Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Having made it back to the top tier of English football for the time since the early 1970s last season, Huddersfield Town achieved their target of Premier League survival in their first year back at the highest level of the country’s domestic pyramid – though the Terriers left it late.
A 1-1 draw away at Chelsea on the penultimate weekend of the season handed Huddersfield the point they needed to confirm their Premiership status for another year.
Now that the dust has settled somewhat on Town’s euphoric relegation escape, an objective analysis on the second half of their season throws up some very worrying numbers for Huddersfield supporters.
The Terriers won just three of their last twenty Premier League fixtures in total, picking up just sixteen points from the last sixty available in all. That concerning sequence of results included a return of just one win from their final ten matches.
Nevertheless, had you offered Huddersfield a guarantee of 2017/18 Premier League survival with a game to play this time last year, they’d have bitten your hand off. In fact, they would probably jump at the chance to accept the same offer now.
With a positive platform to build on, the Terriers have been busy in the transfer market, taking gambles on a raft of youthful players in a bid to drag the overall quality of their squad up a level.
Even with extensive changes to their personnel, the target remains the same for Huddersfield again this season. Premier League survival, whenever and however it’s secured, would be seen as another incredibly successful campaign at The John Smith’s Stadium.
Position last season: 16th
Top scorer: Steve Mounie – 7 goals.
Ben Hamer – Leicester (Free)
Terence Kongolo – Monaco (£20m)
Ramadan Sobhi – Stoke (£6.5m)
Juninho Bacuna – Groningen (£2.5m)
Florent Hadergjonaj – Ingolstadt (£5m)
Jonas Lossl – Mainz (£2.5m)
Erik Durm – Borussia Dortmund (Free)
Adama Diakhaby – Monaco (£10m)
Dean Whitehead – Retired
Robert Green – Chelsea (Free)
Jack Boyle – Released
Denilson Carvalho – Released
Dylan Cogill – Released
Luca Colville – Released
Cameron Taylor – Released
Jack Payne – Bradford City (On Loan)
Sean Scannell – Bradford City (Undisclosed)
Tareiq Holmes-Dennis – Bristol Rovers (Undisclosed)
Tom Ince – Stoke City (£10m)
Joel Coleman – Shrewsbury (On Loan)
Player to Watch
Huddersfield will hope that 20-year old Dutch midfielder Juninho Bacuna lives up to the early promise he has shown in his fledgling career so far. The Dutch U21 international played as a deep lying playmaker for his former club Groningen, having made his debut for the Eredivisie side as a 17-year old.
Named as one of Football-Oranje’s top 10 Dutch wonderkids last year, Bacuna combines a delicate touch with an eye for a defence splitting pass. Juninho is the younger brother of Reading player Leandro Bacuna, who had a short stint in the Premier League with former club Aston Villa before signing for the Royals in 2017.
The Season Ahead
Huddersfield’s lack of firepower could be crippling
Huddersfield were the joint lowest scorers in the Premier League last season alongside relegated Swansea City. The Terriers hit the net just 28 times in total, averaging 0.7 goals per ninety minutes of league action.
Although survival was eventually achieved in the closing weeks of the season, Huddersfield failed to score in 7 of their last 10 Premier League fixtures and over their entire campaign, they registered fewer average shots on target per game (2.9) than any other side in the division bar Swansea.
Their leading marksman for the year, Steve Mounie managed to score just 7 times in total in 2017/18, further emphasising Huddersfield drastic problems in attacking areas.
From the outside at least, it looks as though Huddersfield have done little to address their glaring inadequacy in the final third.
Wingers Adama Diakhaby and Ramadan Sobhi have been added to the squad by David Wanger, though both players will be expected to contribute to the team’s creativity rather than add weight to the team’s goalscoring output.
Hudderfield’s paucity of attacking options means that at best they face another campaign of frustration in front of goal. At worst, their lack of cutting edge could result in relegation.
Strong defensive foundations
Last season, Huddersfield’s attacking deficiencies were masked by their excellence in defence, and the Terriers have been making strides this summer to add depth to their strength at the back.
Only 7 teams allowed fewer few shots on their goal per game on average than Huddersfield last season – a remarkable statistic considering the Terrier’s final overall league position.
Furthermore, Huddersfield made more tackle per game on average (19.6) than any other team in the division. They also ranked second for average interceptions made (13.7), finishing slightly behind the interception experts Crystal Palace.
Central to their success and their defence, was the partnership of Christopher Schindler & Zanka, a duo that appeared in all but 1 of Huddersfield’s Premier League fixtures last season. Goalkeeper Jonas Lossl was another ever present for the Terriers, completing a reliable, consistent defensive triumvirate for Huddersfield.
Huddersfield will need all three to stay fit and focussed this season if the Terriers are to make a concerted bid for survival again.
Huddersfield trusting in youth
Huddersfield Town have opted to invest in youth this summer, signing 6 outfield players whose combined average age is just 22.6. Their investments may have been out of necessity rather than design however, with prices for more established, experienced players skyrocketing beyond Huddersfield’s reach.
Banking on younger players realising their potential is always a risk, but the flip side of that is the possibility that any one of those kids could shed the moodiness of adolescence to develop rapidly into a footballing superstar.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Huddersfield would have ideally liked to add a ready-made player or two to make a more immediate impact on their season.
Huddersfield are one of the bookmaker’s favourites for relegation for a reason. Their squad looks desperately short in attack in terms of overall quality and depth. Their surety in defence can only mask their problems at the other end for so long. It might be a worn out football adage, but goals really do win games and Huddersfield simply do not score enough of them. Relegation and a return to the Championship looks likely.
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