Premier League

Unknown To Cult Figure: Zanka's Terriers' Big Surprise

 • by David Cartlidge
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Watching Huddersfield Town do business since their promotion to the Premier League has been fascinating. Obscure names to many some might’ve been, but that is no longer the case.

Mathias Jorgensen is the perfect example of that. Signed from FC Copenhagen for a report £3.5million last summer, few knew who he was. Now, Zanka, as he’s referred to, finds himself as a growing culture figure for the Terriers.

With 2790 minutes played so far in the Premier League, the centre-back is the most used outfield player not only at his club but in the entire league. An ever-present, Zanka’s rarely let his side down and is a clear example of why Huddersfield have been no whipping boys for anyone this season.

It’s impressive, given the number of games he’s played, that the 27-year-old only has four yellow cards to his name this season too – and none of the red variety.

Odd especially given there were warning signs about his lack of discipline before arriving at the club. That has seemingly been curbed, however, and the player has been a beacon of good temperament.

So what has made Zanka such a formidable presence in the Huddersfield backline?

His contribution on the defensive end is all-round, quite frankly. In terms of areas where he falls short little stands out as he’s shown an ability to be strong in all aspects of his game.

This season he currently leads in the interceptions column, with 62 nonetheless, and no Premier League player making more. This averages out at two per game and is a phenomenal ratio, emphasising one of Zanka’s best traits which is reading the game and reacting to danger.

The same goes for his clearances, with his 199 this season putting him in the top ten players in this respective area – only five Premier League players have cleared their lines more. The Dane’s ability to step up and put an end to any danger has been a key facet of his form.

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Another area in which Zanka stands out is in his aerial battles. It again plays up to his style. He’s a combative type in defence, but extremely assertive and doesn’t take an age when making decisions. He’s won 71 of his aerial duels this season which pans out at 2.29 on average per game.

As the season has has grew on Zanka’s only adapted even further to the Premier League, and several of his recent performances have been his best since joining the club. In the away victory over West Bromwich Albion, a vital three points for Huddersfield, the lively defender was commanding from the back.

Even in the loss to Tottenham Hotspur at the start of March he impressed, showing his ability to match up to the best teams in England. This sort of challenge against bigger sides is clearly a major motivational factor.

One of the principal reasons for bringing in Zanka was so that Huddersfield could functionally play out from the back. The Dane is proficient when in possession and has stepped up to the task of doing that in the Premier League extremely well.

His passing accuracy currently stands at 77.26 per cent, while 617 of the passes he’s made have been forward as he looks to bring about a positive influence from the backline. In terms of long ball accuracy Zanka’s only hitting 38.79 per cent, though, and that is an area that could certainly be improved in time.

Overall however Zanka has been one of the best pieces of business by any club in the Premier League since the summer, and has developed into a strong asset not just for his own side Huddersfield but also in terms of proving their is quality further down the league.

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