Premier League

Huddersfield's misfortune masks deeper problems

 • by Mark Thompson
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There are several, pretty important, statistics for which Huddersfield Town sit dead last in the Premier League; open play goals, shots on target and big chances created.

They’re first for accurate long balls, though. Huddersfield are that sort of team.

The Terriers are largely the bookmakers’ second favourites to go down this season, after Cardiff City. Not quite as bad as a Neil Warnock team is something, at least.

But Huddersfield are currently 18th on three points – two away from safety – with the joint-worst goal difference in the league.

But there are reasons Huddersfield fans can look forward to the resumption of Premier League football after the international break. Let us explain…

Unlucky ducks

So far this season David Wagner’s side have been hit by a double-whammy of misfortune. Their strikers are scoring fewer goals than expected and their opponents are scoring more.

The 'unlucky index'

TeamExpected goals difference minus goal difference
Huddersfield-7.1
Southampton-5.6
Cardiff-5.1
Manchester United-4.7
Fulham-1.8

This kind of gap on both sides of the ball puts Huddersfield at the top of the ‘unlucky index’, that is assuming the difference between a team’s actual goal difference and their expected goal difference can be used as a gauge of how fortunate they’ve been.

*minus penalties and own goals

ForAgainst
Goals*416
Expected goals6.3712.47

This ‘unlucky index’ is a mixed bag for the Terriers. On the one hand, Huddersfield fans can be hopeful their luck will turn, they’ll start to score, and their opponents’ goals will start to slow.

On the other hand, two of the other top ‘unlucky’ teams are direct relegation rivals.

There’s also the problem in that a large amount of this gap between actual and expected goals conceded will have come from the 6-1 defeat to Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s side were good that day, but it’s extraordinarily rare for a team to score that many without hitting a hot streak in front of goal. But if you moved the score of that match to an ‘expected’ result, it wouldn’t win Huddersfield any extra points.

And if you did use expected goals to create an ‘expected points’ total – simulating each match thousands of times based on the shots that took place and the chance of them going in – Huddersfield would stay pretty much exactly where they are.

Where are the problems?

At both ends of the pitch, it seems.

Some teams struggle to move up field or can’t prevent their opponents from doing so, but Wagner’s side are safely mid-table for the proportion of their sequences of possession which end in the final third, and the same is true for their opponents’ progression as well.

They’re also mid-table for how much they pressure the opposition high up the pitch, with their opponents’ completion rate of passes starting in their own third, and the proportion of possession sequences that are ‘settled’ (reach five or more passes).

Away from the two sets of goalposts, Huddersfield appear an average Premier League side (better than being a relegation-candidate side, at least). It’s just when the ball gets closer to either goal that things go wrong.

Granted, Huddersfield have played Chelsea, Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur so far this season. But other teams who’ve had tough runs so far are the likes of Newcastle United, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Cardiff.

Again, things should improve for Huddersfield in the coming weeks but given the fixture list, so too should their relegation rivals.

Should the Terriers be terrified?

Ultimately things can’t get much worse for Huddersfield in the Premier League, and there are a lot of reasons why things should look up for Wagner’s side in the coming weeks.

But many of those reasons also apply to their direct relegation rivals, and there’s still genuine difficulty in taking shots and stopping their opponents from having them.

All in all it isn’t a great position to be in and unless Wagner can solve the problems blighting his side then it could turn out to be a long season for the Terriers.

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