Huddersfield Town headed into March’s international break on the back of a rather flat performance in last week’s Yorkshire derby with Sheffield Wednesday. Nevertheless, they put a valuable point on the board, which, after another round of fixtures, leaves them seven clear of trouble ahead of the run-in.
The importance of that point to Carlos Corberan’s side is something that will become clearer in the weeks to come, but there’s little denying that the performance at Hillsborough was hardly anything to write home about.
Reflecting on that game, it was really only Lewis O’Brien from Corberan’s starting XI that managed to emerge with much credit. He looked to offer options through the midfield in the first-half and, after Callum Paterson’s fortunate equaliser, drove Huddersfield looking for a winner late on.
The stats in the graphic above underline how strong O’Brien’s performance was, with Football League World discussing his impact on the game at Hillsborough in-depth too.
O’Brien hasn’t been the epitome of consistency in the Championship this season and at times has struggled to build on what was a hugely encouraging breakthrough season in 2019/20.
However, he has his admirers still, with Sheffield United, Newcastle United and Crystal Palace all known to be keen on a transfer for the 22-year-old midfielder in the past.
Huddersfield, all being well, will be gliding towards Championship football next season. Sheffield United are heading for the same fate, whilst Newcastle have a battle on their hands if they are to offer O’Brien the lure of the Premier League.
The fact remains, though, that there are clubs in the Premier League keeping an eye on O’Brien and how he’s developing.
Under Corberan, it’s been tough at times, but there’s little denying that aspects of O’Brien’s game have improved on the eye: his ability to drive from midfield at the right time, bravery to get on the ball and his versatility to move into wider channels all stand out.
The last couple of weeks have been good for Huddersfield; they’ve collected six points from four fixtures and are unbeaten in that period of time. The points are a plus, but so are the performances of O’Brien.
His energetic display at Hillsborough came on the back of helping Huddersfield win at QPR, and prior to that, he was the driving force behind Corberan’s side giving Cardiff City a real scare at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Darting runs from midfield helped win Huddersfield a penalty that Yaya Sanogo couldn’t convert. It was a performance from the team that warranted three points and, although they didn’t come, it was a step in the right direction onto this unbeaten run.
As O’Brien continues to be the heartbeat of these types of performances, it underlines why he must be retained in the summer. Huddersfield will be happy to shift other players out of the club; FLW understand Alex Pritchard is wanted at QPR and players of his ilk will be shifted on without concern.
O’Brien’s situation is different in that whilst the club might want to retain him, if he continues to shine in the way he has in recent weeks, he will continue to be on the end of glances of admiration from those in the divisions above.
The future of the homegrown midfield will have to come into focus when Huddersfield’s status for next season has been confirmed.
Flat performances from the side like the one we saw against Sheffield Wednesday will hardly convince O’Brien the John Smith’s Stadium is the place to match his ambitions in the longer-term.
The narrative needs to change before it’s too late, and mirroring that injection of energy O’Brien brings might just help fend off any immediate interest.