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Huddersfield Town

Wagner’s tactics secure historic Premier League victory for Mooy-inspired Huddersfield Town

Alexis Monteith



Huddersfield Town

Newly-promoted Huddersfield Town played their first home game ever in the Premier League last Saturday at the John Smith’s Stadium. For such a momentous occasion their one-nil victory over Newcastle was the perfect result. David Wagner’s game plan, while not as spectacular as the occasion might have demanded, was effective in securing a morale-boosting win.

The pressing game that has become a feature of Huddersfield’s tactics under the tutelage of their German coach was evident from the start of the match. It was a high intensity affair with the Terriers constantly pressing Newcastle high up the field in their own half. The results were encouraging as they were able to regularly win back possession, keeping Newcastle on the defensive for most of the first half.

When building play from their defensive third, however, Huddersfield took a very cautious approach in contrast to the frenetic pace of their pressing. Aaron Mooy, who had a fantastic game, would come back into defence along with his midfield teammates, to assist the defenders in playing out from the back.

With more players coming deep, the attacks moved at a slower rate, with fewer Huddersfield players available higher up the pitch to receive passes. The primary objective of this strategy was to assist the defenders in retaining possession during the critical initial stages of build up.

Whenever the passing encountered resistance from Newcastle, Huddersfield did not hesitate to shift the ball backwards, before restarting their probing.

Wagner’s strategy may not have been as exciting as the atmosphere in the stands but it accomplished its objectives, as both the high pressing and the careful build-up play kept Newcastle away from the Huddersfield goal for most of the first half.

Perhaps the most important revelation of the game was how important midfielder Aaron Mooy will be in the execution of Wagner’s tactics, particularly at this higher level of competition at which Huddersfield now find themselves. Mooy put in a sterling performance in both attack and defence, never straying far from the play.

He was the key component in Huddersfield’s build-ups from the defensive third, coming deep to assist the defenders and distribute the ball from the back. In attack he would be found high up the pitch, lending his intelligence and superior passing to the combination play.

Mooy’s presence all over the field was vital in maintaining the coherence of Huddersfield’s attacks with his efficient ball distribution.  In the end he proved that he can do more than just support the attackers, scoring the game’s only goal early in the second half. It was a spectacular shot from the edge of the box preceded by a one-two with Elias Kachunga.

The 26-year-old’s vital role in the team, which was plainly evident on the weekend, raises the question of whether or not the Terriers can produce similarly successful team performances without him. He was critical in defence, attack and set pieces and for the moment it would appear that there is no one in the side to match his all-round prowess. This may become an issue as the season progresses.

Mooy’s goal early in the second half spurred Newcastle into life and Rafa Benitez’ men made more progress attacking the Huddersfield goal. However, they were unable to convert their opportunities as Huddersfield were forced to change their strategy and defend deep.

Huddersfield showed that they are a versatile team, able to defend high or in a low block and switch from high paced attacks – for which they have become well known – to a more cautious style.

Despite this laudable adaptability to circumstances, it was still clear that Huddersfield are not at the same level as the more established teams in the league. While they defended high and enjoyed more of the ball than their opponents, particularly in the first half, they were still unable to produce many clear-cut chances on goal and Newcastle were able to contain their attackers with relative ease.

In the second half Huddersfield were obviously in an intense struggle to keep their fellow newly-promoted team at bay, with Newcastle getting into dangerous positions and creating more opportunities. David Wagner’s tactics paid off against the Magpies and they were able to take advantage of one of the few chances that were hard to come by, while keeping a clean sheet.

Nonetheless, Wagner will be well aware that his team’s two victories from their first two Premier League games have come from Crystal Palace and Newcastle, both of whom may be considered as low-level opposition in the Premier League.

Huddersfield will have to not only maintain the intensity and tactical flexibility they demonstrated against Newcastle, but improve upon it, if they are to get something from their games against better opposition.

They will also be hoping that Aaron Mooy maintains his fitness and is able to feature throughout the season. His superior talent in both attack and defence is critical to the success of any strategy they choose to employ in the games to come.

Many Huddersfield and neutral fans may have the urge to start drawing comparisons with Leicester City’s successful Premier League title run two seasons ago. However, while Leicester’s tactics were unstoppable for many opponents, both weak and strong, Huddersfield have shown more vulnerability than the Foxes, even though Wagner’s tactics have been spot on so far.

Huddersfield may have an outstanding player in the form of Aaron Mooy, but Leicester’s title-winning team had more talent in the form of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante, as well as several others, who were outstanding in their various roles. 

At the moment  Huddersfield Town should be congratulating themselves without getting too carried away.

David Wagner’s tactical mix of caution, aggression and flexibility did the job against Newcastle, but he will need more of this kind of adaptability to his opposition for the entirety of the season.

His players must also maintain the same intensity and discipline for every game if they are to survive their first year in the Premier League against more established teams.

I'm a Manchester City and Inter fan writing about European football but my interest also extends to the United States and Major League Soccer.


Three talking points as Chelsea brushed aside Huddersfield Town

Rob Meech



Chelsea bounced back from their surprise defeat to West Ham United with a comfortable victory over Huddersfield Town. The Blues totally dominated at the John Smith’s Stadium and the result never looked in doubt once Tiemoue Bakayoko had given them a 23rd-minute lead.

Willian doubled their advantage before Pedro added a third goal, five minutes into the second half. The Terriers grabbed a consolation through Laurent Depoitre with the last kick of the game, but the gulf in class was evident on a rain-soaked evening in Yorkshire.

Chelsea’s win brought them level on points with second-placed Manchester United, at least temporarily, while Huddersfield’s defeat was their fifth in their past six Premier League matches. Here are three talking points.

Antonio Conte’s players deliver the perfect riposte 

This was a fixture that had all the characteristics of an upset. The weather was dreadful, with rain falling heavily throughout. Given the way the Terriers had recently pushed Manchester City all the way, not to mention seeing off Manchester United on home turf earlier in the campaign, many tuned into BT Sport thinking the Blues would find things difficult.

It didn’t materialise. Chelsea were in command from the first whistle and the only surprise was that it took them until the 23rd minute to break the deadlock. After their defeat to West Ham, this was just the response boss Antonio Conte would have wanted from his players.

They dictated the tempo of the game and never allowed Huddersfield – or their supporters – an opportunity to stamp their authority on the contest. The fluid movement of Chelsea’s front three caused the Terriers plenty of problems and led to individual mistakes, with one such error leading to Bakayoko’s opener.

Alarm bells are ringing for Huddersfield

Anything other than defeat would have been a bonus for David Wagner’s side, who had set up to frustrate the visitors. By beating Brighton & Hove Albion three days earlier, they have given themselves breathing space in the battle to avoid relegation. But the Terriers cannot afford to be complacent.

Although their current position may look relatively safe, a run of five defeats in six games, as well as a vastly inferior goal difference, suggests there could be worrying times ahead. Against the two Manchester clubs, Huddersfield made life difficult for their opponents. But they were far too passive against Chelsea.

Perhaps it is understandable that Wagner wants his players to conserve their energy for fixtures against clubs with whom they are battling for survival. But the home fans surely would have expected a more positive approach.

Is Michy Batshuayi surplus to requirements?

With Alvaro Morata suffering from a back complaint and rested for this match, Michy Batshuayi must have thought he would be handed a rare opportunity to impress from the start. Tellingly though, Chelsea boss Conte opted for a front three of Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro, with no out-and-out striker.

This would have been a huge kick in the teeth to the Belgian marksman, who has failed to establish himself since joining the west London outfit from Marseille in the summer of 2016. Last season, he was forced to play second fiddle to Diego Costa, while now he is behind Morata in the pecking order.

Batshuayi has enjoyed success from the bench; famously he netted the goal that confirmed Chelsea as title winners in the previous campaign. This latest snub must be further evidence that Conte does not see Batshuayi as part of his long-term plans and there is speculation the Italian might be willing to allow him to go out on loan in January.

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Three talking points from Arsenal’s demolition of Huddersfield Town

Rob Meech



Arsenal recorded their third consecutive Premier League victory as they outclassed Huddersfield Town at the Emirates. It took the hosts only three minutes to break the deadlock through Alexandre Lacazette, but it was in the second half that the floodgates truly opened.

Olivier Giroud (two), Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil all added to the scoreline in the final 22 minutes of a one-sided affair that will have deflated the travelling Terriers fans. After a troubling start to the season, the fourth-placed Gunners look to be back to their free-flowing best, while Huddersfield’s third defeat on the bounce leaves them in 14th position. Here are three talking points.

Crisis, what crisis? Arsenal are back to their old selves

Barely a game goes by without Arsene Wenger’s managership of Arsenal being questioned in some quarters. But the level-headed Frenchman has navigated his way through the storm and now appears to have steered his squad into calmer waters. With speculation over the future of Ozil and Sanchez having settled down, Wenger’s charges are playing with confidence and suddenly look like the Arsenal of old.

The Emirates has been a fortress for the Gunners this season – they have yet to drop a single point there. Arsenal often flatter to deceive and capitulate when the going gets tough. Who knows what will happen over the winter months? Tougher tests await them for sure, but when they breeze past opponents in this manner, you wonder why it goes spectacularly wrong so often.

Huddersfield outgunned once more on their travels

Huddersfield’s campaign will not be defined by results such as this, but they shouldn’t be written off as inconsequential. All defeats have ramifications and confidence will be eroded quickly if they continue. While they remain competitive at home – as they proved by pushing Manchester City all the way last weekend – they look toothless on their travels. Indeed, the Terriers haven’t scored away from the John Smith’s Stadium since August but have conceded nine goals without reply in their past two trips.

No team can rely solely on results at home to survive. For all the plaudits Huddersfield have rightly received for their enterprising start since being promoted from the Championship, they now find themselves only five points clear of the drop-zone. David Wagner has his work cut out to arrest the slide.

Super-sub Giroud is proving his worth

There was speculation in the summer that Giroud would be on his way out of the Emirates following the arrival of his countryman Lacazette. Giroud has spent more time on the substitutes’ bench this season than he would have liked, but when he has been given an opportunity, invariably he has taken it. The 31-year-old’s two goals against Huddersfield took his tally for the season to five – the same number as Sanchez but at a much quicker rate.

With Lacazette potentially sidelined for a prolonged spell after picking up a groin injury, Giroud may well find himself promoted to the starting line-up for a crucial period of the campaign. He gets a rough ride from certain sections of the Arsenal faithful, but has netted more than 100 goals for the club in all competitions. The Gunners rely on him more than some supporters may believe.

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Huddersfield Town

Three talking points as Manchester City battled to victory over Huddersfield Town



Manchester City

Manchester City restored their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League table as they came from behind to see off a spirited Huddersfield Town at the John Smiths’ Stadium on Sunday evening.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the play from the start, having over 75% possession in the first-half alone, but despite their endeavours in the final third it was the hosts who took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Nicolas Otamendi inadvertently diverted a corner past goalkeeper Ederson.

It didn’t take long for the visitors to level things up after the break though, with Sergio Aguero slotting home from the spot after Raheem Sterling was hauled down in the box by Scott Malone.

It seemed like a dogged Huddersfield rear-guard display might hold on for a point until Sterling’s fortunate strike in the 84th minute sealed it, restoring Manchester City’s eight-point lead at the top.

City find a new way to win

After thrashing Liverpool, convincingly seeing off Arsenal and brushing away the likes of Stoke City and Crystal Palace this season, it’s fair to say that Manchester City have been rampant to this point.

Sunday’s victory over Huddersfield was a stark contrast to any of those that had preceded it, with Guardiola’s side having to find a new way to win to break down their disciplined opponents.

There was still a large amount of flair on show throughout the match, with David Silva providing some intricate one-touch football at times and Leroy Sane’s free-kick cannoning back off the crossbar, and Guardiola ensured his side’s expansive passing style didn’t falter as they searched for a winner.

It was the tenacity of the Citizens that eventually broke Huddersfield down – albeit with huge slice of luck – and they managed to do what rivals Manchester United couldn’t and win at Huddersfield, and you could see from Guardiola’s reaction at full-time that he knew this could be a massive three points.

They always say that it’s winning these types of matches that provide a test of a team’s title credentials, and it’s the first time City have come from behind at half-time to win since April 1995.

With an eight-point lead opened back up over Manchester United at the top, and with the matches starting to come thick and fast, it’s not outlandish to say it’s already City’s title to lose this season.

Determined Huddersfield fall just short

But whilst Manchester City will no doubt be buoyant over their latest victory, spare a thought for Huddersfield who came mightily close to securing more points against the Premier League big boys.

There may have been a £322.6m difference in the costs of the starting line-ups on Sunday but the Terriers weren’t in awe of their opponents, and nobody would have begrudged them a valiant point.

For all of the possession that City had (79%) at the John Smiths’ Stadium they still only mustered four shots on target such was the hosts’ outstanding defensive display, and credit goes to boss David Wagner for picking his team up after their demoralising 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth in their last outing.

The hosts had learnt their lesson from the gung-ho approach against Tottenham, instead sitting deep and allowing City to come into their half of the field, yet the way that their midfield and defence remained compact didn’t allow the likes of Kevin de Bruyne the time to conjure up magic on the ball.

Whilst the result didn’t go their way it was a display that served to show that Huddersfield belong in the Premier League and they should have enough character and the necessary work ethic to survive.

Sterling continues to underline his importance

If you’d have told any Manchester City fan before the start of the season that Raheem Sterling would be the first name on Pep Guardiola’s team sheet each week they would have laughed it off.

Yet, after a somewhat stuttering start to his time at the Etihad, the 22-year-old has come into his own this campaign and he once again made the definitive impact six minutes from time yesterday.

There’s no doubt that there was an element of fortune about it, with Jonas Lossl’s save deflecting off Sterling and nestling into corner of the net in slow-motion, but it was Sterling’s determined run towards the penalty spot – the sort he had been doing all match – that perhaps merited a bit of luck.

It signalled his eighth Premier League goal of the season in just 13 appearances, already bettering last year’s tally (seven in 33 games), and it goes to show just how indispensable Sterling has become.

During the 90 minutes he made the joint-most dribbles (seven) and crosses (three), working tirelessly to try and engineer a chance for his side, and it was his burst into the box that drew the challenge for Aguero’s equaliser – the third time in three games that he’s won a penalty for his side.

All of a sudden it seems that Sterling has got his attitude right – most likely helped by Guardiola’s influence – and the pattern lately seems to be that when he plays well, City generally do too.

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