Tagged huddersfield

Competing With The Best

Teams have been taking Pochettino’s Spurs seriously for a couple of seasons now, but after seeing them against Liverpool you can see how the club is building a great future.

They’ve been one of the strongest teams in the league for several years now and we all know how close they came to winning the Premier League on two occasions. I am sure today they still think about what that feeling would have been like if they could have brought the trophy to White Hart Lane before they moved homes. Despite how good they have been, you can’t demand the same respect in the world of football without winning silverware. Even if you play the best football and come within inches of winning, if you can’t add trophies people will quickly forget how well you did.

They have one of the deadliest strikers in the game with Harry Kane, and I see him continuing his magic on the field with bags of goals and performances that inspire his team to win, weekly. Some say he has to do that in Europe to be considered World Class, but they said the same about Harry and the Premier League when he first broke into the first team. And look at the fireworks we are experiencing right now, so I’m sure when he is comfortable in Europe he will be well on his way, just like he’s doing in the league.

The team is very well considered and they keep recruiting more talent in the areas what will make the team better and the competition healthier. I still don’t understand why more clubs didn’t chase Davinson Sanchez’s signature. If that guy can keep doing what he did for Ajax I’m expecting him to become one of the best defenders in the league. He is fast, strong and knows how to play the game.

Another thing I really like about the Tottenham setup is that the young guys get a chance in the first team, and if they do well they can be part of the starting 11. They might have had to focus on that tactic because they could not make too many crazy investments in players with the new stadium they are building. But they do a great job of keeping hold of great players like Kane, Dele Alli and Erikson, to name a few.

This is definitely a team on the up, and if they keep performing and improving who knows how far they can go.

Another team I have been impressed with, for totally different reasons, is Huddersfield Town. The little club from Yorkshire were promoted last season with a goal difference of -2, scraping through the playoffs with two penalty shootouts. But they have shown us that they deserve to be in the Premier League and they’re not just here to take part, giving Mourinho his first league defeat of the season on Saturday.

They don’t have the quality or depth to compete with Premier League mainstays, but they play with intelligence and courage and David Wagner’s no limits philosophy makes them a side other clubs need to respect. It will be a great achievement if The Terriers stay up, but a visit to the John Smith’s stadium is by no means a guaranteed 3 points.

The fans summed it up with the banner they had on display at the ground on Saturday: “It doesn’t matter how big you are or how experienced you are, if you have passion and desire, you have no limits.”


Back with a Bang

It was the most anticipated weekend of the summer for football fans everywhere, and the excitement was answered with plenty of goals and entertainment.

Arsenal and Leicester kicked things off with a seven goal thriller. Lacazette headed the Gunners ahead 94 seconds into his Premier League debut, only for Okazaki to equalise just two minutes later. We were off to a flyer and that intensity continued over the 90 minutes with Leicester taking a 3-2 before Ramsey and Giroud swung the balance in Arsenal’s favor in the last 10 minutes.

Arsenal are always one of the teams that play the brand of football that, on its day, can be out of this world. Going forward they are always deadly but they are still missing something. If Wenger can find the balance and keep more clean sheets but continue to score plenty of goals, this season could see them push for the title again.

Watford and Liverpool were next up and the goals continued. Miguel Britos scored a controversial 93rd-minute equaliser for Watford to give them a share of the spoils at Vicarage road. As good as Liverpool were in attack, their defense was showing the same problems of last season.

If you want to be a title contender you have to win games like this. I know it’s tough playing away at Watford but you are still Liverpool – a club that should be aiming to win the league. You can’t be that easy to cut open. To be in with any chance of contending the title, they need to be more solid, especially away from home.

Chelsea were involved in the shock result of the weekend, falling three goals behind Burnley at Stamford Bridge. The team looks too light. I already said it weeks ago – I don’t see Chelsea winning this one because the big focus is the Champions League. Your squad needs to have the depth to handle both compeitions, and at the moment it is too thin. If you want give the youngsters a chance it will take time and patience is needed, but I’m not sure the blues want to wait for glory and if that’s the case they need to strengthen if they want a great season again.

Huddersfield also looked like a surprise package, defeating Palace 3-0 in their own back yard. Most people have predicted Huddersfield to finish rock bottom this season and on paper they are the smallest club in the league, but if they can stay positive and take each game as it comes they could cause some surprises. As we all know football isn’t played on paper, and they can look at the likes of Bournemouth and Swansea for inspiration.

Man Utd looked the best they have for some time during their 4-0 win over West Ham. It was Lukaku who grabbed the headlines with his brace, but Matic was key in midfield and looked like the piece that had been missing from Jose’s puzzle. He’s not Roy Keane, but his presence in the midfield was reminiscent of the former skipper and could turn out to be an important player for United this season.

I never understood Chelsea for letting Matic go to their rivals. I’m sure Chelsea thought they are paying over the price, but still, you know how much Mourinho needed him after last season. Pogba was doing both jobs and with Matic in the team now he has the security behind him so he can start producing more of the stuff that should make him one of the best midfielders in the world.

Away from the Premier League, Neymar made his PSG debut with a goal. There was so much expectation on the Brazilian and he delivered the goods saying that he feels more alive than ever. Barcelona played the El Classico without him, and Real Madrid got the better of them with goals from Asensio and, of course, Ronaldo. Ronaldo was sent off and will miss 5 games for pushing the referee. He can play in the Champions League but will not return to domestic action until 20 September against Real Betis, giving Messi a 5 game head start in the season’s battle for top scorer.

Barca looked like they were out of balance without Neymar and I’m sure they knew they were about to miss magic when he left to PSG. But in the Clasico they got the confirmation. Madrid was too strong and the quality that came off the bench was no different to what was starting.

It maybe will take some time to fix the Neymar shaped whole, but I’m sure Barca are working hard behind the sense to find an answer.


Beware of the Underdog

Huddersfield Town won football’s most lucrative game and became the Premier League’s newest addition on Monday.

It’s the first time they have reached the top tier in 45 years and not many people, not even Town fans, would have predicted the outcome at the beginning of the season. But after 120 nailbiting minutes and a tense penalty shoot-out, they have reached Premier League status.

At the start of the season pundits and bookmakers made Huddersfield favourites to be relegated. They finished 18th in the Championship last season and Ian Holloway now infamously said they would finish 2nd bottom of the table this season. David Wagner’s job was to avoid relegation when he was appointed as manager last November, and after doing that he has gone on to become a cult hero in Huddersfield.

The Terriers got off to a good start by beating Newcastle at St James’ Park on the opening day of the season and then drawing with Aston Villa. A string of wins followed and they were top of the table early on. Still many people would have predicted they would have fallen off by Christmas but Wagner kept on grinding out results with 23 of their 25 victories coming by a one-goal margin.

They were in a title race with Newcastle and Brighton for most of the season but just slipped off the pace towards the back end, which meant they had to settle for the playoffs. Everyone knows this can be a lottery and all of the hard work comes down to three vital games. It was very tight against Wednesday and it took another penalty shootout to get them to the final. Wagner brought in a lot of German players and that paid off in the end as everyone knows German’s know how to win a penalty shootout.

Next season will be a challenge for Wagner. The squad is made up of a lot of loanees so it will be interesting to see who he can keep at the club by extending their loans or signing permanently. They will also have to bring in more quality to compete. Now it’s time to ask questions of your squad, like: “Do I have enough players that can score the goals to win games? Does my midfield have the legs and intelligence to avoid getting run over by the teams with more experience in the Premier League? Is my defence strong so we can at least win most of our home games?”

If the above are problem areas then they need to be addressed as soon as possible so they can build a longer life in the luxury league.

The goal next season will be to survive, but they can look at the likes of Stoke, Bournemouth and Swansea for inspiration and hope they can build up a foundation to achieve longer term success in the top flight. It certainly won’t be easy and they will be the favourites for relegation. But we know what happened the last time everyone wrote them off.


Dramatic Turnarounds in the Championship

What a difference a month makes.

After three successive defeats before the International break, which included a 5-0 thrashing to Brighton, Norwich were under pressure to turn things around. But it was two more defeats that followed for Alex Neil’s side, who have dropped down to 8th in the Championship after their 5th straight loss.

It’s the perfect example of how fast things can change in one of the most competitive league’s in the world. Teams find themselves on hot runs of win after win, followed by spells where they can’t muster a single point for weeks.

It’s one of the reasons why the league is so entertaining. The teams at the bottom can beat the teams at the top on any given week and one good run over 4 or 5 weeks can be the difference between sitting in the relegation spots and fighting for the playoff places.

Just look at Aston Villa. They won just one of their opening 12 games and were in the bottom three until Steve Bruce took over 6 weeks ago. They have since earned 15 points and are now just 4 points outside of the promotion places. After their struggles at the start of the season it looked like promotion straight back to the Premier League was a pipedream, but now it’s beginning to look like they really could go up.

Huddersfield are another team that have had two very different spells of form. They started off with 7 wins from their opening 10 games, topping the league and proving themselves to be genuine promotion contenders. They’ve since slumped to 6th after earning just 4 points from their last 7 games.

Wigan handed Huddersfield their latest defeat last night, the first time the Latics have ever won a league game at Huddersfield. Wigan are still third from bottom but only on goal difference. If they can come up with the goods and begin a good run of form they could be in the top half of the table in no time.

When I met the chairman over the summer I could feel the passion and focus he possessed – to get Wigan back to the top. Hopefully the change of coach will start working because the Wigan fans would love to see some success again, that’s why so many turned up to celebrate the moment Mr Dave Whelan’s great statue got revealed at the DW stadium.

Up the tics!