After an alcohol and food induced hiatus over Christmas our chief writer John returns to give you his reflections on Town’s humbling 5-2 loss to Stoke yesterday and some of the other main talking points from the festive period.
The New Year brings with it new beginnings, unless of course you’re a Huddersfield Town fan. 2020 started in much the same way that 2019 had played out, with a lacklustre performance, a demoralising defeat and a genuine feeling of apathy amongst a large section of fans.
Yesterday’s defeat was slightly different in that the main talking point happened off the pitch, when a small section of fans took it upon themselves to shower James McClean with sectarian abuse.
I won’t be covering that issue in this article as that topic deserves far more than a solitary paragraph of discussion. If you’d like to read more about James McLean and the sectarian abuse he received from a group of Town fans, click HERE.
In this article I want to solely focus on football and what I feel were the three main talking points from our loss-win-loss festive period…
1. Style Of Play
In the aftermath of the loss to Leeds United at the beginning of December I took to Twitter to bemoan our style of play. In one of my many Tweets I wrote,
“Cowley needs results – not to save his job, that’s not in question, but to entertain the fans.
“From what I’ve seen so far, the football is turgid at best. Without positive results, it’s a real slog to watch this team.”
I took a bit of stick for that Tweet, with one person in particular trawling through seemingly all of my Tweets since 2011 and highlighting the ones that he found to be ‘turgid at best’.
However, I didn’t write that back in December to be inflammatory or sensational, I was merely writing what I thought to be true then, and indeed now. Under the Cowley brothers we have been terrible to watch.
I’m not a football hipster that demands high-octane pressing football from his team, and I’m certainly not going to criticise long-ball tactics. My main bug bear with this current team is their propensity to cheat…
I’m the first to call it out when an opposition team does it so it would be totally hypercritical of me not to do the same when Town try their hand at it as well. The amount of time our players spend feigning injury is becoming embarrassing, and it’s taking away a lot of enjoyment from the game.
According to Stephen Chicken and David Hartwick of the Ooh To Be A podcast, this is a tactic often employed by the Cowley’s. When a player goes down with a mystery complaint, it allows the brother’s time to regroup with the other players and relay tactical messages.
I understand the need for that in moderation completely. I don’t however, understand it when it results in a referee adding 9 minutes of injury time like Andy Woolmer did in our 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers.
Hopefully when we have a more balanced squad, bolstered by new arrivals we can look forward to watching a team that focuses more on playing the game than on disrupting it.
2. Square Pegs, Round Holes
This next point goes some way to justifying our current style of play and timewasting shenanigans… At the moment we simply do not have a big, or strong enough squad to consistently compete in this decision. Our last two victories, over Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest respectively have been borne out of hard-work, fight and determination.
Our last two defeats, against Stoke City and Middlesbrough respectively, have perhaps been unintended consequences of the aforementioned victories. Through exerting so much energy in those wins, our already paper-thin squad has teetered on breaking point in the subsequent games.
If you were to objectively look at the team that lost 5-2 to Stoke on New Years’ Day you would not be surprised by the result. Barring a small clutch of good quality players, the rest were either young talents or average players playing out of position.
This is of course a result of our diabolical transfer dealings over the past two years, which has left us with a large group of players who do not want to be at the club and others who do not add much in terms of quality.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the current transfer window could well be pivotal for the short-term future of the club. We need reinforcements to see us through to the end of the season and help stave off relegation.
If we mess this transfer window up like we have done in previous years, results like yesterday against Stoke will become more and more common.
3. Mounie’s Swan Song
Prior to Christmas one of my fellow contributors Stephan Roux wrote about the resurgence of Steve Mounie. Stephan rather enthusiastically suggested that the Benin forward may be on the brink of a rich vein of goal scoring form.
Keen not to undermine him I formatted and posted his article, whilst also adding in an image of Mounie blazing a decent chance over the bar to surreptitiously convey my opinion on the matter…
On Boxing Day when Mounie contrived to miss a gaping goal from all of two yards, I rather pointedly asked Stephan if he still believed what he had written in the article to be true. A few days later, when Mounie scored the winner against Blackburn with a screamer from long distance…well, you get the picture.
Me and Stephan had a back and forward about Mounie’s qualities, but one thing we did agree on was his importance for the rest of the season. In the last two weeks or so we have begun to witness the effects of the Cowley’s set-piece training.
The duo have placed great importance on set-pieces in their managerial career thus far, and continue to do so at Town. The remainder of our season looks set to be a tough slog that could indeed go down to the wire.
With a thread-bare squad to choose from, set-pieces could prove to be our salvation, which is great news for Steve Mounie. The Beninese striker thrives in the air and has already scored twice from corners in the past fortnight.
Having said that, these last five months of the season could well be Steve Mounie’s Swan Song at Huddersfield. If Danny Cowley can find a forward who is equally as formidable in the air but is also capable of pressing and assisting his fellow forwards, Mounie will more than likely be gone.