Specific skillset more important than big names in Huddersfield Town’s striker transfer hunt
Neil Warnock already has several options at centre-forward…what the Terriers need is someone who is an upgrade in one particular profile where they are lacking
The Terriers do want and need a new centre-forward this summer, no doubt about it, but the type of player they sign is going to be just as important to determining whether or not they succeed as anything to do with big names or big money.
Huddersfield Town already have one proven Championship striker, let’s not forget. Some might understandably have doubts about Danny Ward’s fitness and form after he struggled for both for much of last season, but it almost goes without saying at this point how highly Neil Warnock regards the striker. Predictably, Ward looked reinvigorated after the manager arrived back at the club, scoring vital winners against Millwall and Sheffield United.
In Kian Harratt and – if he stays – Jordan Rhodes, Warnock has access to two pure finishers, although it’s been clear this summer how much work has gone into the younger striker’s work off the ball too.
If Warnock wants to play a front two, as he has for most of the summer, he could call on Josh Koroma and Pat Jones to partner any of those out-and-out strikers – in fact, we’d argue that Koroma’s better performances last season came partnering Ward in a 3-5-2, while a fit-again Jones could step into the gap left behind by Joe Hungbo
Those are the options as it stands, and (Rhodes aside, perhaps) we know Warnock sees something in all of them. So the fact he and the club are so determined to get a striker in tells us that they want someone who offers something different from what they already have.
Sporting director Mark Cartwright effectively told us as much earlier this month. He said: “I think everyone is acutely aware we need to score goals, so I think we are very focused on bringing somebody in that can work with the likes of Danny [Ward], Josh [Koroma] and Sorba [Thomas] and create opportunities, hold the ball up and let us get up the pitch quicker.
“Neil’s very definite in the type of player he wants and the type of player that works for him, and I think everybody behind the scenes is working to try and find that type of player that fits what he wants.”
Our hunch, then, would be that Town are looking for someone physically imposing who can tick a few boxes they don’t already have filled: someone who can produce knockdowns and headers on goal, someone who will bring others into play either with their work on the ball or by acting as a distraction to create space, and someone who will find a way to score when the current options can’t.
We saw the value of that even in a bit of a season to forget in 2019/20, when Karlan Grant was far and away Town’s biggest threat coming off the left wing, Fraizer Campbell was the preferred starter for his work off the ball – and Steve Mounie was the difference-maker in games where Grant was unable to find a way through. Grant and Mounie scored 27 goals between them that season (19 and 8 respectively), but there were only two games in which they both got on the scoresheet.
Warnock has historically liked the Mounie type up front; indeed, part of the reason he loves Ward so much is because on top of his obvious qualities on the deck, his vertical leap and heading ability allow him to perform that side of the job far better than you might expect from a 5’11” centre-forward.
But for a certain kind of manager – and Warnock is one of them – there isn’t really any substitute for having and out-and-out Mounie type in the squad. Finding someone who fills that specific brief is arguably more important to Town this season than their overall profile.
A bit of pace would also be ideal, either as an addition or as an alternative to that physical presence – a centre-forward whose can lead the line and help Town get up the pitch more quickly on the counter. Those kinds of moves became hugely important to Town last season, but they could be executed even more effectively if the likes of Thomas, Koroma, Brahima Diarra and Sorba Thomas didn’t have to put on the breaks to wait for support quite so often.
Either way – and just to pull some numbers out of thin air for the sake of example – an eight-goal striker who helps the team score another ten that they wouldn’t otherwise have got would be more valuable to them than a player who scores 15 where Ward would have got 10.
Tyreece Simpson proved not to be the answer to that just yet, and has been sent out on loan to League One Northampton Town. Kyle Hudlin has been auditioned for that role over the summer, and while there have been promising moments, he is still learning his craft at this level having previously played no higher than League Two.
Town now have just over a month to find someone who offers an improvement and can be acquired within their budget…but of course, the sooner they can get it done, the happier they’ll be.