Premier League Preview: Huddersfield Town

Staying in the Premier League was viewed as an insurmountable task for the Terriers before they had even kicked a ball last season, and despite silencing their doubters by finishing 16th with minimal threat of relegation, David Wagner’s side are once more amongst those tipped to struggle. It is likely that progression in the cup competitions will again have to be sacrificed for the Terriers to retain their Premier League status, although this is unlikely to bother many of their fans. However, this will be an almost impossible task if improvements are not made in front of goal. Last season, Huddersfield registered just 28 goals, the joint lowest total of a side that stayed up in the Premier League era. A repeat of this and David Wagner’s side will more than likely be returning to the second tier.


SUMMER BUSINESS

Huddersfield put their transfer plans into action early, securing permanent deals for several of last season’s loan players. Goalkeeper Jonas Lossl and right-back Florent Hadergjonaj both returned for respectable fees from German clubs Mainz and Ingolstadt respectively. Terence Kongolo is also back at the John Smith Stadium, signed for a club record £20million after impressing on loan from Monaco in the second half of the 2017-18 season. Attempts have been made to correct the lack of a cutting edge in the forward departments with the arrival of 22-year-old striker Adama Diakhaby for £10million, also from Monaco of France. Elsewhere on the pitch, Egyptian winger Ramadan Sobhi has been snapped up from relegated Stoke City and World Cup winner Erik Durm joined on a free transfer from Wagner’s former employers, Borussia Dortmund. Juninho Bacuna, brother of Reading’s Leandro, made a £2.5million move from Groningen to add creativity in the middle of the park. What may prove fatal, though, are the departures of two key players from recent seasons. Tom Ince left for Stoke, with the Potters paying £11.2million for his services and, left-back, Scott Malone departed for Derby County. The one saving-grace, however, was the deadline day loan signing of Montpellier’s Isaac Mbenza. The right winger is seen as a direct replacement for the departing Ince.


KEY PLAYER – AARON MOOY

Huddersfield’s squad remains without many established Premier League stars, but they still have one player with an enormous amount of talent that has the potential to remain in the league even if the Terriers are relegated. Australian central midfielder Aaron Mooy has certainly made a name for himself since joining the club in 2016, initially on loan. The former Melbourne City playmaker scored four goals and set up a further three for his teammates during their debut Premier League season, contributing to 25% of the team’s total number of goals. Thus, Mooy’s importance to the cause is clear to see, and keeping hold of him this summer is as important as any new signings that have been made. The arrival of Bacuna will allow for the Australian to be deployed in a deeper role, where he can exhibit his defensive capabilities. Mooy made 102 tackles and 48 clearances last season and showed his discipline too, picking up just five bookings, despite featuring in all 38 league games.


MANAGER – DAVID WAGNER

David Wagner resides in one of the most stable jobs in the country, despite the impending relegation battle that many expect his side to face. This is due to the remarkable job that the German-born manager has done since being appointed to the role in November 2015. At the time of his appointment, the Terriers were mired in a relegation battle at the foot of the Championship table, but 18 months later he had guided them into the Premier League via the play-offs. Ending their first season clear of the drop zone was almost as big an achievement as getting up in the first place. In the past, the former USA international has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation but has hinted that he plans to switch to a more defensive style of play ahead of the new season to get the most out of his players and enhance his side’s chances of survival.


PREDICTION – 19TH

Once again, Huddersfield are the pick of most pundits for a return to the second tier, despite beating the drop last term, and it looks perhaps even more likely than it did 12 months ago. The main reason for this being their abysmal record in front of goal. A solid defence will only get the side so far but with the sale of Malone leaving just one senior left-back at the club in the form of Chris Lowe. In addition, the decision to bring in an attacking midfield player over a defensive one will limit the offensive role of main man Mooy, rather than enhancing it. Therefore, unless their fellow strugglers from last season perform below expectations again, it looks likely to be a long season for Huddersfield’s supporters. However, if new signing Adama Diakhaby can adapt to Premier League football quickly and start scoring goals early then the Terriers may be in with a fighting chance in return for the £10million spent on the forward.


PROBABLE LINE-UP

Huddersfield Town 4-2-3-1 football formation

Sub-edited by Sam Cox

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