Having already recruited Terrence Kongolo from AS Monaco (albeit on loan), Dean Hoyle and David Wagner have not rested on their laurels as they’ve scoured the transfer market for their second signing of the window.
The news today was exactly that as Town announced the signing of Alex Pritchard on a three and a half year-deal from Norwich City for a fee believed to be in the region of £10 million plus add-ons.
This piece looks at how Alex Pritchard fits Town’s transfer strategy, the significance of his signing and what he has to offer going forwards.
The trend continues
With the lure of Premier League football in a stable environment, increased wages and the opportunity to work with David Wagner, Town find themselves in a privileged position where they can cherry-pick some of the top talent from the Championship.
This approach has been used by the likes of Burnley and Bournemouth to great effect and it appears that Dean Hoyle and David Wagner are attempting to follow in their foot-steps.
After prising Tom Ince away from Derby County in the summer, the arrival of Alex Pritchard is a further example of this trend continuing.
Of course, there is an element of risk with this approach.
Whilst I think the gap between the top of the Championship and the bottom half of the Premier League is marginal, the speed and physicality of the Premier League is incomparable.
Having said that, whilst Pritchard may appear to not suit the speed and physicality of the Premier League, it is his intelligence, technical ability and awareness, particularly in the final third, which will be greatly welcomed by all those involved with Huddersfield Town.
An integral signing at an integral moment
This signing is even more pertinent considering what has occurred over the past six months.
Following the pro-longed absences of Kasey Palmer and Abdelhamid Sabiri for various reasons, it has been apparent for months that Town were lacking a natural central attacking midfielder.
In response to this challenge, David Wagner found temporary solutions which included playing Tom Ince as an unorthodox number 10 or a slight change in shape to a flatter midfield three. However, despite these changes, there was a desperate lack of creativity and balance.
This led to the conclusion that quite simply, Town needed to bring a number 10 in, at the soonest possible opportunity.
Whilst it may seem relatively straightforward to identify a position that needs strengthening, find a suitable player and subsequently sign them, January is notorious for being a market that is over-inflated and lacking quality.
It’s therefore quite remarkable that Town have managed to not only identify this integral position needs addressing but also to find a player of Pritchard’s quality and calibre.
Notably, with key fixtures coming up over the next month or so, it seems that this integral signing is also coming at an integral moment.
What to Expect?
“Pritchard’s injuries have held him back in the last two seasons, but in full flow, he’s been one of the most pleasing players to watch in the Championship for the last few seasons.
He’s a #10 at heart, and like many similar players often plays on the left, coming inside to impact the game from the half-spaces.
Pritchard is not a dribbler like van La Parra but his low centre of gravity makes him agile on the ball. He’s at his most dangerous around the edge of the box, able to shoot accurately with both feet but with an eye for a pass too.
His scoring and assisting numbers have always been good when he’s been fit and if not for a wasted season under Tony Pulis and the aforementioned injuries, I think we’d have seen him in the Premier League sooner.
As an added bonus, he’s a very good set-piece taker.
He’s not a natural fit for most bottom half Premier League teams, but Huddersfield is the exception. I think he suits the 4-2-3-1 system and style well and will offer something different to van la Parra and Ince; I think he’s tidier on the ball than both of them, and can provide a killer ball in the final third, which might be lacking when Mooy is playing deeper.
A great signing for Huddersfield at that price. Sad to see him leave the Championship but excited to see how he does”.
The Missing piece of the puzzle?
Following the arrival of a player that is renowned for his creativity and end product, it does seem that Alex Pritchard is the missing piece of the puzzle.
In a previous piece, I discussed Town’s goal problem and one of the largest issues was the distinct lack of chance creation.
The signing of Alex Pritchard directly addresses that.
In open play, Pritchard will be tasked with finding pockets of space between the lines. It is there where he will hurt the opposition.
If his form in the Championship and previous seasons is anything to go by, he has the vision, intelligence and the technical ability to see a defence splitting pass and make it.
The arrival of Alex Pritchard alone should bolster the number of key passes that Town make per game and that should lead to more chances being created.
As well as being a threat in between the lines, Pritchard, like many of David Wagner’s offensive signings, has the versatility to play across the front line.
It is not just that versatility but his crossing ability which could prove to be an extremely useful outlet considering both Laurent Depoitre and Steve Mounie have showed their aerial prowess this season.
Alex Pritchard will also add another dimension in dead ball scenarios. Whilst an amalgamation of Aaron Mooy, Chris Lowe and Tom Ince have had the responsibility as Town’s set-piece takers, they have all failed to find a consistency.
As Pritchard arrives regarded as a dubbed ‘set-piece specialist’, he may be able to find a consistency when delivering set-pieces which should also lead to further chances.
However, why I believe he is the missing piece of the puzzle is that even though he will take time to adapt to the speed and physicality of the Premier League, he will bring out the best in those around him, especially Tom Ince.
I predict that the arrival of Alex Pritchard will see Tom Ince return to the wing. This will see Ince find comfort as he will be playing in his most natural position, offering the balance that Town has been missing.
Therefore, whilst there will undoubtedly be scepticism about a player who is unproven at the Premier League level, aside from a very brief spell in Tony Pulis’ West Brom side, the arrival of Alex Pritchard will have significant positive impact.
From his set-piece credentials and delivery to his intelligence in the final third, Pritchard may be diminutive in stature, but he will undoubtedly have a large role to play.