This is our fix up look sharp series, which will look to profile a selection of Premier League teams for their FPL potential. We’ll give some key info on the players, talk about their first five fixtures and pick out five key individuals from that side, then offer a verdict on them at the end.
In this article, our go-to Huddersfield expert on the Twittersphere, Denny Ledger (@denny_ledger) runs the rule over Hudderfield’s FPL chances for next season.
It’s been a long 45 years for the blue and white half of West Yorkshire.
After successfully winning the league three years in succession (as recently as 1923/24, 1924/25, 1925/26!) and the F.A. Cup (1922!), and being in and around the top tier for another few decades, the 70s saw the start of a dramatic decline in fortunes, culminating in the club reaching the basement tier of the English football league and, eventually, going into administration.
Things finally started to look up when local business man “made good”, Dean Hoyle (a lifelong Terriers fan), took over as chairman in 2009. A return to the Championship came via an 8-7 penalty shoot-out win in 2012, but, after four seasons of barely keeping afloat in the second tier, Hoyle decided it was a time for a change following the departure of Chris Powell in November 2015.
In came an injection of radical thinking, as German-American David Wagner, who had been team coach of Borussia Dortmund II, mirrored the journey to England of his best friend (and former coach of the Dortmund first team), Jurgen Klopp, by taking the reins at the Terriers. Suffice to say, it turned a few heads.
Installing his gegenpressing style, the impact was immediate in terms of how the team played, if a bit slow to translate into real results. It’s fair to say a 19th place finish in the 15/16 season was hardly ground breaking, yet survival wasn’t the main goal for his first six months in charge. Moreover, it was a case of seeing if the club could make his style their own.
Last summer brought a turnover of playing staff, with 13 leaving and the same number coming in, including new record transfer Christopher Schindler for £1.8 million from 1860 Munich. Also from Germany came defenders Chris Lowe, Jon Gorenc Stankovic, Michael Hefele and the forward Elias Kachunga. Joining on loan were Liverpool keeper Danny Ward, Chelsea’s Kasey Palmer (followed by Izzy Brown in the January window) and (then) newly-acquired Manchester City midfielder Aaron Mooy.
The new look team, tipped for relegation by Ian Holloway before the season, took the league by storm, remaining within the top ten the whole campaign. After narrowly missing out on automatic promotion, it was penalty shoot outs against Sheffield Wednesday and then Reading that took them back to the top tier of English football. Record signing Schindler scored the decisive penalty, later telling Hoyle he felt he had to give something back after the club made him their record transfer. What a guy.
A fairy tale if ever there was one. And one that continues, as Town embark on their first season in the Premier League…
As a disciple of the gegenpress, Wagner favours a high press, a “striker as first defender” mantra, and playing out from the back. Crucially, he also has a well-established a rotation policy, meaning the Terriers may not seem like FPL material at first glance.
So far, we have seen 10 new faces, with Schindler’s transfer fee broken and dwarfed many times over. Key men Mooy and Kachunga have signed permanent deals, while Palmer returns on loan. Scott Malone from Fulham, Tom Ince from Derby and Danny Williams from Reading join from the Championship. Also, Danish pair Jonas Lossl and Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen add to the goalkeeping and defensive ranks respectively.
It’s crazy turnaround considering we were a club tipped to be relegated last season, and had one of the smallest budgets and squads in the Championship.
Where will the goals come from?
By entering the play offs with a negative goal difference (-2!), scoring only 56 goals in the 46 league matches, compared to fellow promoted clubs Newcastle (85) and Brighton (74), it’s abundantly clear that, if the Terriers were to stand any chance of making an impact in the Premier League, this dog would have to work on its bite.
With top scorer Kachunga moved from a forward to wide position (with 8 games in a forward position against 36 from the right) ending the season with 12 goals and 2 assists, and lead striker Nahki Wells (the nominal main threat), chipping in with 10 goals in 46 appearances – his lowest in his time at Town – the need for reinforcements was clear.
The first signing of pre-season looked to address that, with the purchase of 6ft 3in FC Porto forward Laurent Depoitre for £3.6 million who looks a tall, aggressive target man. Wagner broke the club record fee again shortly afterwards, with Montpellier forward Steve Mounie, also 6ft 3 in, joining in an £11.5 million move. He also looks to be an aerial threat with an injection of pace, meaning the existing forwards Nahki Wells (10 goals, 2 assists over 34 starts and 12 substitute appearances) and Collin Quaner (3 goals, 1 assist over 9 starts and 10 substitute appearances) have been suitably reinforced. Mounie averaged 8.4 successful aerial battles per match last season, with 6 of his 14 goals coming from headers, the other 8 goals coming from his right boot within the penalty area. He averages a shot every 26.95 minutes, 105 shots in total.
With 14 goals and 6 assists from 41 starts and 4 substitute appearances, fellow new signing Tom Ince also brings some much-needed firepower from midfield, with wide men Rajiv Van La Parra (2 goals, 2 assists over 39 starts and 4 substitute appearances), Joe Lolley (1 goal, 0 assists), Harry Bunn (0 goals, 1 assist) and Sean Scannell (0 goals, 1 assist) serving up a bare minimum between them.
If Town are to succeed in the Premier League then goals are needed. Spending a record fee on a front man to help produce this needed to happen. The arrival of both Mounie and Depoitre up top, as well as added creativity behind them in Ince and the returning Mooy and Palmer, means that, on paper, Town are doing everything right.
The first five fixtures
This is where it potentially becomes difficult, with this being Town’s maiden voyage in PL waters we have no stats to compare to.
What we can say is, looking at the opening five fixtures is that it is a very favourable start, with all of the top six avoided.
The key players
Aaron Mooy (5.5m; 2.0% ownership): England V Australia, 27th May 2016 in an International Friendly at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. A result of 2-1 in favour of England didn’t tell the whole story, as Australia’s number 13 gave England a torrid time in midfield. The player was Aaron Mooy of Melbourne City, where in the 2015/16 season produced an impressive 11 goals and 21 assists: a record for the Australian A-league. Little over a month after the match Mooy signed with sister club Manchester City and, almost immediately Mooy joined Town on a season long loan. This turned into a £10 million club record deal for us, with not a minute played for City.
Taking a less familiar deeper lying role than for his National team, Mooy would partner Jonathan Hogg in the double pivot. The combination would be a winning one, with both players complimenting the strengths of the other. Mooy took to the new role with ease.
Last season produced 7 assists and 4 goals over 45 starts and 3 substitute appearances. Bagging the Player of the Year award, he was fourth for tackles in the Championship, along with 102 key passes and 114 successful tackles.
Steve Mounie (6.0m; 0.6% ownership): In a pre-season of record breaking signings, Benin International Steve Mounie joined for the record £11.44 million from Montpellier on a 4-year deal. WGTA also looked at his prospects here.
The 22-year-old mustered 14 goals and 3 assists from 35 league games last season. This was only 1 goal less than Kylian Mbappe! The target man made an average 8.4 successful aerial duels as well as a shot every 26.95 minutes.
3 goals in 5 pre-season games, showing his aerial threat and menacing defenders with a tight high press and pace, his hard-working attitude fits in perfectly with the Town identity. His ownership is severely low, and his price tag could put off anyone looking for a cheap 3rd striker, but the potential is there to be part of a 3-man front line in our FPL sides.
Tommy Smith (5.0m; 0.8% ownership): An attack minded right back, and team captain for much of the season, Smith served up an impressive 10 assists and 4 goals in 43 starts and 2 substitute appearances as his relationship with Kachunga down the right flank proved to be pivotal. He provided 53 key passes, more than any other defender in the Championship.
Smith was one the most improved players under Wagner, his confidence improved, his link up play with Kachunga was dynamic, and the captain’s armband was well and truly deserved. Everything suggests he will adapt to the Premier League, however, like Malone has come in for added depth at left back, Town are in for a new right back also, with Burnley’s Ghanaian Andy Yiadom and Rennes Dimitri Cavare, currently on trial at the club, both linked.
Tom Ince (6.0m; 2.2% ownership): He is a player who has already had his share of ups and downs but his potential has never been fully realised (WGTA looked at his prospects here). He has represented England at U17, U19 and U21 level. At 25, having spent a couple of highly productive seasons with the Rams, he is in the prime of his career, and despite his brief ventures in the PL, the move to West Yorkshire in a deal that could go up to £10 million, this is his biggest chance yet.
Playing a large majority of last season on the right flank, Ince averaged a shot every 27.97 minutes, bettering Palmer (30.83), Van La Parra (43.21) and Kachunga (52.27). He also had nearly 130 shots, with almost half coming from outside the box. Also having time to supply chances for his team mates, he made a key pass every 51.54 minutes.
The Terriers identity fits his style of play, he is well complimented by equally creative players around him, the scene is set for Ince to fulfil his potential and set the PL alight. Pre-season has seen his blistering goal scoring form continue with 4 goals in 5 games.
Kasey Palmer (5.5m; 0.1% ownership): Signed on loan from Chelsea last season, we saw Palmer make his first team debut after success with Chelsea and England youth teams. If there was any doubt how he would cope with the demands of first team football, these were answered within two minutes of coming off the bench in the opening fixture against Brentford as he nettedthe winner with his second touch of the ball.
16 starts and 9 substitute appearances saw 4 goals and 3 assists. His impressive performances in the number 10 role saw a key pass every 47.96 minutes, bettering Ince (51.54), Kachunga (68.14) and Van La Parra (164.20). Unfortunately, his season was cut short as he sustained an Achilles injury in February against Leeds which side-lined for the rest of the season and was replaced by another Chelsea loanee in the shape of Izzy Brown.
Rumours are still going around about another number 10 joining but, having played in Wagner’s system for a season already and a full pre-season under his belt, the returning Palmer (he’s back on another loan, but Brown elected to go to Brighton instead) seems the starter for the season and could have a dynamic relationship with Ince.
Rajiv Van La Parra (5.0m; 0.2% ownership): If step overs could score FPL points then Van La Parra would be up there. He has pace, power, and he can drop his shoulder leaving three defenders for dust, but it is his end product that lets him down.
Only 2 goals and 3 assists from 39 starts and 4 substitute appearances says it all. He also had 1 missed penalty and did not ake one again (despite two play-off penalty shoot outs). With shots, crosses, passes wildly astray time and again, he is as gifted as he is frustrating.
In Mounie and Depoitre he now has bigger targets, and pre-season has already seen two assists against SV Sandhausen. However, rumours have been linking several wingers with Town, but nothing has come of any of them. Given the wealth of FPL offerings across the Town midfield, Van La Parra, based on last season’s stats, is the one to avoid. I’ve been wrong before, and I hope I am wrong here. He has been a man on fire in pre-season, but he has a mountain to climb.
Other than the above key player picks are keeper Joel Coleman (2.4% ownership), defender Mark Hudson (1.7% ownership) at £4.0m and forward Quaner at 4.5m (3.2% ownership – the top owned Hudds player), giving us a clear indication of people’s intentions of the Town picks: bench fodder.
Huddersfield have come out of nowhere, never taken seriously, written off constantly, and FPL is going to be no different.
This dog may be small, but it bites. You have been warned.