When Nicolas Otamendi inadvertently shouldered Tom Ince’s corner ball into his own net just before half time on Sunday afternoon, the Huddersfield faithful around the ground will have been buzzing about the prospect of doing a “Manchester double” of sorts, as long as their team could just hold on to the lead.
Unfortunately for them, Manchester City managed to grasp their twelfth Premier League win in a row right from the paws of the Terriers. It wasn’t an easy take by any means for the Blues though, and there was certainly an element of luck involved when the winning goal ricocheted off Raheem Sterling as he sprinted into the box in the closing minutes.
Despite allowing City nearly 80% possession, Huddersfield Town were still able to do what they have been able to do at home for most of the season, and that is defend.
Yes, they let in two goals, but this hardly the hammering that City have implemented on other teams so far this campaign. On paper, a team that has never experienced Premier League football should be no match for a squad that plays such quick and clever football with such technically gifted players. But it was, and Huddersfield deserve credit for this.Embed from Getty Images
The defenders held their positions well, with the midfielders also defending as much as you would expect against a team with forty goals under their belt. Manchester City’s usual swift passing was restricted by Huddersfield for a lot of the match, and attempts from Agüero amongst others were bested by Jonas Lössl in goal.
Christopher Schindler once again displayed his talent as a centre-back with several impressive blocks and tackles, while Tommy Smith prevented Leroy Sane from making a lot of progress down the left. However, it was the other flank that caused the problems for Huddersfield. Sterling had the run of Scott Malone and the English international’s movement ensured that he was in exactly the right place for the ball to rebound off his chest and over the despairing Lössl.
Essentially, Manchester City won the match with pure grit and patience, passing the ball almost ten times as much as Huddersfield, stretching the brittle wall that the Terriers were presenting until eventually holes appeared and City could break through. Such relentless passing and patient possession meant that the Terriers had to creep out of their shell, which was ultimately their downfall.
As Man City approach the Premier League record of fourteen consecutive wins, there is much talk about the team being the new “invincibles” of the Premier League era, Arsenal being the current holders of the longest win streak. However, it is performances like Sunday’s that begin to raise questions about whether City can truly go undefeated this season. It was by no means a poor performance but there are harder places to get a result from, and if they hadn’t had a sliver of luck it may have been a completely different story.
Nevertheless, winning when not at your best is a sign of a great team, and it is now getting to the point where people are starting to believe that City have won the league already. It is certainly theirs to lose now.
In the other camp, with two wins in seven league games, and not a great goal difference next to their points tally, the Terriers have been sliding around the mid-table positions for some time. Their lack of bite in the final third is a cause for concern, with no single Huddersfield player scoring more than two goals this season.
Despite defending admirably, their attacking threat may need to increase if they are to avoid being dragged into the hotly contested bottom five spots, an area they have impressively avoided thus far.
Written by Harry Mahon.