With cash on the hip, Huddersfield Town find themselves flush with players
Manager David Wagner has wasted little time adding to his squad, with eight players recruited so far this transfer window
In the absence of the actual league tables, the summer months tend to feature rather more artificial standings, often focused on football’s unofficial other field of conflict: the transfer market. There are those based entirely on opinion –who has had the best window? – and those that are at least based on facts: who has spent the most? Who has signed the most players?
And, certainly if only those in first-team contention this season are counted, there are surprise league leaders: Huddersfield Town. The Yorkshire club have recruited eight men. Indeed, they had by July 7. It is all the more remarkable because they were only promoted on May 29. Play-off winners sometimes start the season scrabbling around for signings, complaining they had one month less than the other clubs who went up while those long assured of Premier League status had rather longer to plan.
If Huddersfield have gone into overdrive – and five further players have signed new contracts – insiders believe that reflects the decisive nature of manager David Wagner. The German is quick to make his mind up. He signed 13 players last summer and 12 had arrived before the pre-season tour to Sweden. Wagner, who was adamant from day one that his side would play 4-2-3-1, has proved similarly consistent in another line of thinking. Huddersfield compiled two shortlists of targets – one for the Premier League and one for the Championship – and moved swiftly for names on the former.
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It helped that Wagner already knew two arrivals from last season. Equally, Huddersfield’s reliance on loan players was such that they began at an initial disadvantage. The pool of players they owned was weaker and stricter regulations on loans in the top flight meant they could not borrow four from Premier League clubs or two from Chelsea, as they did last year. Instead, Kasey Palmer was brought back from Stamford Bridge. Promotion allowed Wagner to purchase Aaron Mooy from Manchester City.
Their other loanee, Danish goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, came from Mainz. Wagner works closely with head of football operations David Moss in the transfer market – indeed, it is a sign of the success of Huddersfield’s methods that Moss’ predecessor, Stuart Webber, was poached by Norwich City – but arrivals from Germany bear the stamp of the manager, the former Borussia Dortmund reserve team coach. Wagner realised that similarities in the style of play between the Bundesliga II and the Championship made it a logical place to raid, even if his defenders spent the first month discovering referees afforded them more leeway. With that defence largely intact, the spending spree has been focused on the midfield and attack.
Huddersfield have spent around £40 million (Dh190m) and broken their transfer record four times this summer. They accept the fees may be eye-catching. But they are probably not risky. Town had a wage bill of just £11 million, one of the lowest in the Championship last season; indeed it was £2 million lower than in 2012/13 when they came 19th in the second tier. Wagner works uncomplainingly with the budget he is given. Now Huddersfield’s spending on salaries is projected to rise to between £30 and 35 million this season, still rendering it almost certainly much the smallest in the Premier League. As Sunderland, who propped up the table last season, still banked £99.9 million in broadcast and prize money, Huddersfield have a large surplus which can be spent in the transfer market.
Signing without selling has left Wagner with a large squad. He intends to rotate again – his high-tempo pressing game can be exhausting – but if the faces will change, the ideas will stay the same. They are the plans he has been pursuing since his appointment.
Updated: July 24, 2017 11:29 AM