Huddersfield Town find themselves on an awkward run of results ahead of this weekend’s meeting with Middlesbrough and Carlos Corberan, again, finds himself searching for substance to match his side’s undoubted style.
Since a superb win over Millwall on the final day of October, Huddersfield have posted only two points from a possible 12 in the Championship. Bristol City and Stoke City have beaten the Terriers, whilst Luton Town and Wycombe Wanderers have held them.
On the face of things, November hasn’t been a month to look back fondly on and even a win over Middlesbrough this Saturday wouldn’t fix the damage that’s been done.
However, it’s not been a complete waste. Not least for on loan Ajax midfielder, Carel Eiting.
His Huddersfield career has been something of a slow burner, but a spark has been lit in November and he’s becoming a vital part of Corberan’s midfield trio.
As our graphic above shows, Eiting has completed 774 minutes of football in the Championship this season. That includes the full 90 in each of his last three appearances.
With Alex Pritchard sidelined through injury and Juninho Bacuna suffering illness – and then a stint at right-back – Corberan has trusted Eiting with the more traditional No.10 position in his set-up. Lewis O’Brien and Jonathan Hogg alongside him provide tenacity and energy, with Eiting’s duty to get forward and support a toothless attack.
The 22-year-old has delivered on his side of that agreement too.
A classy header on the end of a sweeping Huddersfield move secured a 1-1 draw with Luton on the eve of November’s international break and Eiting was at it again a couple of weeks later. He opened the scoring in the defeat to Stoke and laid on a superb assist for Isaac Mbenza later in the afternoon.
That little November burst sees Eiting out-performing his xG (0.77) and just about matching his xA (1.86). That assist tally could be much higher if his teammates weren’t as wasteful with the openings he carved.
Corberan sees Eiting as a No.8, but injuries to others and the likeable traits O’Brien brings mean it’s a more advanced position for the Dutchman. However, he’s growing into the role like he is his Huddersfield loan.
46 passes into the final third typifies what Corberan is going to be looking for from his midfielders: brave on the ball, willing to take risks and completing quick transitions. It isn’t just that ambition Corberan needs from his engine room, though. He needs the basics and 83% pass accuracy is a good return all things considered.
Eiting is also buying into Corberan’s progressive philosophy by adapting his own game. It’s 12 progressive runs in 10 appearances, but three of those came against Stoke and three more against Wycombe. The Ajax graduate is learning more about what his head-coach wants and seeing the results.
The attached heat map shows that Eiting likes to play his football centrally, but he is getting into more advanced positions given his freedom and he’s even drifting out towards the left where his delivery can cause issues for any defence in the Championship.
One major shortcoming of this Huddersfield side is the goal threat they carry. Fraizer Campbell isn’t prolific, Josh Koroma is promising but still learning and Mbenza, despite buying into what Corberan wants, remains hit and miss.
Naturally, Corberan is wanting Eiting to get forward more from his midfield position. He’s doing that and 11 of his 14 touches in the penalty area came against Luton and Stoke, which coincide with three goal involvements in two outings. That’s no fluke and proof that what Corberan sees in Eiting as a No.10 is on the money.
Eiting will be challenged for his place in the side in the weeks to come. Pritchard will return to the fold and Bacuna will no doubt get his chance centrally again. However, Pritchard has had so many chances, whilst Bacuna frustrates the life out of the Huddersfield fans. He does the tricks and flicks well, but a consistent performer, he is not.
There’s a chance for Eiting to become a regular. November has given Corberan a taste of what he can offer and, in a flat month, he’s provided something to be positive about.
Eiting’s style and substance can rub off on those around him at the John Smith’s Stadium. That, in turn, should sort results out.