Huddersfield Town recorded one of the most famous victories in their history as they beat Manchester United on Saturday. They had failed to win a Premier League match since August and came into the weekend’s fixture as huge underdogs against Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten side. However, they played with passion and endeavour to earn the three points. It was their first victory over the most famous club in the country for 65 years. Although they haven’t met very often, this is a notable statistic and represents the latest chapter of the Terriers’ rise to the top.
There have been a number of key individuals in their recent success. Dean Hoyle has done an excellent job from the boardroom, while David Wagner has built a squad good enough to compete at the top of the English football pyramid. On the pitch, the team is greater than the sum of its parts, but the most important component is Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy.
The 27-year-old is a complete midfielder that is key both in and out of possession. He scored the first goal, which was well taken and displayed the threat he poses when he drives forward to support the striker. His movement is clever and he is composed when an opportunity presents itself. The Terriers’ number ten made one key pass and touched the ball on 48 occasions. This more than all but one of his team-mates, underlining how central he is to the team.
Mooy is a multi-functional midfielder and Huddersfield’s style of play relies on him playing well. Out of possession, he is a tireless worker who regularly presses the opposition team. Against Manchester United, he made four ball recoveries and made two clearances to aid the defensive effort. If there was only one word to describe his style, it would be tenacious and the same word is often used to describe the team as a whole. The 27-year-old often sets the tone for that.
His interesting path to the top
Aaron Mooy since moving to England in 2016, but it wasn’t his first experience of football in the UK. He was once on the books of Bolton Wanderers as a young player. Although he didn’t make an appearance for them, he wasn’t released and opted to leave the club, despite the offer of a contract renewal. The Australian wanted to play first-team football and that was the first example of his impressive mentality.
That came at St Mirren, as he made over 20 appearances for the Scottish club during a two-year spell above the border. He didn’t make a huge impact, but it would have been good experience for him and prepared him for British football ahead of his return years later. At the end of the 2011-12 season, he moved to his homeland to join Western Sydney Wanderers, before a spell with Melbourne City. It was there that he emerged as one of the best players in the A-League and was brought to the attention of Manchester City.
The City Football Group have a number of clubs under their charge and Mooy made a name for himself at Melboune City, which is the sister-club of Manchester City. During his final season in the A-League, he contributed 11 goals and 21 assists. It was clear that he was destined for greater things and although he didn’t play for City, the move did help his career. Brian Marwood, the club’s managing director of football services, raved about the midfielder at the time of his transfer to England.
“Aaron is an extremely talented player who possesses the attributes we hope to foster and encourage within the City Football Group,”
“Aaron’s move to Manchester allows us to further expose him to a high standard of opportunities to ensure his professional growth.”
It wasn’t a regular transfer designed to strengthen the buying club, as he was never likely to feature for Pep Guardiola’s side, but Marwood’s comments did turn out to be true. Mooy’s move to Manchester did lead to greater opportunities to grow, while the club benefitted in the long run when they made a significant profit 12-months later. Everybody was a winner.
He was then loaned out to Huddersfield Town and it was a move that went under the radar in the Championship. The focus was on the spending of Newcastle United and Aston Villa, but looking back now, Mooy was one of the signings of the summer. His impact was immediate and he emerged as one of the best players in the division over the course of the season.
During the 2016/17 season, his contribution of four goals and seven assists underplays his overall importance to Huddersfield’s promotion. The Australian averaged 2.21 chances created and 2.48 ball recoveries per ninety minutes. It is rare for a player to thrive both in and out of possession, but Mooy has done that during his time at the John Smith’s Stadium. Regular watchers of the Terriers will attest to his importance and that is why they had to sign him on a permanent basis during the summer.
The lack of interest from other teams surprised some, but there was only ever likely to be one destination for the midfielder and that was Huddersfield. David Wagner was quick to pay the £10 million required to sign Mooy. He had few doubts that he would adjust to the top-flight, as shown by the following quotes reported by the Examiner:
“Just like we showed we were good players and a good club in the Championship, now we have to do it at the higher level – and Aaron has everything, so I am totally sure he will do this.
”My expectation is that Aaron will be able to give our game the same stamp as he did last season. He has everything to do that.”
Wagner and the club had all the confidence in Mooy to make the step up. He has now repaid that with consistency in the top-flight. It will be a long season for Huddersfield and they will be fighting to survive first and foremost. Their start gives them a great chance of succeeding in that aim. Saturday was a warning to the rest of the league to take them seriously or suffer defeat as a result. The Australian international was the man-of-the-match and his career continues on an upward trajectory.
Is Bojan Krkic the perfect player for Gary Rowett to build Stoke City around?
The 27-year-old has been an outcast at the Bet365 Stadium.
As Gary Rowett continues to rebuild the Stoke City squad over the summer there will be plenty of speculation regarding who will be arriving and departing the Bet365 Stadium.
The Potters have already dipped into the transfer market by signing Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Benik Afobe whilst Egyptian starlet Ramadan Sobhi was sold to Huddersfield Town last week.
Xherdan Shaqiri, who is currently representing Switzerland at the World Cup in Russia, has confirmed that he will be leaving the club whilst, in contrast, Joe Allen has signed a new long-term contract to remain.
There are still plenty of question marks over current players. The likes of Jack Butland and Badou Ndiaye are expected to attract interest from Premier League clubs whilst the expensive pairing of Saido Berahino and Giannelli Imbula may not fit into Rowett’s plans but will be short of offers.
But what about Bojan Krkic?
The diminutive Spaniard was once one of the most promising young forwards in Europe after he rose through Barcelona’s prestigious La Masia academy system and made his first team debut at the age of 17.
He made over 100 appearances for the Catalan’s prior to loan spells with Ajax, AC Milan and Roma before eventually moving to Stoke in the summer of 2014.
Bojan has certainly made an impact at the Bet365 Stadium, particularly during his first two-and-a-half years with the club, but he fell out of favour under Mark Hughes and has spent the last eighteen months on loan in Germany and Spain.
At his best, the 27-year-old was a magician who produced moments of sublime skill and was a central creative influence in the team.
He was technically magnificent and would often glide across the pitch, weaving between defenders and was a genuine threat whenever he received the ball in the final third.
Bojan was one of only a handful of Stoke players from the last decade that would bring supporters to the edge of their seats in anticipation and expectation when he was in possession.
For anyone who requires a reminder of what the forward can do, simply look up his solo goal against Tottenham Hotspur form 2014.
Much has been made of his injury in January 2015. The Spaniard suffered severe knee damage in an FA Cup tie at Rochdale that meant that he was out of action for the remainder of the season and the common narrative is that he was never the same upon his return.
However, this storyline is incorrect. In fact, Bojan was at his peak over the Christmas period in 2015 when he was the centre of Stoke’s attacking trident which also included Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic.
Such was the effectiveness of the trio that The Potters picked up the nickname of ‘Stoke-a-lona’ in reference to their attacking brand of football.
So where did it all go wrong for him?
He fell out of favour with Mark Hughes and, after being dropped from the starting line-up, was never able to regain his position as Stoke City’s creative hub.
The Spaniard subsequently has spent the past eighteen months on loan with Mainz and Las Palmas but has struggled to make any significant impact either in Germany or Spain.
In many respects, Bojan’s stock has never been lower. He has fallen off the radar somewhat in the past year and it appears that any hopes that he may have had of returning to a prominent European club are all but over.
However, this opens up a potential return to Stoke despite their relegation to The Championship.
Last season The Potters were desperately short of creativity and goals – something that Bojan can provide.
The Spaniard man be the perfect figure for Gary Rowett to build his new look team around.
Joe Allen and Oghenekaro Etebo will provide defensive security and energy in the centre of midfield whilst Benik Afobe will make be the focal point in the final third.
Bojan could be the perfect link player if deployed as a number ten and you would imagine that he would be more than capable of causing chaos amongst defences in The Championship.
There is, of course, the question of whether the 27-year-old would be prepared to play in the second tier of English football, although Allen’s decision to sign a new contract and remain at Stoke would suggest that Rowett is capable of being persuasive.
If Stoke are serious about challenging for promotion, then keeping Bojan and reigniting his career at the Bet365 Stadium would be a serious statement of intent.
Jack Wilshere is West Ham’s most realistic midfield target this summer
The 26-year-old seems the best option for Manuel Pellegrini at the moment.
Manuel Pellegrini has seemingly put signing a new midfielder high on his list of priorities this summer, having been linked with some stellar names, but is Jack Wilshere (Sky Sports) his most realistic target?
The Chilean has expressed his desire to get the Hammers playing attacking and progressive football again next term, and views a quality midfield addition as vital in achieving this.
Initially, the suggestion was made that Pellegrini would attempt to move for two-time Premier League winner Yaya Toure (the Telegraph), before stories broke claiming his interest in Paris Saint-Germain’s Javier Pastore (Sky Sports).
However, talks for both have stalled, with Toure’s preference to join a top-six side (Sport 24) and Pastore’s reported wage demands of £190,000-a-week (Sky Sports) to leave the French capital, with it now looking more likely Roma will land the 29-year-old’s signature.
Wilshere would employ the tactics Pellegrini is after and would instantly inject technical quality into the current functional midfield trio of Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate and Pedro Obiang. His ability to carry the ball past defensive counterparts and to spot a final pass would add extra dimensions to the Hammers’ play, and at the age of 26 he could still have his best years ahead.
The ex-Bournemouth man has revealed he will not sign a contract extension at Arsenal with his contract set to expire imminently, meaning Pellegrini could land his signature on a free.
Tottenham should elevate reported interest in Leicester City protege Demari Gray
The 21-year-old could become a superstar if nurtured properly.
Tottenham Hotspur were reportedly interested in the possibility of signing Leicester City‘s attacking protege Demari Gray a few months back, according to reports from ESPN. And after a fruitless period in the search for attacking reinforcements, Mauricio Pochettino should revive his interest in sorting a deal.
Gray contributed four goals and three assists in 30 Premier League appearances last term, and is currently the captain of the England U21 squad. But he is likely to evaluate his future with the Foxes this summer, due to his lack of regular game-time. And Tottenham seems a great fit for the winger.
Spurs have pursued multiple attacking targets since the window commenced, without gathering any real traction on any of their targets, and it seems Pochettino – for once – is more concerned with making a marquee signing, than bringing in a player with the scope to develop and grow into a top player at White Hart Lane.
Talks for Anthony Martial, Christian Pulisic and Ivan Perisic have all stalled in recent times, and a move for the Leicester City man could be just the ticket for Spurs. He brings all the attributes they’re currently looking for; blistering pace, exceptional balance, end product, a cool head and notably the ability to hit an absolute cracker if awarded space.
If he reaches his peak under the guidance of Pochettino, which is more likely than not given his immense talent, the player could double in market-value and could become a key player for the Lilywhites for years to come.