It’s a dog’s life supporting the Terriers right now. We haven’t won a league game since the middle of April and haven’t scored more than a single goal in a match since February. The mood among Town fans is increasingly negative and it looks like being a long, hard season. Even the most optimistic supporters are starting to question Huddersfield’s Premier League pedigree.
In my last article, I argued that defeats to Chelsea and Man City in the first two games weren’t a cause for concern and that other fixtures would give a better idea of our chances of survival. What has followed makes me start to doubt whether Huddersfield can continue to defy the odds and remain in the Premier League for a third season.
Cardiff (H) 0-0
Even at such an early stage in the season, this was a relegation six-pointer. It was a turgid game and neither side showed much quality. This probably wasn’t helped by a long delay just twelve minutes in due to an injury to keeper Ben Hamer, who inexplicably started again after poor displays in the first two games. Jonathan Hogg’s red card around the hour mark killed any hope of Town finding a way past the Cardiff defence and the gameplan switched to holding on for a draw.
FPL pick: Lossl (4.5) had little to do but picked up a clean sheet and three bonus points after coming on.
Stoke in the EFL Cup (A) 2-0
I’ve only seen the highlights from this game but Juninho Bacuna’s spectacular own goal is a thing to behold. He’s a little unlucky that keeper Jonas Lossl was out of his box after going up for a late corner but I fear this may be the thing he’s remembered for in years to come. Ten changes to the previous lineup suggest that this competition was never a priority but one shot on target against a team recently relegated from the Premier League is a worrying statistic.
Everton (A) 1-1
Academy product Philip Billing has been a standout performer so far this season and capped off another fine display with his first Premier League goal. The lead lasted just 90 seconds, which is frustrating as the equaliser was Everton’s only shot on target in the match. This was a much improved performance though and a point away from home could be very valuable.
FPL pick: Billing (4.5) scored and got 3 bonus points. A great budget option.
Crystal Palace (H) 0-1
This was the best I’ve seen us play in a long time and how we managed to lose is beyond me. We didn’t have the usual issue of creating chances but lacked the clinical edge to finish them. Aaron Mooy hit the post with a cracking volley and Billing was denied his second in as many games due to being narrowly offside. Deflections went the wrong side of the post and Mounie wasn’t as ruthless as we are used to seeing.
Pantomime villain Wilfried Zaha decided the game with a brilliant solo effort but was kept fairly quiet in the second half. Perhaps Hadergjonaj could have done more to stop him but this is being rather critical. If we can perform like this regularly, I feel like we would have a good chance of survival.
FPL pick: Zaha (7.0) carried a poor Palace side in this game. However, he will never feature in my team on principle. The arrogant cheat is one of the most dislikeable characters in English football.
Leicester (A) 1-3
My first away trip of the season started perfectly. Town showed intensity and were rewarded with Zanka’s first goal for the club after just five minutes. It was a fairly scrappy finish that was reminiscent of his World Cup goal for Denmark in the summer. We continued to press the issue and Leicester looked there for the taking on the back of their 4-2 defeat to Bournemouth.
However, we naively committed too many players forward and allowed an equaliser through a trademark quick counter. For a long time fans have complained that we aren’t attacking enough but here I feel we went too far the other way. Of course this is easy to say in hindsight but with five defenders on the pitch and an early lead in a tricky away game, we should have adopted a more cautious approach.
The second half saw the hosts take control of the game and eventually went ahead through a James Maddison free kick. It was a good strike but I feel Lossl should have been able to keep it out. Leicester created many chances after taking the lead and a Jamie Vardy lob over the keeper resigned us to another defeat.
Again our inability to convert chances was frustrating and Depoitre starting ahead of Mounie did nothing to resolve this. Late in the game, he was one-on-one with the keeper but failed to even get a shot away. Maybe a he is rusty from a lack of game time because last season I think he would have buried the chance. There were positives to take from the performance but overall there were too many mistakes at both ends for a positive outcome.
FPL pick: A close call between Vardy (8.9) and Maddison (6.8) who both provided a constant threat and shared set pieces between them. I would side with Maddison based on this match.
Durm and gloom in Huddersfield
The team’s confidence appears to be very low right now and the new signings look to add little to the side. Diakhaby has perhaps the worst first touch I have ever seen from a Premier League footballer and despite costing £10 million, looks like a poor man’s Colin Quaner. He’s only young and new to English football but seems well out of his depth so far. Mbenza has barely played yet but looks similarly lost when he comes on for cameo appearances. Add to this the stronger opposition in the Premier League this season and the task of survival seems almost impossible.
Looking for positives, we actually took the same number of points last season from the fixtures we have played so far (if Cardiff replace Swansea. We have -2 if they replace WBA or +1 for Stoke). Long winless streaks are part and parcel of a relegation battle and there is still plenty of time to turn things around. Our impressive start is cited as the reason we survived last season but we only actually won two of the first eight games. A trip to Burnley in between home games against Spurs and Liverpool suggest that it may be a while yet before we taste victory but a mere three points currently separate us from mid-table.
We have a young team and manager, with relatively little Premier League experience between them and the learning curve is steep. This offers plenty of scope for further development but it needs to happen quickly. Chairman Dean Hoyle has guaranteed that Wagner will keep his job regardless of what happens and this stability could give us an advantage over clubs with less patient boards. The head coach has performed miracles in his two and a half years at Huddersfield and deserves the chance to turn things around. And if he fails, the Championship is more entertaining anyway…