F365’s early losers: Huddersfield and January desperation

during the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United at John Smith's Stadium on December 15, 2018 in Huddersfield, United Kingdom.

“Why do you think performances so far have been better than results?”

It might just be the easiest question Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner will ever face.

“Because we didn’t score enough and we conceded too many! This is very easy.”

A second’s pause and then the rest of the answer came: “And we have been unlucky in a lot of situations as well. These are the three very easy explanations.”

How very bloody predictable and dull, then, that Saturday brought exactly the same story. No goals scored, one goal conceded (which counts as ‘too many’ when you simply cannot score goals) and a large slick of bad luck in Jamaal Lascelles remaining on the pitch after a thigh-high challenge on Laurent Depoitre.

In truth, the bad luck had begun in midweek with the loss of midfielders Aaron Mooy and Danny Williams, forcing David Wagner to turn to Juninho Bacuna for the first time in the Premier League. It feels like the improbable is fast becoming the impossible for Town, who cannot hope to survive for a third successive top-flight season unless serious reinforcements arrive in January.

Town have scored ten goals in 17 Premier League games, with no Terriers striker scoring in the Premier League this season. Neither Depoitre nor the suspended Steve Mounie has the quality to match the pressing and movement from elsewhere in this talented Town side. They have a Premier League defence and midfield being hampered by a Championship strikeforce; that usually only ends one way.

Against their fellow strugglers they dominated both ball and territory but Rafa Benitez has created this Newcastle side for exactly these occasions. They were happy to soak and soak and soak before countering and taking one of their few chances. For all the valid moans of Newcastle fans, they do have a striker who can score vital goals, and those vital goals have helped claim seven points for the Magpies this season. Those seven points take them six points clear of Huddersfield, who now look a little too comfortable in the relegation zone.

A home clash against a fellow member of the sh*t seven was supposed to offer an opportunity, but this is not a Town side equipped to take such an opportunity. Doors remain on their hinges because they are hammering with an inflatable tool. The challenge is now on to remain in touch with survival and then bring in at least one striker in January, with Brentford’s Neal Maupay and Liverpool’s Dominic Solanke among those mentioned. The bald truth is that the current squad will not survive.

There has to be change. The vast majority of fans would not want that change to come in the dug-out – that the Terriers are here at all is a miracle that has not yet expired as a reason for patience, while their established style is not one that could or should be turned on its head for a new manager – but it does have to come in terms of personnel. Doing the same thing over and over again with the same players is a guaranteed route to relegation.

There are three very easy explanations for Huddersfield Town’s struggles. And one of them can be answered in January.

Sarah Winterburn