Huddersfield Town Season Preview: Wagner the miracle-worker

With the 2018-19 Premier League season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to Huddersfield Town fan Will Harris (@TheTownBible).

Given that last season was your first in the top flight since 1971-72, it seems impressive that survival was achieved before the final day. A memorable year?

Absolutely – not many Town fans thought we’d get the necessary points against Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal in our last 3 games, so to do it before the last game was remarkable. There were highs and lows, but ultimately we survived, now it is time to kick on again…

The major news this summer is that head coach David Wagner has signed a new deal, until the summer of 2021. What do you feel he has done to transform the club?

It is hard to describe how much he has done for us. As soon as he came in he brought a fresh energy which brought a feel good factor back to the club. We knew what he was trying to do and knew that something good was on the horizon, but we didn’t think we’d see a promotion so soon. To do what he has on a small budget shows he is one of the best coaches in England, he didn’t need to splash the cash to get results.
This article by Melissa Reddy is absolutely brilliant.

Last season, baring Ederson Moraes, there might not have been too many Premier League goalkeepers who offered better distribution than Jonas Lossl. How do you rate him as a shot-stopper?

I am a huge fan of Lossl, his distribution is excellent and he kept us in many games with saves that didn’t look possible (Chelsea away being one of them). We have brought in Ben Hamer as our second choice goalkeeper for this year who has looked very good so far, which will keep Jonas on his toes I’m sure.

You’ve signed Terence Kongolo after an impressive loan spell. Could Mathias Jorgensen or Christopher Schindler’s place come under threat, or might you go three-at-the-back?

I think for the so-called ‘winnable’ games we will play a back-four of Florent Hadergjonaj, Jorgensen, Schindler and Kongolo. Then, against the bigger teams, we will probably play five at the back: Hadergjonaj, Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo and either Erik Durm or Chris Loewe. The latter worked well towards the end of last season against the top teams.

From the outside, Florent Hadergjonaj and Chris Loewe appeared a tad suspect defensively last season. Are you glad to have signed a full-back with Champions League pedigree in Erik Durm?

It is certainly an exciting signing – he is very injury prone which makes me think he won’t play week in week out. Hadergjonaj and Loewe offer a lot going forward, although I would imagine Kongolo, who is much stronger defensively, will start at left back in a back-four.

Aaron Mooy dictated the tempo of games almost every week in the Championship. Would you say he’s found it harder to do that on such a consistent basis since promotion?

He had a poor spell in the middle of last season, but ended the season extremely well and his upturn in form was key to us surviving. Obviously he found it harder coming up against stronger opposition but he is still irreplaceable in our team at the moment.

Neither Mooy nor Jonathan Hogg, you’d necessarily describe as a box-to-box midfielder. Are you hoping Juninho Bacuna might offer something different?

I can’t see Bacuna coming in as a starter to be honest. Abdelhamid Sabiri is one to watch this year, he has worked tremendously hard in pre-season and has looked like one of our best players, so I am excited to see what he offers.

Alex Pritchard has looked sharp in pre-season. Are you excited to see what he can do?

Pritchard has probably been the stand out performer pre-season and has looked a class above. He showed glimpses of what he can do in the second half of last season; expecting big things from him this year.

Rajiv Van La Parra and new signing Ramadan Sobhi are two quick left-wingers. However, do you need one of them to improve their productivity?

VLP is certainly a quick winger. Ideally VLP would improve his productivity, but he offers a lot more to the team than this. Sobhi doesn’t strike me as quick from when I have seen him play, but with VLP, Elias Kachunga and Adama Diakhaby as our other three wingers, it makes sense to have something different.

Elias Kachunga has played as a striker for some of his career. How do you feel he’s done on the right wing?

He was amazing in our promotion season, but was plagued with injuries last year which didn’t give him much of a chance to shine, he will be like a new signing on the right wing this year!

You failed to score 21 times last season; more than anyone in the Premier League. Has the club taken a gamble in adding Adama Diakhaby, who has only scored six career goals, or do you trust Steve Mounie and Laurent Depoitre to improve?

Diakhaby will come in as a winger – Mounie and Depoitre were actually pretty efficient when given the chances. If the service to these two can improve then they could each get 10+ goals easily.

Terriers aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the Premier League season as a whole? How do you assess your competitors?

I think the league will be a lot tougher this year, with Wolves and Fulham coming up and spending big. I predict City to run away with the league again, Wolves to be top 10 and Cardiff and Bournemouth to go down. Harry Kane to be top goalscorer.

Where will you finish?

17th (and I’d take that happily!)

The Football Lab’s Verdict

The tenacious spirit remains at Huddersfield Town, evidenced by the gutsy defensive displays that secured survival; Jonas Lossl and Christopher Schindler should build on positive campaigns. As an attacking entity however, they have been slightly disappointing since promotion; a possible lack of quality in forward and wide areas could leave them relying on Aaron Mooy for control and Alex Pritchard for creativity. While David Wagner is around though, the togetherness might give them the edge in a dogfight. 17th