The English Premier League has been having fun at the expense of bookmakers lately. Bookmakers have time and again tried to predict the final positions in the table of different competing clubs and while they have called many odds correctly, there have been a few notable exceptions. Of course, the most famous of them is the 5000-1 odds for Leicester City to win the League in the 2015-16 season. Similarly, at the start of 2017-18 season, the bookmakers predicted that Huddersfield Town were the favourites to be relegated, with odds of 8-11 i.e. they believed that there was almost a 60% chance of the Terriers going down at the end of the season.
But, David Wagner’s team proved them wrong. In fact, despite there being a little bit of uncertainty toward the end of the season, for large periods during the season, Huddersfield did look almost certain of staying up rather than going down. Eventually, they did survive in the top division, finishing the season in sixteenth position, one point above Southampton and four away from the eighteenth placed Swansea. This survival was immensely valuable for Huddersfield as it gave them a TV revenue of £102.4 million.
This season, the club seems to be spending its windfall well. So far, the Terriers have spent €36.5 million, as per Transfermarkt.com, and signed four outfield players, as well as two goalkeepers. To put that in perspective, remember that by the time you read this, it is possible that Liverpool would have spent four times that amount to sign just one defender and a goalkeeper. Of course, the gulf between the two clubs’ positions and aspirations does justify such differences in transfer spending. That is of course not to say that Huddersfield have bought bad players. Laurent Depoitre and Steve Mounie were both signed last summer for bargain fees. Between them, they scored 13 and assisted 2 goals, which is very significant for a team that scored 28 total goals in the league. Zanka, the central defender that Wagner signed last summer, put in a solid 3,420 minutes (all the minutes played in the league) of league football and was one of the top defender for the Terriers.
So, it is only fair to assume that this summer’s signings could also play a major role like last year’s signings. Let us look at the incoming transfers in a bit more detail:
Goalkeepers – Ben Hamer and Jonas Lossl
While the Danish keeper Jonas Lossl was on loan from Mainz last season, Huddersfield triggered a clause in his loan agreement in March to make his move to the John Smith stadium permanent, at least for one more year. Although not spectacular, Lossl’s goalkeeping was important for Wagner’s team to survive. In terms of stats, he conceded 58 goals in 38 games, while facing 4.33 shots per game. His expected conceded goals were 1.54 per game, but he conceded only 1.47 goals per game. Thus, keeping Jonas Lossl for at least one more year was a no-brainer for David Wagner.
As a cover for Lossl, Huddersfield have also signed Ben Hamer on a free transfer from Leicester City. In his eleven games for the Foxes last season, he conceded 16 goals, keeping three clean sheets. His expected conceded goals are also a bit higher than the expected goals number. However, he is a bit more reluctant to attempt claims or punches of high balls. Due to this, he might be assigned cup duty at Huddersfield as well, just as he played most of his time last season in the cup matches.
Left Back/ Central Defense – Terrence Kongolo
Terrence Kongolo arrived for a five-month-long loan in January from AS Monaco and soon became the Terriers’ best defender. He made 17 appearances for Huddersfield in those five months at left-back, and also as the left side central defender in a back-three.
The Dutch international was one of the best defenders for Huddersfield, winning 62% of aerial duels (4.45 per game) and putting in 3.79 clearances, 0.29 blocks, and 6.24 interceptions in every game. His arrival had strengthened the Terriers’ defence in January and Huddersfield have now made that strength in defence a bit more permanent now.
Right/Left Back – Erik Durm
David Wagner had got Erik Durm playing as a full-back at Borussia Dortmund’s reserves. Now he has signed Durm for Huddersfield. While Durm can play both as a left-back as well as a right-back, he is better suited as a right-back.
Unlike Kongolo who is very good at defence, Durm’s defensive numbers are not as impressive – 1.78 clearances, 0.14 blocks, and 4.08 interceptions. However, Durm has a bit more attacking talent, putting in 3.67 crosses per game, with 40% accuracy. He also managed 1.1 shots per game at Dortmund in addition to 0.51 shot assists per game. Wagner might have signed his old full-back as more of an attacking threat and not merely as a defender.
Midfield – Juninho Bacuna
To strengthen their midfield Huddersfield have signed Juninho Bacuna, the 20-year old Dutch midfielder from FC Groningen in Eredivisie. At such a young age, Juninho has acquired quite a lot of experience, having appeared in 80 games in the Netherlands.
Wagner has named Juninho as the replacement for Dean Whitehead and is likely to deploy the Dutchman in central midfield with both defensive and attacking duties. His 23.09 duels per game, as well as 8.09 recoveries per game suggest that he is keen to get the ball back from his opponents, while 1.93 shots per game and xG per game of 0.16 suggest that he is a decent attacker as well.
Attack – Ramadan Sobhi
The Terriers have also signed 21-year old Egyptian international Ramadan Sobhi from Stoke City who were relegated last season. Unlike his fellow Egyptian winger Salah, Sobhi’s stats are a bit more modest.
An xG per game of 0.12 is not much for a winger who can also play in the wide midfield. In line with his wider role, he does put in more crosses – 1.78 per game, with a 33% success rate. But his other attacking stats are more modest. It is possible that Wagner has signed Sobhi not as an out and out attacker but as more of a service provider to Mounie and Depoitre.
None of the Huddersfield’s incoming transfers are spectacular. But they are all functionally great and if they can help keep the Terriers in the Premier League by next May, perhaps with a bit of a progress up the table, most Huddersfield fans will consider it to be a successful transfer window.