Are we the baddies?

Updated: Apr 30, 2019

This morning I started writing the preview blog for the Cardiff game, and the word ‘shithouse’ came to mind several times when discussing Cardiff and their manager Neil Warnock. I’m thoroughly expecting a Burton-esque performance from Cardiff on Saturday – dull, defensive football, percentages football and a hell of a lot of dirty tackles.


Phil Bill commits a foul

Then I had an epiphany. Maybe we are the shithouses now? The Terrier Identity that we so proudly told everyone about in the Championship seems to have disappeared. We no longer snap at the heels of the opposition and play attractive football when we have the ball. We play dull, defensive, percentages football and weigh in with a heap of dirty tackles.


It was a pretty worrying realisation to have, and made me feel slightly stupid for telling everyone I met about our fantastic style of play. In this article, we take a look at some of the evidence that points to us being the Premier League’s biggest shithouses.


Goals


When Town were promoted from the Championship, putting the ball in the net seemed to be a problem for the Terriers. David Wagner’s team won a record amount of matches by the single goal and failed to score themselves in 3 play-off games.


The problem for many was the team’s lack of a clinical finisher. The team made plenty of chances, but Nahki Wells, Elias Kachunga and Collin Quaner were all unable to take advantage of those chances. Steve Mounie and Laurent Depoitre were brought into the side upon promotion to the Premier League.


Finally, the club had two players capable of scoring and finishing chances, and Steve Mounie certainly seemed like a massive improvement on Nahki Wells when he scored a brace on his debut away to Crystal Palace.


Town continued to give as good as they got in the Premier League, and looked a real threat to opposition defences. However, Tommy Smith’s rasping left-foot drive against Spurs signalled the end of Town’s attacking vigour.


The Terriers were trounced 4-0 by Tottenham, with the Londoners punishing the space left open from our high-tempo pressing game. This prompted a complete change in strategy from David Wagner, the Terrier was muzzled, put on a short lease and made to act as a guard dog.



Wagner’s differing approach brought immediate joy as Town pulled off a monumental victory over Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. But a loss at Anfield that saw the team barely step out of their own half disappointed fans.


From then on, defensive football reigned supreme and the shackles were well and truly placed on the Town players – barring 4-1 victories over Watford and Bournemouth when we reverted to our attacking identity.


Our late run for Premier League survival was characterised by defensive, shithouse football. We went to the Etihad and didn’t so much as park the bus, but drove in an entire fleet of Stotts coaches onto the pitch. At Stamford Bridge it was the same, and our goal in the 1-1 draw came from a hopeful punt over the top that Laurent Depoitre slotted in after barging Willy Caballero off the ball.


We finished the season with just 28 goals to our name, and at first we mocked those who said we were ‘boring, filthy and crap’. We just thought they were jealous, or had an axe to grind with Town. But maybe they were right. We had become the new Pulis team, the club that targets survival by any means necessary.


Hamer humiliated

Then at the beginning of this season, David Wagner opted for two defensive line-ups against Chelsea and Manchester City. Playing line-ups that suggested he viewed these games as pre-season friendlies, Town were soundly spanked 9-1 over the two games.


Wolves boss Mick Mcarthy was lambasted by the press for playing a weakened side away to Manchester United 10 years ago. He was disrespecting fans and fair play by admitting his side had no chance of victory at Old Trafford. He was condemned as a master shithouse and a bad guy of football.


When David Wagner did it, he was only doing it because we were the plucky underdogs who don’t really deserve to be in the Premier League. We were lambs to the slaughter at the Etihad last week and the travelling fans deserved a better showing than the one they received.


Our style


In the Championship our style of play was fantastic to watch. With Nahki Wells providing the focal point up front we played out from the back and through the centre of the pitch. Intricate passing in the final third led to many an attractive goal, perhaps Aaron Mooy’s strike at home to Norwich summed up this style the best.


However, in the Premier League we have changed. The ball is still played out from the back, but as soon as the defenders look up they seek a wide player to hold to the ball. Whoever is on the wing will then hold the ball and recycle it to an overlapping full-back or pick out Aaron Mooy.


The full-back will whip in a cross aimed at Steve Mounie’s head, or Mooy will loft in a deep cross to the same intended recipient. This is repetitive and consistent, and saw Town pump in the fourth-highest amount of crosses last term, 765.


We also put in the most tackles in the league, and were in the top four for most fouls committed throughout the season. The stats and the analysis points to one conclusion, we are the new Stoke City.


Rory Delap tosses one in

Florent Hadergjonaj’s right-foot is Rory Delap’s flexing bicep. Steve Mounie’s head is Mamady Sidibe’s towering frame. Aaron Mooy is our Glenn Whelan and Zanka is the lumbering figure of Ryan Shawcross.


Our mentality


Our underdog status has helped us well in the past. It was perhaps the catalyst for our promotion and helped us to survive in our first season in the Premier League, but it is perhaps wearing thin now.


In the past 12 months we have spent well over £100 million on player recruitment, and earned our right to be in the Premier League – beating multi-millionaires Man United. Yet we still eulogise about our underdog status.


The game against Manchester City at the weekend was almost written-off before it started. How could we possibly compete with the might of Manchester City, with all of their star players, under the guidance of the best coach in world football?


Stankovic slumps

Well Wigan competed with them very well last year, dumping them out of the FA Cup. Bristol City more than held their own against the Citizens in the League Cup semi-finals. Crystal Palace should have beaten them in the league as well. All of the clubs mentioned are no bigger than Town, but they attacked Manchester City with aggressive, pressing tactics, which they were rewarded for.


The underdog mentality and the talk of the financial void between the two clubs leads to the players accepting defeat before the game. Anything can happen in football, and the underdogs can have their day, if they believe in themselves. Ask Jamie Vardy, Wes Morgan and Danny Drinkwater about that.


They could all comfortably have written themselves of as relegation fodder in the Premier League, but instead, they collected Premier League winners’ medals. They didn’t care for the status quo, they believed in themselves and knew that they could compete with any opponent.


Summary


We are indeed the new shithouses of the Premier League, perhaps only surpassed by Cardiff City. In the past year our identity has slipped and abandoned us, making way for a new shithouse style of play.


I understand that we are still the underdogs, and that the odds are forever stacked against us, but I want to enjoy the ride in the Premier League. I don’t want to travel to Wembley and watch us roll over and accept a 2-0 loss against Spurs.


I want to see us take the game to our opponents. Fulham lost 3-1 at the national stadium last week, but had every reason to be pleased with their performance. They really tested Spurs, played good football and stuck to their identity. Fans of the Cottagers will surely have hopped on the tube with a cheer, knowing they gave a good account of themselves.


If the peak of our abilities is to retain our Premier League position for years and years playing shithouse football, then I’d rather we dropped back down to the Championship. I want excitement, I want an identity and I want our team to be known for positive football throughout the country.


Perhaps I’m being too hopeful, or too naïve. Perhaps my growing disillusionment with the Premier League in general is causing me to feel this way, and perhaps I’m being too critical, but it’s just my opinion, and football is all about opinions. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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