Huddersfield’s striker woes continue against Palace


David Wagner must get his strikers firing soon if they are to survive (photo credit: Huddersfield Examiner).

Huddersfield’s striker woes continue against Palace

Goals were at a premium last season for Huddersfield Town. David Wagner’s side netted just 28 times in their maiden Premier League campaign, a tally which was enough to see them survive for at least one more year.

Finding the back of the net looks set to be a problem again this season – especially for their striking contingent. The West Yorkshire outfit fell to Crystal Palace at home, which will sting considering that Huddersfield had made the better chances until Wilfried Zaha curled a delightful shot past Jonas Lossl, be they half or otherwise.

Wagner chose to start the trio of Steve Mounie, Rajiv van La Parra and Elias Kachunga together for the first time this season in hopes of more attacking impetus but to no avail. All three players had their moments teasing the Palace defence, particularly Mounie who held the ball up well and was always available for the incoming cross.

Unfortunately, the woes continue. Neither of Huddersfield’s two goals this season have come from an attacking player. If Huddersfield are to stay in the division,  one of the forwards will have to break their duck. Quickly.

Even when the ball did nestle in the net, albeit ruled out for offside, it was swept home by Billing. The powerful midfielder has been deployed in a deeper role but when striding forward he has put defences on the back foot.

Huddersfield’s game plan against Palace was their usual modus operandi of working the ball out to the wings before sending in a cross for their big forwards to attack. It rendered several half chances and one big chance for Mounie who rose to meet a Chris Lowe cross but headed over from six-yards out.

Wagner’s attacking trio found the net just 11 times between them during the previous league campaign – with Mounie accounting for seven of those. Belgian striker Laurent Depoitre netted six times during 2017/18 however, much like his colleagues, he is yet to find the net this season.

Of course, the strikers are not solely to blame. Aaron Mooy represents Huddersfield’s greatest creative outlet. However, outside of the Australian international they are limited.

Philip Billing displays the potential to be more than just a holding midfielder yet dutifully carries out his manager’s wishes. Alex Pritchard, the attacking midfielder who signed last season from Norwich City, could pose a bigger threat, especially in this game in which the hosts bossed the possession but were so often reduced to raking balls to get them up the pitch, desperately trying to find an isolated Mounie.

The Benin international was smothered by Palace’s centre-backs when anticipating the cross, with no threat coming through the middle, the balls from wide were meat and drink for the paring of Sakho and James Tomkins.

It would not be an unfair critique to say the Terriers lack confidence up top when the ball eventually reaches them. Fans groaned at the taking of extra touches and roars of encouragement turned to frustration as attacks petered out.

Wagner’s masterminding of a season which saw them defy the odds and retain the Premier League status should give credence to his ability to see his strikers amongst the goals before too long. With the transfer window closed until January the German-born American manager will have to do the best with what he has available – but that challenge will be nothing new to a team operating on a shoe-string budget when compared to the rest of the division.

With new personnel currently off the table, Wagner and his coaches will have to turn to their experience and tactical knowhow to manufacture an attacking threat via different mediums. Their status quo has yielded a pair of goals in 450 minutes of league football.

The season is still young, and it is no coincidence that the barren spells up front has reflected in their results. Wagner will be afforded plenty of time, as he should be after the work he has already done with the Yorkshire side. While they have conceded 11 goals already this campaign, six of them came against a rampant Manchester City, they also shipped three in their opener against Chelsea.

Huddersfield ride their luck at times but in general are solid throughout.

That solidity has come at the price of their fluidity. It is not for the want of trying. Wagner applauds from the touchline and his team commit until the final whistle. Yet bad luck, poor finishing and a sometimes-one-dimensional game plan has scuppered their season thus far. But again, it isn’t for the want of trying.

Huddersfield Town

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