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The Curious Case of Alex Pritchard

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during the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and West Ham United at John Smith's Stadium on January 13, 2018 in Huddersfield, England.

When Alex Pritchard arrived in January for a then record transfer fee, there was genuine cause for elation. The diminutive midfielder arrived as a specialist in a position that Town sorely lacked.

The unmannerly departure of Kasey Palmer and Abdelhamid Sabiri’s raw nature led to the burden falling upon Tom Ince to occupy the number 10 role.

Pritchard’s arrival was a timely one and seemed the perfect fit for both Huddersfield Town and the player.

However, eight months later and Alex Pritchard has only had one hundred and twenty four minutes of Premier League action, this season.

What makes this more of a curious case was the nature of Town’s pre-season. A pre-season programme which included tours of both Germany and Austria.

Undoubtedly, the 25-year-old seemed to benefit greatly from having a pre-season to build upon.

On countless occasions, I stated how in these pre-season fixtures, Pritchard was showing the ingenuity and invention that Town’s somewhat one-dimensional attack lacked for large parts of last season.

Many a time in games he would be the sole individual looking to make something happen, wanting to play other players into space and create a chance, even when his team-mates weren’t obliging him. The frustration would boil over visibly on the pitch.

You could even make the argument that if it wasn’t for Pritchard, we might have been relegated, due to his match winning contributions against Bournemouth and West Brom.

And yet, despite this promising pre-season and the moments of real promise shown in the second half of last season, Pritchard has drifted towards the periphery.

In a way, it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. What we saw at the end of last season and the beginning of this is that Alex Pritchard became a victim of circumstance, a casualty of David Wagner’s formational changes.

With the switch to a three centre-half system, Alex Pritchard was used in a second striker role and as an unorthodox centre-forward by David Wagner.

It quickly became obvious that it was a role that didn’t suit Alex Pritchard and one which he was not used to. That has been reflected in his performances.

In the centre-forward or second striker role, Alex Pritchard has yet to score or provide an assist and with just one goal in seventeen matches for Town, he has yet to be the influential difference maker that we hoped he would be.

This season, with Town deploying a 3-4-3 (5-4-1 outside of possession) system, Alex Pritchard simply doesn’t fit.

Without the height, physicality or defensive awareness to displace Aaron Mooy or Philip Billing in the centre of midfield nor the mobility to play out wide leaves Pritchard in a tricky position.

It poses a difficult question. Should Town return to the 4-2-3-1 formation that gave them so much success in the early stages of their Premier League adventure? However, that is another question for another day.

With Wagner likely to persist with a formation that consists of three centre-halves, a potential solution would be to drop Alex Pritchard into a deep-lying play-making role with a free license to roam forward.

Whilst that would negate some defensive protection, it would inject another forward-thinking mind into a Town side that is desperately lacking goals.

The change of shape could also offer a different dimension to Town’s attack depending on who was elected to play off of either Steve Mounié or Laurent Depoitre.

As the ‘And He Takes That Chance‘ podcast stated in their latest episode this week, Town fans have always looked to certain players as ‘saviours’ who could come in and instantly turn around our poor performances; Joe Lolley under Chris Powell, James Vaughan, Gary Taylor-Fletcher and going even further back, James Berrett.

If Pritchard does come into the first XI in the next few weeks, there will be even more pressure on him to perform and carry the attacking players and further frustration if he doesn’t live up to this hyperbolised expectation.

For now, it will be interesting to see if David Wagner values Alex Pritchard’s contribution of creativity and ingenuity enough to tweak the system and bring Pritchard back into the fold – considering it could be a crucial few weeks for Town’s survival.