Following David Wagner’s arrival, there was clearly an issue that needed to be addressed, the defence. Since Town’s promotion after the dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Sheffield United, Town had leaked over 70 goals every single season.
In the summer, David Wagner made the decision to revamp the entire defence in the summer, with only one player managing to survive the much needed wholesale changes, Tommy Smith.
The influence of David Wagner and his system
Some questions were raised about whether Town should’ve further strengthened the right-back position with Tommy Smith potentially being an understudy. However, David Wagner remained loyal to Smith and as this season has proved, Wagner’s faith has been fully repaid.
It only took a pre-season with David Wagner to truly unlock the potential of Tommy Smith. In previous years, Smith appeared to be caught in two minds, whether to stick to his defensive duties or being a supporting attacking outlet. However, this season, Tommy Smith has known exactly what his role is within David Wagner’s system.
In David Wagner’s system, we have seen Tommy Smith play almost as an orthodox right midfielder when Town are in possession as Smith and Lowe have pinned the opposition into their own half. We have also seen Tommy Smith begin a number of attacks after picking up possession and surging up the field to push the opposition even further back.
In recent years, Smith may have taken the easier option by playing a pass in-field and retreating to his defensive position. However, within David Wagner’s system, we have seen Tommy Smith oozing with confidence and positivity.
Tommy Smith’s forward forays
Within David Wagner’s fluid 4-2-3-1 system, we have also witnessed a burgeoning relationship between Tommy Smith and Elias Kachunga. Although Elias Kachunga is an orthodox centre-forward, he has been operating from the right as an inside forward.
This has proved to be a masterstroke by David Wagner as it has given Tommy Smith the license to attack down the right hand flank and link up well with Elias Kachunga whilst also allowing Kachunga to be the penalty box threat that he was expected to be.
The assist to goal combination between Tommy Smith and Elias Kachunga this season has resulted in seven goals, which is, the most effective combination in the entirety of the Championship.
As David Wagner has offered Tommy Smith a license of freedom on the right hand flank, he has more than took the opportunity as he has scored vital goals in the victories over Rotherham United and Aston Villa.
Even more notably, Smith has also provided ten assists this season, joint second with Tom Cairney, Sone Aluko and Albert Adomah. Considering that Tommy Smith is keeping company with some of the most creative and highly regarded players in the Championship as a defender, it shows just how impressive he has been this season.
Considering that Tommy Smith is keeping company with some of the most creative and highly regarded players in the Championship as a defender, it shows just how impressive he has been this season.
Well deserved recognition
As the season has grown on, we have witnessed as fans, a transformation. Not only a transformation of the club from one that was treading water above the relegation zone to one competing for promotion but also a transformation epitomised by Tommy Smith.
The consistently impressive performances of Tommy Smith were rewarded by David Wagner as he gave Smith the captaincy as Smith has grown into a leader on and off the field.
More generally, Tommy Smith’s performances have been recognised as he alongside his teammate Aaron Mooy were chosen to be in the EFL Championship Team of the Season, a magnificent and well-deserved feat for Town’s captain.
Whereas many questioned at the start of the season whether or not Tommy Smith had the ability to step up as part of a team chasing for promotion, he has answered every question and silenced every doubter.
With David Wagner often heralded as a miracle worker for his work at Huddersfield Town, Tommy Smith has become David Wagner’s disciple as one of the most improved, if not the most improved player since David Wagner’s arrival.