Huddersfield Town fans are struggling to pull the positives from performances at the moment.
Carlos Corberan retained the faith of the Town board, despite a woeful run of results during the second-half of last season dragging Huddersfield into the relegation conversation.
It’s hardly been a free-flowing start to the new season for the Spaniard and his side. They’ve had selection issues due to Covid cases and performances in the two home fixtures in the Championship have been a difficult watch.
Results, though, have been there. Huddersfield have four points from a possible nine and, although it is too early to be looking at the table, they are in mid-table.
We start to dissect what we’ve seen from Town so far this season:
Lack of cutting edge
In Huddersfield’s four competitive fixtures this season, they’ve scored only three goals. Two of those have come from centre-backs, with the other a Sepp Van Den Berg own goal.
Danny Ward, Jordan Rhodes, Fraizer Campbell and even Josh Koroma have failed to find the back of the net. In Tuesday’s victory over Preston North End, Town failed to register a shot on target, with Van Den Berg gifting them a needed victory.
That will have to change if Huddersfield are going to enjoy any relative success in the Championship this season.
The issue is that Ward, Rhodes and Campbell have been far from prolific in recent seasons, wherever they’ve played their football. Koroma is slightly different in that he scored regularly last season when fit.
Perhaps a change in system when key players return – we will come to that later – will trigger the attacking output of this side.
Sorba Thomas is thriving at wing-back, but when Corberan welcomes back Harry Toffolo or Josh Ruffels, he will be able to play him on the wing. The prospect of Koroma from the left, Thomas on the right and attack-minded full-backs, could bring a lot more in an attacking sense.
As could Danel Sinani, who continues to find his feet at the club after arriving on a season-long loan from Norwich City.
Whilst the lack of cutting edge is a concern right now and was evident in the win over Preston, Huddersfield do have the personnel to change that. They also have just over a week to bolster their attacking options with a new signing.
That possibility of a new face might just ease fans’ fears over how many goals this side will score.
Naby Sarr underlines defensive improvement
At the other end of the pitch it’s been a little bit of a mixed bag.
Huddersfield recorded a clean sheet against Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup and defended well in their 1-0 win over Preston. They conceded cheaply against Derby County, whilst Fulham ripped them to pieces and scored five at the John Smith’s Stadium last weekend.
That Fulham fixture was a repeat of what we saw many times with Huddersfield last season. Corberan’s side shipped over 70 goals in 46 fixtures, comfortably the worst record in the Championship.
The following statement feels slightly weird to write given that hammering against Fulham: Huddersfield’s defence has improved.
Matty Pearson, Tom Lees and Levi Colwill are all upgrades on what was available last season, particularly the latter. Lee Nicholls’ arrival also means there’s no need for Ryan Schofield’s development to come in the thick of the Championship, whilst Ruffels and Ollie Turton offer cover at full-back.
Naby Sarr is the only centre-back that featured regularly last season and continues to do so. He’s made three appearances in the heart of Huddersfield’s back three, excelling. He made seven clearances and seven interceptions against Preston on Tuesday evening, standing head and shoulders above his teammates in a gutsy win.
At a point where you were questioning how much Sarr would play given the new signings, he’s stepped up with some outstanding contributions.
If Corberan reverts to a four-man defence, Sarr might drop out. However, that underlines the fact that the Championship’s worst defence has evolved over the summer, and shouldn’t retain that unwanted crown come the end of the season.
Of course, Huddersfield will still have to prove that their Fulham capitulation was a one off. A clean sheet and win against Preston was the first step in doing that.
Judge Corberan later in the season
This is a point that will divide supporters. There are plenty that think Corberan has had enough time, particularly when you consider how quickly the project under the Cowley’s was axed.
Results under Corberan haven’t been good enough. The form in 2021 has made for grim reading and the amount of good 90 minute performances can be counted on one hand.
However, there’s still a case to suggest that Corberan needs time to prove himself when he’s got all his best players available.
Injuries have crippled Huddersfield throughout the calendar year and, even now, he’s only just welcoming back Nicholls and Lewis O’Brien, whilst waiting on Harry Toffolo and Pipa.
The latter two returning will change the entire look of the side. They are Corberan’s sixth and seventh attackers from full-back; overlapping, providing third man runs and overloads. They also allow him to play a more adventurous 4-3-3, pushing Koroma and Thomas into the final third. That should, in turn, see an increased output in an attacking sense.
It was that attack-minded nature of Corberan’s early months as Huddersfield boss that fans loved and what earned him a long-term contract at the club. Since then, though, there’s been a domino effect with injuries and performance. Tactical naivety and a lack of inspiration is concerning, but you can sympathise.
There’s time for that to change course and Corberan to convince the Huddersfield fans again. He’s just going to need a little bit of time to piece his best side together.