There are times in life that you find yourself falling into a rut. Whether that be an overwhelming to-do list, a series of misfortunes, etc. there are times that you need to get an easy win to get yourself back on track. I even created a word for it “slumpbuster”.
Well for Arsenal, Huddersfield need to be the slumpbuster that gets them back on track for a top four finish. Mounting pressure from the “big 6” rivals have put Arsenal in desperate position to collect as many points as possible from lower-tier opposition.
With all due respect to Huddersfield, they are indeed the previously mentioned “lower-tier” opponent. With their [lack of a] wage budget and [lack of] ability to make moves in the market, Huddersfield are a team that can do little to pick themselves up back into safety.
Ex-manager David Wagner worked magic to keep the Terriers in the Premier League last season. After arriving from Borussia Dortmund, Wagner pulled off a managerial masterclass keeping the Premiership’s lowest-paid team in the division. Players like Laurent Depoitre, Steve Mounie, and Aaron Mooy may not have been the most glamorous bunch, but Wagner’s ability to have them play as a cohesive unit gave them a fighting chance.
Fast forward to 2018/19 season and Wagner has been relieved of his duties with the club as they free fall towards the Championship division. Inheriting a team with a mere 11 points from 25 games and only 13 goals are just the beginning of a laundry list of issues for the new manager, Jan Siewart. Siewart has taken the helm of a doomed project in hopes he can pull off a miracle.
Siewart’s issues begin with a lack of options moving forward. Huddersfield’s top scorers last season (Depoitre, Mounie, Mooy) put together a hand in 22 goals for the Terriers (17 g, 5 a). While those numbers are not amazing, with a notoriously-organized defense it was enough to see the club fight for another year in the Premier League. Here is a brief rundown of this season’s offensive statistics for Huddersfield in the current campaign:
- Depoitre, Mounie, and Mooy have combined for only 3 goals and 3 assists as a unit. That statistic is particularly bad when you also factor in that Depoitre has contributed nothing to those numbers and Mooy scored both his goals in a single game against Wolves.
- Huddersfield’s top scorer this season is a defender (Zanka) with 3 goals. Their team boasts a poor record of 13 goals so far in 25 games.
- Huddersfield have not scored since the 2nd day of January in the Premier League. The Terriers are on a run of 5 games without a goal that dates back their tie with Burnley. Burnley finished that game with 10 men.
Looking at statistics beyond the offensive part of the game are not much easier for Huddersfield supporters. The club is on track to only gather 20 points this season (based on their record after Matchday 19) and currently has a goal differential of -33 (worst in the PL). They are second to last in the table for goals allowed (46).
Whether it be at the top or in the back, the Huddersfield squad will need to focus on reducing the little errors to keep an intimidating Arsenal attack at bay. Mooy will need to channel his form from last season and his ability to play box-to-box if his team are looking to get a result.
Arsenal and January have an abusive history with each other, and 2019 was no different.
Beyond the pitch, a headache of finances and a [ridiculous] lack of transfer activity have left supporters pulling their hair out with the Gunners recently. Mesut Ozil’s contract numbers, Ramsey leaving on a free transfer in June, and a departing Sven Mislintat have let to a much anticipated start to February. There are even reports that Calum Chambers was attempted to be recalled on loan, only for Arsenal to admit they did not have the finances to complete the return of their defender. Arsenal will try and shift the focus back onto the pitch with their upcoming match against the Terriers.
Manchester United have ramped up their game to contend for a top 4 spot since their new appointment at manager. The race for the last Champions League spot is heating up and Arsenal will need to pull together a good run of form to stay relevant in the conversation. With Spurs and United fixtures on back-to-back weekends at the beginning of March Arsenal need 9 points from their next 3 games, and that starts Saturday with Huddersfield. With Chelsea playing Manchester City this weekend, Arsenal have a chance to jump up in the table.
Personally, I hope to see Denis Suarez get his starting XI debut after what I can only describe as “growing pains” in his first cameo against City. The Spaniard has a wide range of ability that could see him start on the right side [or 5 other positions] as Mkhitaryan just returned to training. Arsenal’s only January move will need to make his role felt throughout the remainder of the season in an area of concern for the Gunners with their current team sheet. A struggling Alex Iwobi and the refusal to include Ramsey/Ozil (don’t get me started on that topic) give reason to believe that Suarez could make the starting XI.
Torreira and Guendouzi will need to bring their game as well over the next run of games. The midfield tandem have been playing well as a partnership recently after a pedestrian holiday season. With a decent match against City and a good showing against Chelsea, the two midfield maestros should look to use the match against Huddersfield as a way to set a tone for the remainder of the season.
In relation to injury news: Henrikh Mkhitaryan returned to full training this week and Ainsley Maitland-Niles is being assessed ahead tomorrow’s fixture. Arsenal will still be without Sokratis who is scheduled to return at the end of the month. As you likely read over the past month: Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding, and Hector Bellerin are all out for the season as well.
WHAT: Arsenal at Huddersfield Town
WHERE: John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield
WHEN: Saturday, February 9th, 7:00 AM PT | 10:00 AM ET | 3:00 PM BT
US TV: CNBC
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