Whilst over the past twelve months, the vast majority of Town’s signings have arrived as unknown entities, Town’s most recent signing is far from unknown. The arrival of Tom Ince from Derby County for a fee rising up to £11 million is yet another statement of intent by David Wagner and Huddersfield Town.
An invaluable asset
Since emerging from Liverpool’s academy, Ince has always shown that he has the unique ability to be a free-scoring wide midfielder making him an invaluable asset for any club.
Considering that Town’s glaring weakness last season was a lack of goals, Wagner has looked to re-address this issue by targeting wide midfielders with proven end-product.
The signing of Ince even for the reported initial fee of £8 million seems to be a steal considering that Ince has been a guaranteed source of goals throughout the entirety of his career.
The only blip that Ince has had, which is why some see this move as one ladened with risk, was a short and relatively unsuccessful stint in the Premier League with Hull City and Crystal Palace.
However, it is worth taking note that Ince was only twenty-two when he last played in the Premier League. Since then, Ince has matured significantly and established himself at Derby County as one of the best wingers outside of the Premier League.
A true game changer
The most impressive asset of Ince’s game is his decision-making in the final third and ultimately his end product. In 105 appearances for Derby County, Ince has scored thirty-eight goals and supplied seventeen assists, a record that speaks for itself.
As well as finishing as Derby County’s top goalscorer last season, the prolific winger showed remarkable consistency as Ince registered double figures in the goals tally for the third successive season.
With such a proven record, Ince will no doubt offer Town some much needed composure in the decision-making department which was at times lacking last season.
As well as adding composure and efficiency in the final third, Ince will almost certainly add some much needed firepower and end product to Town’s wide options as he arrives at Town as a true game changer.
The attitude problem
An issue that is often raised about Ince is his attitude. However, I am sceptical that we can read too much into on-the-field expressions.
As well as my scepticism about Ince’s on the field behaviour demonstrating an attitude problem, considering how Wagner carefully constructed a squad with a near perfect mentality, it would be surprising to see Wagner risk disrupting the harmony by bringing in a player that he regards as having an attitude problem.
Rather than having an attitude problem, I think Ince is driven by ambition and to a certain extent arrogance. Whilst these traits may not be particularly liked by football fans, I imagine both of these traits are very much admired by Wagner. It will be interesting to see how much of that ambition and arrogance is ego-driven and how Wagner will manage that.
Some comparisons can be made between the pre-conceived ideas about Rajiv van La Parra’s attitude before his arrival and those being made about Ince. There were claims predominantly from Wolves fans that the enigmatic Dutch winger was lazy, egotistical and difficult to manage.
However, under Wagner’s management, van La Parra’s all round game drastically improved and he played a crucial role in Town’s promotion to the Premier League.
In an interview regarding Ince, the footballing Nostradamus that is Ian Holloway gave more insight into Ince’s attitude as he described Ince’s flexibility and footballing intelligence as one of best features: “In terms of taking on information, wanting to learn and using it in practice, he was one of the quickest I’ve ever worked with”.
If Ince continues to yearn to learn and buys into Wagner’s philosophy, then 25-year-old winger will develop into one of the standout players for Town next season. Under the management of Wagner, it will only be a matter of time before the German head coach unlocks Ince’s full potential like Wagner has done with players of far lesser ability.
A masterstroke in the making
Having begun his career as a player that was desperate to get out of his father’s shadow, Ince has evolved and matured into a player who no longer relies solely on his natural ability.
During his stint at Derby County, Ince developed a disciplined work ethic which will be tested to its limits by David Wagner. Whilst Ince’s reputation is one of a maverick, the underrated work that Ince does off the ball will be very much appreciated by Wagner and Town fans alike.
As well as having the work ethic and discipline needed to fit Wagner’s philosophy, on the ball, Ince’s playing style very much suits Huddersfield Town. Ince’s natural flair, enigmatic creativity and ability to transitions through the thirds with pace and power will add further dynamism to Town’s attack.
Within Wagner’s fluid 4-2-3-1 system, Ince will primarily operate in the right wing role. However, with the overlapping forward forays of Smith, Ince will play more as an inside forward. This slight position change will open up the pitch for Ince and allow him to drift inwards onto his favoured left foot.
Whilst some would argue that Ince’s predictability to cut onto his stronger foot is a weakness, in Wagner’s system, it opens up the pitch entirely. The possible intricate combinations and fluid interchanging interplay between Ince and Palmer in the number 10 role will be one of Town’s most effective creative tools.
In my opinion, there is much to be excited about this signing. Although he will undoubtedly be written off by some because of his last spell in the Premier League, there is nothing more dangerous than a man with a point to prove.
With a point to prove in a side and system that plays to his strengths, I fully expect Ince to flourish under Wagner’s careful management.
From his decisive nature in front of goal to his underrated work ethic and hunger for success, Ince is a masterstroke in the making.