Huddersfield Town crashed out of the FA Cup on Saturday evening, leaving Carlos Corberan with plenty to ponder after his young, much-changed side were on the end of a 3-2 defeat to Plymouth Argyle.
The nature of the Championship’s schedule, combined with Huddersfield’s mounting injury list, meant it was mainly under-23s players that took on League One Plymouth.
Alex Vallejo, Ben Hamer and, new signing, Rolando Aarons were all part of the squad, but Corberan relied on youth to secure Town’s passage into the fourth round. That experiment, ultimately, failed. Goals from Ryan Hardie, Panutche Camara and Joe Edwards cancelled out Romoney Crichlow’s header and Aaron Rowe’s fierce strike.
Corberan’s decision to field an entirely different XI to the one that played Reading on January 2nd was defended pre-match. Not out of disrespect for the FA Cup, but because the demands of the Championship forced him down that route.
🚨 𝐓𝐄𝐀𝐌 𝐍𝐄𝐖𝐒 🚨#htafc Head Coach Carlos Corberán has named the starting line-up for this evening’s @EmiratesFACup Third Round tie against @Only1Argyle; 6pm kick-off at the @JS_Stadium. pic.twitter.com/ub3XaXfKxc
— Huddersfield Town (@htafc) January 9, 2021
The cynical side of you also feels that this could have been a message to the board from Corberan: more depth is needed to make this Huddersfield side a success and you cannot rest on getting your priority deal done in the opening third of the transfer window.
Aarons through the door is a positive, whilst Danny Grant – injured on the eve of a potential FA Cup debut – adds depth and potential to an attacking outfit missing Josh Koroma’s goals. However, Corberan needs more depth and will want to see further signings made.
That leads us to Jack Clarke at Tottenham.
Sky Sports report how Stoke City, Swansea City and Middlesbrough are interested in a loan deal for the winger this month; Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City are long-term admirers too. However, Spurs are weighing up their options carefully, eager to not stunt Clarke’s development further after poor spells with Leeds and QPR last season.
As things stand, there’s nothing to suggest that Huddersfield will join the Championship-wide hunt to sign the 20-year-old. However, there’s plenty of reason why they should.
Firstly, Clarke offers an option on either flank for Corberan. He would be an alternative to Aarons (or a fully fit Koroma) on the left, whilst also capable of stepping into Isaac Mbenza’s shoes on the right.
His breakthrough season at Leeds, which tempted Tottenham into a £10m deal for the winger, saw Clarke excel on either side. Wyscout’s heat map below from 2018/19 show how the bulk of the young winger’s play came on the right, but shadings on the left tell you how he made good use of wider space on the opposite wing. In fact, his first senior goal from Leeds came against Aston Villa, cutting in from the left.
Another factor why Corberan should be considering a pitch to Tottenham for the service of Clarke is his personal relationship with the winger.
Prior to taking over at Huddersfield, Corberan was in-charge of the under-23s setup at Elland Road. His tenure there coincided with Clarke’s coming of age under Marcelo Bielsa after a successful spell in the youth team. Additionally, Corberan was involved with the first-team at Leeds, providing a link between age groups as Bielsa was forced to lean on the academy to support a trim, injury-hit squad.
As mentioned earlier in the article, Clarke’s 2019/20 campaign was wasted. He managed only 19 minutes at Elland Road on loan in the Championship, whilst his QPR spell wasn’t fruitful either. That’s led to Tottenham retaining him and handing him limited cup minutes and a taste of their own first-team.
Clarke’s development needs senior football, though. He was getting that regularly at Leeds two years ago and Tottenham aren’t short of suitors to take him off their hands heading into the summer of 2021.
Corberan will be eager to not block the path of his own youth players at the John Smith’s Stadium, of course, but an FA Cup defeat to lower league opposition perhaps underlined how sections of that group aren’t ready for senior football just yet.
Depth is needed and, as January ticks along, a pitch to sign Clarke from Tottenham will strengthen Huddersfield’s chances of attacking the second-half of the Championship season. That’s the minimum requirement after Corberan’s FA Cup experiment failed.