Updated: Jun 20, 2019
Steven Chicken is the man that the Huddersfield Examiner have chosen to revitalise their coverage of Town. So far he’s done a pretty good job, the articles on The Examiner website are eminently more engaging than they have been in some time, and his appearance on the And He Takes That Chance podcast was pretty darn good.
Steven seems to have a more modern approach to football journalism than the typical local reporters we’re used to, and we like his style. Although there are some signs that The Examiner readers aren’t quite ready for his quirky approach.
A couple of days ago Steven floated the idea of doing a Football Manager piece in which he would try to do a better job than David Wagner and Jan Siewert managed last season. We thought that was a great idea, but unfortunately 55% of the people he polled on Twitter weren’t in favour of it.
Fortunately our readership is a little bit different, so we thought we might as well steal Steven’s idea and give it a go ourselves. The TerrierBlog team are Football Manager Fanatics so naturally it’s an idea we wanted to give a go.
Therefore we are going to dedicate a series of articles to our Huddersfield Town journey on Football Manager 2019. Using the latest game update we set up our manager profile and attempted to keep Huddersfield Town in the Premier League.
We made no new signings as we wanted to remain as close as possible to the reality of the situation in West Yorkshire last season. As we were playing on the latest game update Karlan Grant and Jason Puncheon were already in the Huddersfield Town squad, but other than that everything else was as realistic as possible.
Knowing what we know now about the Huddersfield Town squad, we thought it would be a good idea to make our manager a motivator, someone who could rally the troops when things were bleak on the pitch.
We let the game match our manager ability and reputation to the club to avert the possibility of an early dressing room mutiny or an overpowered manger. In the game Dean Hoyle told TerrierBlog contributor John that he expected the club to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
Conversely we told John that we expected him to perform marginally better than David Wagner and Jan Siewert did. Here’s how he got on in his first month of the Premier League season…
The Premier League fixture computer was just as unkind to me as it was to David Wagner in real life, throwing up Chelsea away and Spurs at home as the first two games of my budding managerial career.
Chelsea (A): 1-1
The opening day trip to Stamford Bridge brought back pleasant memories of the Great Escape from the previous season. That result heavily influenced my pre-match tactical thinking as I opted for a 5-4-1 formation with a big emphasis on defence.
Adama Diakhaby and Isaac Mbenza would provide the width on the counter attack, with Steve Mounie being the team’s focal point, here’s how we lined up.
GK – Lossl
RWB – Smith
CB – Kongolo
LWB – Durm
CM – Mooy
CM – Hogg
RW – Diakhaby
LW – Mbenza
ST – Mounie
As expected the game started with Chelsea monopolosing possession and threatening Lossl from distance. Fortunately the Dane held strong and managed to repel the barrage of shots that rained down upon him.
11 minutes into the game Town were awarded a free-kick just over the halfway line. The actual Town team of last season would have been happy to have used this free-kick as a breather, a momentary rest bite from the tough realities of open play, but that’s not how my teams roll.
A training ground emphasis on set-pieces paid off for virtual Town as a deep ball into the box was headed down by Steve Mounie right into the path of Adama Diakhaby. The new signing made no mistake from close range, neatly tucking away his first goal in the Premier League and sending the 3,000 travelling Town fans into raptures.
Tempting as it was to go for the jugglar and try and pinch a second goal I decided to batten down the hatches and ramp up the time wasting antics. The remainder of the half seemed to pass quickly enough with the only highlights being long-range efforts from Chelsea’s midfielders.
That was until one minute before half-time Aaron Mooy diverted a goal bound header from Oliver Giroud into his own net. Damn, my defence had been broken and it looked like the early promise had all gone to waste.
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During the half-time team talk I told my players how happy I was with them and to a man they were delighted. They took that praise onboard in the second-half and continued to resolutely defend.
Unfortunately there were no more attacking forays from the Terriers, but we did manage to hold onto a draw, despite facing 44 shots and only taking 2 of our own. The Chelsea manager claimed we were lucky to escape with a draw in his post-match press conference but I couldn’t give a toss! We’d snatched an unexpected point, leaving only 39 more to get in the next 37 games.
Spurs (H): 1-4
I had decided that I would approach home games against the big teams with an attacking mind set, but the unexpected point at Chelsea had shown me the benefits of a safety first appraoch. I decided to make no changes to my squad or tactics for the Spurs game in the hopes of pinching another battling point.
Unfortunately my team’s resolve was broken after 10 minutes when Toby Alderweireld headed home from a corner. Damn, all our hard work on set-pieces had gone to waste, putting us on the back foot early on.
When that header hit the back of the net I was filled with rage and let my players know about it, screaming ‘CONCENTRATE’ from the touchline. My advice fell on deaf ears though as Spurs scored again 14 minutes later.
This time Son Heung-Min danced through my defence and slipped the ball under the onrushing Jonas Lossl. The visitors thankfully took their foot off the pedal for the remainder of the first-half and we went into the break only 2 goals down.
The introduction of Alex Pritchard at the break put Town briefly on the front foot until shock-horror, we were caught on the counter. Lucas Moura increased Spurs lead to 3 and the game was well and truly out of reach.
Steve Mounie grabbed a goal from a corner shortly after but Dele Alli completed the rout on the 86th minute and I fell to my first defeat as Town manager. A 4-1 reversal at home wasn’t largely unexpected but it did hit confidence pretty hard.
Bournemouth (H): 2-1
One week later and Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth travelled to the John Smith’s Stadium, giving me my first realistic chance of a win as Town gaffer. I immediately ditched the defensive 5-4-1 and opted for a high-pressing 4-2-3-1 with the following line-up.
GK – Lossl
RB – Hadergjonaj
CB – Zanka
CB – Schindler
LB – Durm
CM – Mooy
CM – Billing
RM – Kachunga
CAM – Pritchard
LM – Mbenza
ST – Mounie
Tommy Smith and Isaac Mbenza lost their places in the team thanks to their pretty woeful performances against Spurs. Hadergjonaj was the man I chose to replace Smith as I wanted some more attacking gusto, and Kachunga came in to add some physicality to the forward line.
The game started well with Town monopolising the ball and making all of the early chances, but a familiar theme started to develop. Time after time decent balls into the box failed to connect with the lone striker Mounie.
In the 13th minute Erik Durm took matters into his own hands (or should that be feet) when he turned down the chance to cross, instead smashing a 25-yard pile driver into the top corner of the Bournemouth net.
That goal gave Town a spring in their step and they went into half-time full of confidence. Shortly after the restart Isaac Mbenza went one better than Erik Durm as he struck from 30 yards to double our lead.
Ever the pragmatist I decided that enough was enough and switched to a slightly more defensive shape, happy to sit on what we had. Bournemouth seemed happy to play along until Lewis Cook headed home in the 84th minute, but fortunately for me it was too little too late for the Cherries.
Town had grabbed their first win of the season and moved up to the heady heights of 11th with 4 points from a tricky first 3 games. Next up was a chance to rotate as we travelled to Oxford in the second round of the Carabao Cup.
Oxford (A): 2-0
There were one or two players lacking match sharpness after the Bournemouth game so I decided to throw them a start away to Oxford in the cup. Rotation is always a risky strategy but I was confident that my fringe players could overcome League One opponents.
Throwing caution to the wind, I once again selected an attacking formation with the following players.
GK – Hamer
RB – Duhaney
CB – Stankovic
CB – Kongolo
LB – Lowe
CM – Williams
CM – Bacuna
RM – Puncheon
CAM – Daly
LM – Sabiri
ST – Grant
The rustiness was clear to see in the opening 45 as Town failed to assert themselves on their inferior opponents, who were more than happy to sit back and soak up the pressure. A half-time rocket did the trick though as Town took the lead in the 51st minute through Abdelhamid Sabiri.
The young playmaker finished off a flowing Town move, setting us on the way to a routine victory. Danny Williams scored from range in the 81st minute to seal a thoroughly professional win and end August on a high.
Click HERE to see how we got on in September as we faced Fulham, Southampton, Wolves and Newcastle.