With Town’s pre-season fixture against Dynamo Dresden coming to an end, Talk of the Town Editor Elliott Wheat-Bowen draws a number of conclusions to consider:
1) Kachunga’s hard work pays off
Whilst most of Town’s squad were either at the World Cup or on holiday, Elias Kachunga was not. Rather than taking the liberty of a break, Kachunga was at Canalside working throughout the summer to ensure that he would be fully fit for the coming season.
A frustrating season that saw him sidelined with both ligament and malleolar injuries meant the 26-year-old forward has been chomping at the bit to return to first-team action.
That was clear to see today and it was clear to see that Kachunga’s hard-work has paid off. Interchanging with Rajiv van La Parra, Kachunga was one of Town’s brighter players in the first half.
As well as showing nice touches in possession, he was the usual bundle of energy out of possession with the willingness and tenacity to press and make life difficult for the opposition.
David Wagner will be monitoring his fitness closely to ensure that Kachunga doesn’t suffer from any form of relapse. If he can steer clear of further injuries, he will be someone challenging for a place in the starting XI (I’m avoiding making the ‘he’ll feel like a new signing’ cliché but I genuinely think he will).
2) Ben Hamer will offer competition
Up until today, no goalkeeper had featured for more than forty-five minutes. However, today, we saw Ben Hamer given the full ninety minutes to show his new head coach what he has to offer.
The 30-year-old keeper was impressive without having a stand-out moment. From his shot-stopping to his positioning and anticipation, Hamer looked well-rounded, vastly experienced and level-headed.
What I can say for sure is that Hamer will be offering Jonas Lossl more competition than the Danish international had last season when he was competing with Rob Green and Joel Coleman.
3) Chris Löwe stakes his claim
Whilst there has been much-maligned discussion about the left-back position and the need to bring in extra personnel to strengthen the position, it seems that Chris Löwe has used the talk as added motivation.
Following a strong end to the season, Löwe has carried his form into the pre-season with his first outing seeing him notch two assists in an excellent full-back display.
Whilst he wasn’t as productive going forward today, he was one of Town’s stand-out performers in the first half, with his defensive contributions standing out amongst the rest.
The arrival of potentially a fully-fit Erik Durm will see his place in the side come under serious threat. However, he continues to stake his claim for a place in the starting eleven and will push Durm all the way come August 11th.
4) First viewing of a Christopher Schindler/Terence Kongolo partnership
With the arrival of Terence Kongolo on a permanent transfer, many (myself included) expected to see Town transition more permanently to a variation of 5-2-2-1; a formation which would’ve accommodated Christopher Schindler, Terence Kongolo and Zanka.
Instead, we have seen David Wagner continue to persist with the 4-2-3-1 formation which leaves the interesting question hanging in the air, who will be Town’s starting centre-half partnership for the new Premier League season?
Today, we had a thirty-five minute cameo of what a Christopher Schindler-Terence Kongolo partnership looks like and it certainly looked the business.
Athleticism, excellent reading of the game and wholehearted committed challenges were a taste of the partnership and I’m excited to see if a relationship between Schindler and Kongolo will be forged to the extent that they fully complement one another ahead of the new season.
5) Abdelhamid Sabiri shows increasing maturity in a deeper role
One of the surprises of pre-season has been Abdelhamid Sabiri. The Moroccan midfielder appeared to be talented but raw in the Premier League, last season.
This summer, however, we have seen Sabiri play in a deeper playmaking role and with that bolster of responsibility, it has brought about maturity.
With neat touches, quick feet and a willingness to surge forward, Sabiri looked like another dynamic midfield option for David Wagner to call upon.
In the second half, there was some bright moments when Alex Pritchard and Abdelhamid Sabiri linked up and offered a creative feel to the midfield, something that could be potentially built upon.
6) Alex Pritchard’s sharp start to the pre-season continues
Undoubtedly, one of Town’s stand-out performers in pre-season up until this point has been Alex Pritchard. The diminutive midfielder has seemed sharp and focused as he looks to get his first pre-season under his belt at Huddersfield Town.
The case was the same today as Alex Pritchard’s introduction in the second half saw the momentum of the game shift almost wholesale in the direction of Town.
Whilst we all know the skill and agility that Pritchard has to offer, this pre-season he seems to be re-invigorated with a new sense of confidence. One particular moment stood out in which, despite being triple marked and seemingly stranded in a cul-de-sac, he still managed to turn his way out of trouble.
The final and most promising sight for Town fans was his vision and creativity. As Town finished the game stronger, Pritchard played an excellent pass over the top for Laurent Depoitre. Whilst the Belgian centre forward was offside, the intent was there and it is something that I’ll be looking out for over the course of the new season.
7) Florent Hadergjonaj adds a dynamic midfield option
Last season, we saw Florent Hadergjonaj deployed in a number of roles. We saw the Swiss international play as a full-back and a wing-back. However, eyebrows were raised when Hadergjonaj was used as an auxiliary midfielder.
However, after a number of promising performances including stand-out performances at Old Trafford and the Etihad, he has potentially given David Wagner a wildcard option to use in midfield.
Today, David Wagner gave an indication of where he potentially sees Florent Hadergjonaj’s future lies. Coming on as a second-half substitute, it was not for Tommy Smith as many would’ve expected, instead he was once again used in midfield.
It was Hadergjonaj who created the opportunity for Town to open the scoring. A lung-busting run down the right saw him enter the penalty area and his pull-back found Abdelhamid Sabiri but he was unable to direct his shot away from the goalkeeper.
8) David Wagner continues to offer opportunities to Town’s promising starlets
A reoccurring theme throughout Town’s pre-season games this summer has been David Wagner’s open willingness to offer a number of Town’s most promising academy graduates opportunities.
Already we have seen a handful of Town’s starlets be given the unique opportunity to train with the first team squad, both at PPG Canalside but also as part of Town’s pre-season tour in Germany.
As a result of this, a number of these starlets have managed to get some first team minutes under their belt. Today was no different.
In the second half, Lewis O’Brien, Jordan Williams and Rarmani Edmonds-Green all came on as substitutes and more than held their own.
Whether any of these starlets will take the opportunities that continue to be presented to them over the coming weeks and stake a claim to be included in David Wagner’s Premier League plans is something to keep an eye out for.