It’s Tuesday and it’s been fairly quiet on the site since Sunday’s loss to Sheffield Wednesday. That’s not because I’ve been too busy to write anything about the game for you, rather it’s been a case of, what more can I say?
In the past 521 days, I have only had the opportunity to review a Town victory on three occasions, and two of those wins came against the same bloody team. I could have logged onto the site on Sunday and done a piece about confidence, lack of self-belief, the same old mistakes etc, but I didn’t want to do that.
Instead, I had a little think about the game from a tactical point of view. I re watched the game and focused on one player in detail, as I feel like he’s the best example of what is wrong at Huddersfield Town.
The player that I focused on is probably one of the hardest-working players in the team from a physical point of view. However, to use a much-hated management phrase, he may work hard, but he doesn’t work smart.
Can you guess who I’m talking about yet? I’ll give you a clue, if I told you his position whilst he was playing, you would look down at the pitch and he would be a good 30 yards out of it…
Of course, the player I’m talking about is Florent Hadergjonaj, the flying Kosovan full-back who is always out of position.
I’ll get no credit for picking Hadergjonaj out as a weak link in the team, after all the vast majority of people can see that every time Town play. But I want to discuss Hadergjonaj’s weaknesses on a deeper level, to offer a hot take on the situation.
So here goes, here’s why I think Florent Hadergjonaj is the living, breathing embodiment of what is wrong with our team at the moment.
Ignorance, Idiocy or Individuality?
The Cowley’s have spoken about getting back to basics ever since they took up their roles at Huddersfield Town. To me, that seems like a very sensible idea. There’s no point overloading our players with list upon list of instructions at this point, we just need everyone to know their roles and to stick to it.
Getting back to basics means becoming hard to beat, defending well and sticking rigidly to your position. It mightn’t be entertaining to watch for fans, but it does wonders for the confidence of players. A gritty, hard-fought 0-0 will leave the players feeling far better than 3-2 or a 4-3 loss.
Therefore, if I were a right-back and my manager had told me that we, as a team were going back to basics and trying to be hard to beat, I’d do just that. I would barely cross the halfway line, I would stick to my marker like glue and try and remain within 10 yards of my centre-back at all times.
Florent Hadergjonaj didn’t do that on Sunday, in fact, he ignored that all together and spent half of the game in the opposition half. Below is a heat map from the game showing Hadergjonaj’s average position on the left, compared to Odubajo - Wednesday’s right-back - on the opposite side.
Town’s full-back seems to have concentrated himself just over the halfway line as an attacking wing-back. Whereas Odubajo has stuck stoically to his position, fending off attacks and at times tucking in to cover for his centre-backs in the middle.
At first, I thought that maybe the Cowley’s had instructed Hadergjonaj to fulfill that role, but when I watched a replay of the match I noticed them both instructing him to drop further back. Then I saw Jonathan Hogg gesticulating at him to sit deeper, but much like the Cowley’s calls, his instructions fell on deaf ears as well.
Hadergjonaj’s ignorance strikes me as one of two things, either he is simply, for want of a better word, stupid and cannot take on board instructions. Or, the more likely of the two, he is selfish, and wants to do the glamorous part of the role and shirk the nitty-gritty.
Bombing forward and exposing his ageing centre-back to a counter-attack is, of course, selfish and shows a lack of care for his teammates. Similarly, occupying the role of winger and forcing Adama Diakhaby inside does the same whilst effectively taking Diakhaby out of the game.
Hadergjonaj is the type of player that wants to come off the pitch and boast of his own individual performances going forward, rather than enjoy the collective joy of a win or a draw.
Hadergjonaj Is Selfish, But He Isn't The Only One
It’s an individual streak that isn’t just confined to Hadergjonaj either, there are plenty of others in the team with a similar mentality.
Some demonstrate it in a less obvious way to Hadergjonaj. They hide from the ball, turn their back on the play and do everything they can to shift responsibility to another player and negate their chances of making a mistake.
That attitude is toxic in a team as it eats away at the confidence of individuals and destroys the cohesion of the group.
On Saturday I played a match myself, and in the last 10 minutes I switched off from a throw-in and lost my marker. He beat me for pace into the box and smashed the ball past the ‘keeper as a direct result of my lapse in concentration.
As we trudged back to the half-way line I held my hands up and apologised to my centre-back partner, who geed me up and told me to forget about it. If I had been playing in a team like Town’s, we would have held an inquest on the pitch.
Several players would have angrily gesticulated at me as they attempted to make it obvious to everyone watching who was at fault for the goal, and that’s not how a team reacts, that’s how individuals react.
That's blame shifting, and it causes clear divisions in a team. So eager are these players to not be blamed for making a mistake, that they throw their teammates under the bus and contribute to an atmosphere of fear on the pitch.
Hadergjonaj Is Explicit In His Selfishness
So in summary, what I’m trying (and perhaps failing) to say, is that Town has a team jam-packed with individuals. Some display it by hiding from the limelight, others do it in more nuanced ways by publicly calling out their teammates on the pitch, and then there is Hadergjonaj.
He makes no attempt to hide his selfishness or his individual streak. Game after game, manager after manager he hangs his teammates out to dry in his search for personal glory - an assist from a cross or a slash at goal.
As I mentioned just above, Hadergjonaj has done this under several different managers at Town. He has also done it for his country, most recently when he played at left-back against England in a qualifying game.
On that occasion his heat-map was even more pronounced as he marauded forward, leaving his centre-back to face one of the deadliest counter-attacking teams in international football.
Neutrals may have been impressed by Hadergjonaj’s fearless approach, but there is nothing fearless about neglecting your responsibility and leaving a struggling Fidan Alitti to face Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, and Harry Kane on his own.
For some reason, I still have a faint air of hope that Hadergjonaj can be taught to play for his teammates, and I think the Cowley’s could be the men to do that. But for me, he is very much in last chance saloon, as we can no longer continue to carry players like him, not in a relegation battle.
That goes for the others who are also shirking their collective duties. If our new management duo cannot coax a greater responsibility out of certain players, then we will be in need of wholesale changes in the January transfer window.
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