Jan Siewert's seven-point re-building job at relegated Huddersfield

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 01 April 2019, 13:16

Huddersfield Town’s 2-0 loss at Crystal Palace on Saturday, combined with victories for Burnley and Southampton, meant that the club’s relegation was mathematically rubber-stamped.

Of course, this has not come as a shock to supporters, who are likely to have been preparing themselves for the worst since January.

Although the Terriers have not given the Premier League oodles of quality during their two-year stay - just 45 goals scored in 70 games - the willingness of supporters to enjoy themselves, get behind their club and those representing them during difficult periods is something we can all learn from.

Fans will need to show that kind of support once again in the Championship.

Contrary to one or two reports, it would be very surprising if Dean Hoyle does not offer his full support to head coach Jan Siewert, who looks likely to be tasked with leading the re-building job in West Yorkshire – we look at what he must do to turn things around.

1. Continue to show a firm hand

Huddersfield took just 11 points from their first 22 games this season, before David Wagner’s departure was agreed.

During that time, Wagner was very keen to keep the spirit at the club high.

That was understandable: the sense of togetherness, positivity, belief and connection with fans had enabled the club to bridge budgetary gulfs and achieve great success over the previous two campaigns.


Diplomatically attempting to maintain those positive vibes, he felt, were the Terriers’ only chance of beating the drop once again.

The problem with that outlook though was that when certain players were performing poorly, they did not face consequences and the size of club relative to the Premier League became almost a get-out clause.

What Siewert has done is take a slightly harder line and, perhaps, be less afraid of criticising his players where necessary.

Although the German has not yet changed the results – Huddersfield have taken just three points from nine under his tutelage – he has the ruthlessness to deliver the shake-up that may be needed to initiate the re-build.


2. Offload the underperformers

Centre-back Mathias Jørgensen and midfielder Aaron Mooy both carry a high-pedigree – ‘Zanka’ has played regularly in European competitions for FC Copenhagen while Mooy was one of Australia’s stand-out World Cup performers.

No matter how badly they have played this season, therefore, there will be other clubs interested in signing them and offering a good wage.

For that reason, there is a possibility that they have been slightly comfortable with their situation and perhaps that has impacted the intensity of their performances.

Siewert, of course, wants to build a technically and tactically refined Terriers team over the next two or three campaigns.

However, the number one priority for this summer is to ensure that every player who steps foot onto the training field in late June is wholly dedicated to the cause.

For that reason, Jorgensen, Mooy and anyone else who does not want to represent the club must leave as soon as possible.

3. Toughen up the midfield

Too often this season, opposing teams have been able to waltz past Huddersfield’s midfield at will.

The Terriers have allowed on average 2.25 Expected Goals Against (xGA) per game, thus highlighting their disorganisation.

The priority for Siewert, therefore, will be to ensure that his team is competitive centrally in every game.

Juninho Bacuna has shown a willingness to be brave on the ball in recent games, while aerial specialist Jon Gorenc Stankovic has put in some solid shifts.

With Phillip Billing expected to attract interest, the duo could form a steady pairing with the driven Jonathan Hogg offering reliable back-up, even if he does not feature quite as prominently as he did during the promotion campaign.

4. Devise a ‘New Schindler’ list

Christopher Schindler has arguably been Huddersfield’s best player over the last three seasons combined.

Were the German to stay on at the John Smith’s Stadium, it would give Siewert a significant boost.

More realistically though, he will attract – and be swung by - offers from bottom half Premier League clubs.

Considering that Town have sometimes played three-at-the-back this season, it is vital that they boost their options along with the physical Terence Kongolo, who looks more likely to stay.

Huddersfield may scour Europe for defensive recruits, but could do worse than take a glance across Yorkshire.

Liam Lindsay and Ethan Pinnock have been crucial to 20 League One clean sheets for Barnsley, Clark Robertson is an important player for Rotherham while Richard Stearman could offer some experience if he leaves Sheffield United in the summer.

5. Give youth a chance

One of the positive aspects of Siewert’s reign to date is that he has been willing to give academy graduates some Premier League experience.

Right-back Demeaco Duhaney offers pace and power as well as improved defensive qualities under Mark Hudson and Dean Whitehead in the academy, he could challenge captain Tommy Smith next term.


Aaron Rowe, meanwhile has featured twice; he gives Huddersfield pace as well as technical ability, normally out wide but potentially in the number 10 role.

Striker Kian Harratt has been in excellent form for the Under-17s and could be one to keep a longer-term eye on, too.

Two of the three stand-out teams in the Championship, Norwich and Leeds, have had head coaches in Daniel Farke and Marcelo Bielsa respectively who have been very brave in giving youth a chance.

Because of that, the likes of Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, Ben Godfrey, Jamie Shackleton and Jack Clarke have very quickly established themselves among the most exciting talents outside the Premier League.

When there is a teenager in the Huddersfield side hungry to prove their worth, they will hearten supporters and contribute hugely to the intensity of the team’s performance.

6. Take note of EFL loanee performances

Ryan Schofield has had a positive time on loan at League Two Notts County, conceding just 14 goals in 12 games.

That record is even more impressive when we consider that the Magpies had shipped 58 in 38 prior to the stopper’s arrival; his large frame is such that stepping up to Championship level is unlikely to faze him if Jonas Lossl is taken.

Jack Payne has consistently thrived at League One level and certainly has the creative qualities to succeed as a number 10 in the Championship; his close control and ability to thread neat through balls could be an asset.

Another midfielder on loan at Bradford, Lewis O’Brien, has also been among the Bantams’ best players with his versatility, tireless running and capacity to pop up in goalscoring areas from deep, with the 20-year-old bagging in each of their three 2019 home wins.

Additionally, with the current Huddersfield squad short on wingers, it was arguably a mistake to loan out Ramadan Sobhi and Rajiv Van La Parra to Al Ahly and Middlesbrough respectively.

Van La Parra’s end product might not be perfect, but that did not matter in the 2016-17 promotion campaign, when the speed and quantity of his runs down the left meant that he played a considerable part in getting the team into positive situations.

Collin Quaner also offers pace and power, either centrally or from the right channel; he has not done too badly on loan at Ipswich and could be a valuable tool to have in the squad, at least over the out-of-form Elias Kachunga.


7. Pritchard and Grant combo

Alex Pritchard’s attitude has at times been questioned.

However, it is possible that his frustration since arriving midway through the previous campaign is partly down to not seeing much of the ball as he ordinarily likes.

He has shown in the EFL with Swindon, Brentford and Norwich that, in a team playing high up the pitch with plenty of quick runners off the ball, his creative qualities can come to the fore.

Huddersfield’s current squad, including Adama Diakhaby and accounting for the return of aforementioned loanees, is well-stacked with athletes, workers and speedsters in forward and wide areas.

For that reason, they could incorporate the slightly more enigmatic Pritchard – or alternatively Payne - as an attacking midfielder in perhaps a 4-2-3-1 setup.

Pritchard’s through balls could release the speedy Karlan Grant, who has scored 14 goals in 28 League One games for Charlton this season.

Having already gained some Premier League experience since his January move, including a promising brace in the recent 4-3 loss at West Ham, Grant has completed the hard-yards of a two-division jump; he is now dropping down a division, thus making the adjustment to Championship level slightly more palatable.

Over time – and given the right backing – Siewert can begin to build a young, quick, dynamic Terriers side that gets the ball forward early and with intent. Right now, some of his methods might unsettle one or two players – but the players he unsettles are the very players the club that does not need in the Championship next term. Siewert must and will be supported to give this Huddersfield side a necessary summer shake-up.

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