Huddersfield Town: 2018/19 Premier League Preview
The Terriers avoided relegation by four points, and David Wagner will be hopeful of moving up the table this time around.
Action Images via REUTERS/Andrew Boyers
No-one expected them to get there. Then, no-one expected them to stay there. Huddersfield Town are the ultimate underdog story.
In the Premier League for a second consecutive season, David Wagner continues to defy expectation with the Terriers and their business over the summer stands them in good stead for another attempt at top-flight survival.
2017/18 Season Review
Huddersfield defied expectation to reach the Premier League and they did so again to avoid returning to the Championship, beginning with storming back-to-back victories and clean sheets away to Crystal Palace and at home to Newcastle.
Two wins in nine matches followed, before a four-game losing run in November, quickly succeeded by a winless run of eight games across December and January, including a five-game losing streak in the new year, which set the Terriers up for a nervous end to their return to top-flight football.
Despite one win in their final ten games, Huddersfield ended up finishing a commendable 16th, four points clear of danger.
Irrespective of relegation concerns amongst the squad and staff, fans were simply enjoying the journey, underlined by delight at the 2-1 home win over Manchester United and the 1-1 draw away to Chelsea that secured survival in the penultimate game of the season.
David Wagner and the rest of Huddersfield’s recruitment team have continued their impressive work in the transfer market by signing relatively young players that were once touted as those with high potential, but have since fallen away, hoping to coax the best out of them once again and re-iginite their hunger for the game.
Fee: £17.5 million
Having joined on loan in January 2018, Terence Kongolo clearly made quite the impression on Wagner, enough that the German was willing to break the club’s transfer record to land the centre back permanently from Monaco.
The 24-year-old adds versatility to the Huddersfield defence – able to play centrally and on the left – with his form essential to their survival in the Premier League. An aggressive defender that plays on the front foot, he also impressed those in the Dutch national setup, earning a recall for his fourth international cap.
Fee: £9 million
Capable of playing up front, in the hole behind or on either wing, Adama Diakhaby arrives from Monaco with a lot of hope placed on his young shoulders.
He was never able to piece together any semblance of consistency in Ligue 1, but he’s tricky, direct, versatile and has an eye for goal. Diakhaby is also a hard-worker, an aspect that will please Wagner and help him fit into his high-energy system.
“He has unbelievable skills and speed,” Wagner excitedly said. “I am happy that we have the chance to sign him. He is a typical Huddersfield signing.”
Fee: £5.7 million
An interesting signing from Huddersfield, but he certainly fits in with their other arrivals. Ramadan Sobhi is a player once touted as having a particularly high potential ceiling, but failed to deliver amid a toxic environment at Stoke.
A change in scenery and an energetic manager that ignites passion within his players is exactly what the Sobhi needed. He’s still only 21 and there’s plenty of time for him to live up to what was once hoped of him.
Sobhi is an exciting, skillful, pacy winger that will inject some life into an uninspiring attack consisting of Rajiv van La Parra and Tom Ince.
Fee: £2.2 million
Turning his loan deal permanent, Jonas Lossl isn’t exactly a new signing, but he’s a player Wagner now knows well and can trust in the heat of the battle.
The German made 40 appearances in all competitions – the most of any Town player – as he cemented himself as the number one, making a superb save to deny Andreas Christensen in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea that secured survival.
Fee: £2.2 million
Signed from Eredivisie side FC Groningen, the central midfielder isn’t expected to have too great an immediate impact, but he offers support to a position in which Huddersfield were light.
Fee: Free transfer
Another impressive piece of business capturing former Borussia Dortmund right back and German World Cup winner Erik Durm. Having played for the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Joachim Lowe, Durm has a good attitude and can develop a model presence in the dressing room.
Not the most technical of players, Durm is an athlete with great stamina – a good fit for Wagner’s Huddersfield, especially if 3-5-2 is here to stay. He’ll provide solid support and competition for Tom Smith and Hadergjonaj on the right.
Fee: Free transfer
Unlikely to see much of Ben Hamer, who joins for free from Leicester City, but will replace Rob Green as Lossl’s back-up.
Huddersfield have retained all of their key players from last season, including Aaron Mooy, and the only departure of note is Tom Ince.
The winger, who failed to make much of a lasting impression at the John Smith Stadium, joins Championship side Stoke City for an initial £10 million. It’s not a loss for the Terriers, with his spot in the squad filled instead by former Potter Sobhi.
Goalkeeper Rob Green also joined Chelsea, whilst Joel Coleman and Jack Payne have been loaned out to Shrewsbury Town and Bradford, respectively.
Wagner’s formation of choice was a 4-2-3-1, one that he used in 17 Premier League games in 2017/18, but he rotated frequently with a 4-1-4-1. The German also demonstrated his reactive, tactical versatility in changing to variants of a three-man defence – including a 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 – and a flat 4-4-2.
He’s expected to stick with a 4-2-3-1 as his default system, with scope to alter and change as the season progresses depending on each opponent.
Lossl cemented his position as undisputed number one, whilst Kongolo will retain his place at left back, which keeps Christopher Schindler and Zanka together in the centre and Florent Hadergjonaj on the right.
The onus will be on Aaron Mooy to create from deep in the two-man double pivot, alongside Jonathan Hogg, but it’s the front three that will undergo the most change. One of Sobhi or Diakhaby will replace Ince, whilst the other will rotate with Rajiv van La Parra. Up front, Steve Mounie will remain first choice.
The Key Question: Can they defy expectations again?
Wagner defied expectations to reach the Premier League initially, and did so once again to secure another season in the top-flight with a game to spare. The question for 2018/19, therefore, is whether they can do it again.
Touted as one of the favourites for relegation, what’s expected from the Terriers’ season has already been made clear, but the club seem to thrive as the underdogs. And being told they can’t do something will only motivate them further.
The best Huddersfield can hope for – if they have their luck in terms of injuries and results elsewhere – is a lower mid-table finish, somewhere in the region of 12th to 14th, coupled with a deep cup run to the quarter-finals or beyond.
Relegation. Simple, really. The absolute worst, though, would be ‘doing a Derby’ and going down without a fight.
Huddersfield have signed well over the summer, most of their squad are settled and Wagner knows the Premier League. Poor runs of form as per last season will lead to a relegation battle, but they have enough quality to stay afloat and finish in a similar position to 2017/18.
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