With the transfer window coming to a close, brace yourself for the hordes of journalists that will bombard you with prediction tables and vague generalised articles assessing each club’s transfer activity. For one such example, look no further than Paul Merson’s recent assessment of Town’s transfer business if you’re in need of clarification.
In order to combat the banality you’ll have to endure in the coming days and weeks, this piece looks at Town’s summer transfer window in a completely different way. We take a step back in order to look at the bigger picture.
A window of evolution, not revolution
Looking back at last summer’s approach and the summer that preceded it, the approach taken by David Wagner was the footballing equivalent of a revolutionary.
A high turnover of players saw a sudden dramatic change in the composition and the makeup of Town’s squad and on both occasions, it proved to be massively successful.
The first extremely active transfer window came as part of the ‘Wagner Revolution’ and as a result, Town gained promotion from the Championship.
The second, which proved to be an equally active transfer window, was one in which Town had to revolutionise their squad, in preparation for the Premier League.
This summer however feels different.
There was not a flurry of activity in the opening days of the window. There was also no attempt by Town to steal an advantage over their ununorganised opponents. Perhaps this was because of the disruption a World Cup year brings or the fact that the agreement to bring Deadline Day forward has forced all the teams, including Town, to compete with one another.
Because of this and to continue my revolution analogy slightly further, it seems that David Wagner has put down the transfer market equivalent of the ‘Communist Manifesto’ and turned towards evolution rather than revolution.
Whilst there has been comings and goings throughout the window, it has felt more like a slow and gradual development of a squad that will look to complete the feat of survival without having the momentum of promotion or the commodity of surprise to rely upon.
Unlike previous windows, in order for Town to progress, wholesale change and large turnovers of personnel were not needed. Instead, we saw David Wagner identify areas of weakness and address them. Simultaneously, we saw Wagner ruthlessly trim the squad.
A change in tact
As mentioned above, the overall window has had a different feel to what we’ve grown to expect under David Wagner. The change in tact was even more apparent when signings began to be made.
Whilst near enough all of Town’s signings this summer have fit the profile of young, hungry and ambitious often with a point to prove, overall there has been a change in tact.
The arrival of Ben Hamer on a free transfer having been released by Leicester City, Ramadan Sobhi from recently relegated Stoke City and the permanent acquisitions of Jonas Lössl, Florent Hadergjonaj and Terence Kongolo, gave an indication of a slight change in approach from Town.
Over the course of the past two windows, Town had turned to the Championship to sign players. This was in search of players who have it within themselves to make the step up to the Premier League. This transfer window, David Wagner instead placed an emphasis on Premier League experience.
With much of the talk surrounding the proclaimed second season syndrome and with one of the youngest squads in the entirety of the Premier League, David Wagner rightly prioritised bringing in experience, specifically experience in the Premier League to counter-act that.
It was, however, not a wholesale change in direction. The signing of Junior Bacuna from Groningen, Adama Diakhaby from AS Monaco, Erik Durm from Borussia Dortmund and the Deadline Day move for Isaac Mbenza showed that Town still turn to continental Europe when it comes to recruitment.
Upgrades and Competition for Places
It is difficult to gauge what a truly successful transfer window is. One way I look at it is quite simple, is the signing made an upgrade on what was there before?
Using this simple metric, it could be argued that Town’s summer transfer window was a success.
Working from the back forwards, the arrival of Ben Hamer is almost certainly an improvement on Joel Coleman. With that upgrade, there is now competition for the number one spot between Jonas Lössl and Hamer. This was something distinctly lacking last season with both Joel Coleman and Rob Green struggling to make an impression.
The permanent acquisition of Terence Kongolo will probably fall under the radar to the casual fan but the Dutchman takes Town’s centre half and/or left back options to another level as an upgrade on Michael Hefele and Scott Malone who subsequently left for Nottingham Forest and Derby County respectively.
Similarly, the arrival of Erik Durm could prove to be an eye-catching acquisition. Despite his unfortunate injury record, on paper he looks to be a massive upgrade in either of Town’s full-back positions.
Moving forwards, in midfield, Juninho Bacuna is likely to be more involved than Dean Whitehead was who featured only four times in the Premier League, last season.
Where Town has been most active and where there is now the most competition for places is the wide attacking midfield positions. The arrival of Ramadan Sobhi, Isaac Mbenza and Adama Diakhaby have seen Town’s area of weakness become one of strength.
It makes sense for David Wagner to stack players in the areas Town struggled with last season, especially with Elias Kachunga likely to be deployed more centrally as a secondary striker. David Wagner may use Kachunga as a more mobile alternative to Alex Pritchard.
Based on the basic metric explained above, depth has been added to the squad and upgrades have been made on the players that have departed this summer.
The vitally important internal signings
The final thing to consider which influenced my decision when debating whether this transfer window was a success for Town or not was the internal signings that were made.
Arguably, Town’s most important signing came before the transfer window was even open when a three year deal was agreed for David Wagner and Christoph Buhler.
Coming at the very beginning of the summer, it dispelled any unrest which would’ve inevitably come when clubs began to circle around Town’s coaching staff.
While Town may have not have taken the eye-catching route the likes of Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers have with a string of marquee signings, securing David Wagner will have as much of an effect, if not more.
The other vitally important internal signing came at the very end of the window, today in fact, when Town announced to the delight of Town fans that Christopher Schindler had penned a contract extension which would see him stay at Huddersfield Town until 2021.
Like David Wagner’s contract extension, the extension of Christopher Schindler’s contract could prove to be one of the signings of the summer, albeit as an internal one.
VERDICT: In a style which is very much akin to Huddersfield Town themselves, this summer transfer window will quietly go down as a success although it will be one that goes unnoticed.
Whilst the argument could be made that the vast majority of Town’s signings won’t slot straight into the starting XI, they needn’t be.
Last season we saw how a lack of squad depth hurt Town as did a lack of potential game-changing options. The strengthening of the squad this summer suggests that shouldn’t be an issue this summer.
With David Wagner extending his stay and none of Town’s star players being poached by fellow Premier League sides, we head into the season in better stead than we did at the end of last summer, with the opportunity now to defy the odds once again.