Huddersfield Town have worked efficiently to pad out their squad with signings ahead of the transfer window officially opening this week. Five free agents are through the door and Corberan now has added depth through the majority of his side.
Josh Ruffels put pen-to-paper on a two-year contract with Huddersfield yesterday, becoming to club’s fifth signing of the summer and providing some much-needed competition for Harry Toffolo.
Toffolo is, of course, a vital player for Huddersfield. He’s Mr Consistent and, but for injuries and suspension, has been ever-present since arriving from Lincoln City.
Yet, it has to be said that he’s never had true competition for his place in the side. Jaden Brown just didn’t quite cut it, whilst Pipa and Lewis O’Brien were makeshift options when Toffolo was out.
That’s all changed now, though, with a very complete player coming into the club in the form of Ruffels.
The 27-year-old arrives on the back of over 300 appearances for Oxford, in a period of time when the club has really started to challenge for promotion regularly as they continue to rise through the EFL.
In 2020/21 there was more League One play-off heartbreak for Oxford and Ruffels, but the season as a whole was a success for the left-back, as our graphic below underlines:
The first thing that stands out when it comes to Ruffels is his goal involvements. Scoring six times from left-back and registering a further five assists is some going. It’s an area of Toffolo’s game that’s been developing over the years, but the new man in the dressing room definitely outperforms him in this department.
Ruffels’ number of assists could be higher, too. He’s laid on 25 chances for his teammates over the last 12 months and arrives as a real source of creativity for Corberan to utilise.
Oxford leaned heavily on Ruffels’ attack-minded nature, with 52 progressive runs and 64 touches in the opposition penalty area – at an average of 1.37 per 90 minutes – another really positive factor for Huddersfield fans to cling onto.
Huddersfield learnt last season how vulnerable Corberan’s style can make you defensively. They had the worst defensive record in the Championship and a significant improvement is needed across the board, in terms of personnel and performance.
In that respect, Ruffels looks good again with 122 clearances (2.61 per 90) and 301 interceptions (6.44 per 90). He reads the game well and knows where to position himself to make the right intervention.
A pass success of 71.3% might seem a touch low, but it’s worth considering a couple of things: Ruffels averaged 6.39 attempted passes into the final third per 90, with 1.78 passes looking to find a teammate in the opposition penalty area. He’s taking risks on the ball and not playing safe, something players with a high pass percentage often do.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out something that Corberan referenced when Ruffels’ signing was announced. At Oxford last year, he played over 4,000 minutes of football and stood up to a demanding schedule across 2020/21.
Corberan asks a lot of his players and the 27-year-old’s ability to play back-to-back mirrors a trait of Toffolo’s he rates really highly.
The fact he’d played so much football contributed to Toffolo missing a large part of the run-in with a back injury. It’s surely a big part of the reason why Corberan wanted cover and competition for his left-back to be through the door at an early stage of the summer. Neither should have to play the big minutes they had to last season, with scope now there for rest and rotation.
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If Huddersfield revert to a 4-3-3 it looks like a really fierce shootout between Toffolo and Ruffels for the left-back berth, but Corberan might also be minded to stick with 3-5-2 and get two really high performing players playing together.
Toffolo could be asked to tuck into a back-three and play as a ball playing centre-back, as he did as he nursed his back injury during the run-in, allowing the attack-minded Ruffels to do what he does best from wing-back.
That added depth and competition is a big tick in the box for Huddersfield at this stage of the summer.
There’s still work to do with regard to the squad in terms of incomings and outgoings, but this latest piece of business only adds to the feeling that Corberan’s squad is evolving like it needs to.
Fingers crossed there’s more to come.