Ask The Opposition w/ TalkOfTheTown: Huddersfield Town vs Manchester City (Premier League)

Last year, this fixture caused the eventual Champions a lot of problems with the newly-promoted side taking the lead in the game although eventually losing to the blues. Manchester City travel to the Kirklees Stadium on a run of consecutive wins in the Premier League and scoring 21 goals in just four games this calendar year.

It’s a stern test for the side at the very bottom of the Premier League table, and now manager-less, this has the potential to be a stroll for the Champions, who know anything but a win could be catastrophic given the competition they face for the Premier League crown this season.

Ahead of Sunday’s clash, I spoke with @elliotthtafc of @TalkOfTheTown, who gave City Xtra his thoughts on a number of topics:

Hi Elliot. Thanks for featuring for us in this week’s edition of ‘Ask The Opposition’. The departure of David Wagner has been the ‘talk of the town’ most recently, what have you made of the German’s time at the club? 

Pleasure to feature Freddie. Straight talking and to the point, David Wagner gave me and countless Huddersfield Town fans, memories and moments to remember that were beyond our wildest imagination. I never believed in my lifetime that I would see Huddersfield Town in the Premier League and he made that happen, against all the odds.

David Wagner performed countless minor miracles at this football club, time and time again, to the point where he made defying the odds and doing the impossible seem almost second-nature. To the onlooker, his departure may have seemed inevitable; stranded at the bottom of the table with next to no hope of survival. However, relegation or not this season, the impact that David Wagner has had at this football club is almost unquantifiable.

Cardiff City v Huddersfield Town - Premier League

In three and a half years, he completely turned around the fortunes of my football club and gave me some of the best years I’ve ever experienced as a Huddersfield Town fan and for that, he will go down as a living Huddersfield Town legend.

Huddersfield sit rock bottom of the Premier League, and now without a manager over halfway into the campaign, but what have you made of the season so far?

In all honesty, it has been an extremely difficult watch so far. One in which we are out of our depth, cut adrift and one which we as fans have had very little to shout about.

After our escape last season, it was vital that we used the summer transfer window as a means of addressing our glaring issue; our impotence in front of goal and sadly that did not happen. Since then, we have always been on the back foot and without a consistent source of goals, the difficulties we are now in were inevitable.

I also think the uncertainty and turbulence around the club hasn’t helped this season; there was uncertainty in recent months about Wagner and whether he would stay. Now, we face the challenge of managerial recruitment in our current predicament which is far from easy with talks about a potential takeover of the club by Chinese investment.

So I would say this season so far has obviously been one of disappointment and turbulence but also one of transition as it appears that we are entering a new chapter as a football club in more than one way.

Is an eight point gap at the bottom, between yourselves and 17th place Cardiff, too much to turn around and get yourselves on your way to safety?

At this stage, I would say it is too much of a gap. The romantic in me always believes that there’s a way to turn things around. But, in all honesty, there is just not enough quality in this squad.

As I mentioned above, there’s a feeling amongst fans and myself that we are simply out of our depth this season. It is testament to David Wagner’s work last season that we managed to survive but this battle is simply one step too far. The fact that we haven’t (to date) looked to spend big, which is the only way that I could see us turning this around and somehow incredulously managing a means of safety, suggests that we’re looking at the long term and a more sustainable way of retaining our Premier League status, even if it means dropping down to the Championship.

I think considering our only January arrival has been Jason Puncheon on loan and we only seem to be looking at loans in this window is indicative of that long-term strategy. If it wasn’t, we probably would’ve already brought Sam Allardyce on board on a six month rolling contract!

Aaron Mooy joined the Terriers from Manchester City, first on a loan deal then a permanent deal; but what have you made of the Australian and how important has he been to your side’s success in the past three seasons?

I think it is no understatement when I say that Aaron Mooy is the best player, I have ever seen in a Town shirt. When he initially came to us on loan, it was apparent from the very beginning that he was simply far too good for the Championship. Whilst in that division, a league in which the pace of each game is ridiculously hectic, he seemed to have all the time in the world.

At first it was because he was an unknown entity but as the season went on, it was his spatial awareness and willingness to drop deep or time a run forward which always saw him have the ability to dictate the tempo as everything went through him.

The way in which he stepped up from the Championship to the Premier League with sumptuous ease and took it all in his stride demonstrates his quality and genuine ability. He was integral in our promotion to the Premier League and he was equally integral to our miraculous survival last season.

In all honesty, it is no surprise that our collapse over Christmas coincided with him being sidelined; over the past three seasons, he has been the very heartbeat of our side.

Who would you highlight as the key players for Huddersfield this weekend?

The key player to look out for this weekend is arguably our stand-out player for the season as a whole so far, Philip Billing. In the FA Cup defeat at the Etihad a few seasons ago, he showed his potential and since then, he has grown exponentially.

This season, however, with the loss of Aaron Mooy to injury as well as Danny Williams, he has found a consistency in his performances which took on the mantle as Town’s main creative outlet in the centre of the park. Tall, elegant on the ball and a willingness to take on his man and surge into space. Whilst we won’t be in the Premier League next season (barring a miracle), he certainly will be.

The other key player that I would highlight is Terence Kongolo. Whilst he dropped to the bench against Cardiff, I think he’ll come straight back into the side for this game. Another player who I think will remain in the Premier League beyond Town’s expiry date, the Dutchman has really impressed since joining from Monaco.

Huddersfield Town v Manchester United - The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round

A stand-out moment at the Etihad when we earned that invaluable point was his perfectly timed challenge on Leroy Sane and we will certainly need him as well as the rest of Town’s defensive rearguard to be on form to keep the score down.

It looks like the title race is going to go all the way to the finish this season, but who are you backing to lift the trophy come May?

Whilst being stranded at the bottom of the table is far from fun, one of the highlights of the season for me so far has been this enthralling title race.

When I watched Town face Liverpool, I thought it was one of the performances where we were extremely unlucky not to take a result. However, even though Liverpool looked flat, they still managed to grind out a result. I’m trying to avoid the cliché, but it was a performance you come to expect of Champions; it reminded me of City’s victory at our place last season.

However, having said that, I think experience is invaluable in these situations and City have it in abundance and whilst there’s been a few blips along the way, I think they are coming into form at just the right time.

My prediction is City to lift the title at the end of the season, not at a canter like last season but by a few points at the very least.

And finally, can we have a predicted starting lineup and score prediction?

This is probably one of the hardest questions to answer as there is a certain mystery around Mark Hudson as interim head coach and it will be interesting to see which way, he takes it.

The most probable starting line up will be a variation of the 4-2-3-1: Lossl, Lowe, Schindler, Kongolo, Durm, Billing, Hogg, Mbenza, Pritchard, Puncheon, Mounie.

In terms of a score prediction, anything less than a demoralising thumping would be appreciated. I’ll go with a comfortable 0-3 with City not having to leave second gear.

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