaron Mooy, a player who has established himself in West Yorkshire, will once again be a key figure for the Terriers, who purchased the 27-year-old permanently from Manchester City a year ago. Having never actually played a match for the Citizens, Australia’s player of the year found a new home at Huddersfield, and confidently displayed his ability to play in all areas of central midfield. The man from Sydney successfully made 102 tackles last season, which was the fifth best in the league. Able to read the game tremendously well, expect to see Mooy make some vital tackles and interceptions, while providing some moments of magic in the opponent’s half.
Hailing from Manchester City’s youth academy, Tommy Smith has only been playing senior football for about five and a half years – but has played it all at Huddersfield Town. At just 26 years old, he is the second youngest captain in the Premier League, behind Jamaal Lascelles at Newcastle.
The right-back is an excellent crosser and will look to make overlapping runs as often as possible, hoping to find a target man in the box. He has also been known to pop up in places where you least expect him, which may be helpful in taking Huddersfield’s attacking play further this year.
You can tell that Smith has learnt a lot from both playing with, and leading the Huddersfield team, and his development will continue into the new season.
Like last year, Huddersfield have been heavily involved in the transfer window, with a number of signings to show for it, the most established acquirement being Erik Durm from Dortmund. The 26-year-old left back is well known for his pacey runs down the wing and for that reason should fit in perfectly into Wagner’s style of play.
Ramadan Sobhi has also joined the Terriers, previously making a name for himself at Stoke City. A promising left-midfielder, Sobhi displays outstanding skill on the ball and will be useful addition to Huddersfield’s attacking force. At only 21 years of age, the Egyptian is one to keep an eye on this season.
Huddersfield have also acquired young prospects Adama Diakhaby and Juninho Bacuna from Monaco and FC Groningen respectively, while retaining the services of their influential goalkeeper Jonas Lossl and their young player of the year Florent Hadergjonaj, as well as Terence Kongolo, who were all previously on loan at the Terriers.
For most supporting the club, the same again would constitute another successful campaign for Huddersfield Town. Being one of the favourites to go down, like last year, would mean that simply surviving their second year in the Premier League would defy the odds and thus would be a positive overall result.
There’s nothing to stop the Terriers aiming for that mid-table region though. The team spirit is certainly there – maybe just a bit of tactical tinkering would be the catalyst to sending Huddersfield further up the table. The competition looks like it could be extremely close in the bottom half of the table, much like last season, and wherever they may finish by the end, as it stands it’s a very exciting time to be a Huddersfield fan.
Written by Harry Mahon.