Huddersfield Town are starting to find their groove under Carlos Corberan and at every corner you turn on Twitter, the Terriers are being compared to Leeds United. That was inevitable given Corberan’s summer move from Elland Road, but it all contributes to exciting times in this part of West Yorkshire.
Juninho Bacuna made sure that Town extended their positive start to the season on Tuesday evening, striking the only goal in a 1-0 win over Derby County. Corberan’s side have now dusted themselves down after back-to-back defeats last month and have 10 points on the board from the last 12 available.
The goal that won Tuesday’s game is what has got EFL fans up and down the country likening Corberan’s side to their West Yorkshire rivals, who stormed to the Championship title last year after a missing out in 2018/19.
— AGB (@BurnsAlfie) October 20, 2020
A brave decision to play the ball out from Ben Hamer and Naby Sarr eventually finds Harry Toffolo at left-back, he lays the ball off and ‘underlaps’. Two quick touches push the ball into Bacuna’s feet, before the midfielder feeds Toffolo into space on the turn.
Toffolo returns the favour and picks out Bacuna, who has supported the attack well. The midfielder makes no mistake firing beyond David Marshall and rounding off a move that had rivals making very complimentary comparisons.
Corberan has been working under Marcelo Bielsa’s coaching umbrella for the past two seasons. Naturally, ‘Bielsaball’ has rubbed off on him. He worked with the first-team and oversaw the under-23s, who had the task of replicating exactly what the senior group were doing.
Bacuna’s goal was a replica of what we saw Leeds do in the Championship a number of times under Bielsa. And, it’s true that other aspects of Town’s play on Tuesday did get the mind racing back to Bielsa’s first months in England: man-to-man marking in open play, pressing in packs, making use of your full-backs to overload, seamless switching between formations.
BielsaBall well and truly underway at Huddersfield.
Out from the back into the high wing-back, ball down the line, inverted run, Huddersfield full back and their best player Harry Toffolo becomes the creator. @TheTerriers_com @LUFCDATA @AllStatsArentWe #htafc #lufc #EFL pic.twitter.com/jDS8CcK80M
— ForestAnalytics (@AnalyticsForest) October 22, 2020
However, a lot like Bielsa’s first few months in England, there’s still work to be done for Corberan. Despite this four-game unbeaten run, it’s not quite been a flawless start to his Huddersfield career. Two of the division’s top sides – Norwich City and Brentford – turned them over in the opening two fixtures, crisp passing is needed in certain areas and, eventually, a little bit more quality in the final third will help them truly compete.
Naturally, Corberan’s style is going to stem from his time with Bielsa, but there’s also going to be a desire from the Spaniard to become his own man with his own philosophy.
The attacking nature of his full-backs, use of the wide spaces and energy in midfield are very Bielsa, but what isn’t is how solid Huddersfield look against the inevitable aerial threat the Championship throws up at you.
One criticism of Bielsa in the Championship has to be Leeds’ inability to defend and attack set-pieces clinically. However, one of Corberan’s summer signings has been Sarr. The towering centre-back partnered Richard Stearman on Tuesday, with that pair a threat at both ends of the field and really solid, despite Derby’s lack of focal point and Max Bird’s struggle with the dead ball.
Neither Sarr nor Stearman share the qualities of someone like Ben White, who was very much a Bielsa-type centre-back, but they do possess qualities that every Championship side needs, particularly one like Huddersfield that are still a way from being the finished article.
That reliable defensive partnership was just as important as Huddersfield’s classy, 53rd minute progression down the left in Tuesday evening’s victory. In fact, it was the type of result and performance you might have seen from Danny Cowley’s Huddersfield side.
Corberan is looking to evolve what he’s inherited from Cowley, just as Bielsa was forced to do at Leeds. The process will likely be a slower one, but on the evidence of Tuesday evening, Huddersfield’s group of players are buying into what the Spaniard is asking of them but still holding onto that stubbornness that kept them in the Championship last season.
Moments like Bacuna’s goal will inevitably bring up comparisons to Leeds, and if the end result is getting to the level they were at last season, there won’t be anyone of a Huddersfield persuasion complaining.