Huddersfield Town lost again at the weekend, and saw themselves drop from 9th to 14th. Either position would be acceptable to me at the end of the season, and a trip to Wigan was never going to be easy; the visit of Birmingham may be helpful for evening that particular keel.
This season has felt a lot more positive than last season. Losing 2-1, which isn’t a disgrace, doesn’t leave the same taste in the mouth as losing 6-1, which happened a couple of times last campaign.
Mark Robins squad has been developing his squad in that image. Huddersfield’s wage budget is around a quarter of the parachute payments teams like Wigan enjoy, and when the spending power of Leicester City, say, or QPR, is brought into the equation, competing at that level is always going to be a piss in the wind.
So, Huddersfield are set up to stagnate games. It means they’re likely to draw a lot of them (check – 5 of 14 so far) but stay in touch with teams if losing, while not charging away with victories (what in God’s name was that Bournemouth game? An anomaly).
That recipe should make the 2013/14 vintage a slightly better tipple than the 2012/13; fuller of body, but perhaps lighter of fruitiness; more a Shiraz than a Barolo – I expect them to match better with fruit than red meat, and so it has proved, as the Cherries and Tangerines were a lovely compliment to the side, whereas the tougher Foxes and Tykes proved a more difficult proposition.
The ‘best’ metric to test that theory would be to look at the team’s performance against equivalent sides. However, its fairly imperfect – Sheffield Wednesday are worse than last season, Middlesbrough, too, while Bournemouth and QPR are in the division.
Having said that, its not the worst system in the world, just don’t expect it to be bang on accurate. Using replacements for those teams relegated and promoted, we can get a fair comparison and here are those figures in terms of points both game-by-game (confusing, but visually accurate)
And then, better than that, in terms of total points – showing an increase from 0.79 (horrific) to 1.21 (not great, but marks the difference between 36 and 56 points over a season if extrapolated).
That’s not the important thing, though. We can assume the results, while perhaps representative after a little longer, may be skewed by having played Watford, QPR, Leicester and Nottingham Forest all so early on. The more interesting rubric is the goal difference performance.
That graph, again, in terms of games played, is quite busy (though is instructive in terms of how often Town took a tonking last season, even if the two East Midlands away games marked a low ebb) but in terms of overall is vastly different.
Having a positive goal difference, when midtable, is a good thing. Especially given that I expect the playoffs to ebb further and further away and the club to end up at the lower end of midtable. Being tight (I seem to recall I wrote an article about Giuseppe Sannino being able to deliver similar results at Siena the season before they were relegated – he’s at Chievo now, who visit Bologna tonight; I expect 1-0) means that a team not only requires one chance to get a point (or even three), which is handy when James Vaughan is about, but also means that there isn’t the soul-crushing feeling of losing heavily week-in week-out.
Mark Robins is on the right track. He’s getting there slowly, but he’s getting there.