Huddersfield Town are not concerned about winning style points, they just want the wins and the points that come with them.
After making their long-awaited breakthrough last weekend, the Terriers look to go into the international break with back-to-back victories Saturday when they host West Ham United.
POTENTIAL STARTING XIs
Huddersfield Town (1-3-7) were the last Premier League team to notch their maiden victory, getting a 1-0 triumph over Fulham on Monday in what was likely the first of many six-point relegation belters for David Wagner’s side. The lone goal came just before the half-hour, courtesy of Cottagers defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who deflected Christopher Schindler’s header into his own net.
The goal ended a 233-minute scoreless drought dating to Schindler’s equaliser against Burnley in a 1-1 draw on Oct. 6, a staggering 658-minute goalless stretch at home, and snapped a 15-match winless spell (0-5-10) in all competitions dating to their 1-0 victory over Watford in April last term. The victory lifted the Terriers to the top of the drop in 18th place, trailing Newcastle United on goal difference, while another three teams above them are within two points.
“Everybody is very happy. We worked very hard and we deserved all the points,” midfielder Aaron Mooy told HTTV. “Today we were solid, everyone worked hard to keep the ball out of the net and if you keep clean sheets then you have a good chance of winning the game.
“When you’re 1-0 up with 10 minutes to go, you have to work as hard as you can and every player did that. We deserved it, we didn’t stop working.”
The victory means the three changes manager David Wagner made – restoring defender Terence Kongolo now that he’s 100 percent healthy and recalling midfielder Florent Hadergjonaj and striker Steve Mounie – will likely to carry over. The Terriers did catch a break when midfielder Philip Billing did not pick up a fifth booking in the win over Fulham, with the yellow card instead going to Isaac Mbenza.
Huddersfield, though, still must find a spark for an offence that have a league-low five goals and have yet to strike more than once in 22 matches across all competitions dating to a 4-1 victory over Bournemouth in February. Additionally, three of the four goals scored by Wagner’s side have come from defenders and none from strikers.
West Ham United (3-2-6) are looking to end an astounding 65-match run in league play without back-to-back victories that dates back to January 2017 when Slaven Bilic was still in charge of the Hammers. They took the first step with a 4-2 victory over Burnley last weekend that took away some of the disappointment of being bounced by derby rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup.
Felipe Anderson had his best match since signing with West Ham in the summer, recording a brace and netting the go-ahead goal on 84 minutes. Marko Arnautovic opened the scoring for the Irons and then assisted on Chicharito’s insurance marker in stoppage time. Pellegrini is as eager as anyone associated with West Ham to start a winning streak, but the primary reason is to start climbing the table as opposed to history.
“It’s important we make it back-to-back Premier League wins on Saturday because we need to recover points,” Pellegrini said at his Thursday news conference. “I think our start to the season was so bad that we need to recover some points, but if we think we are going to do it just because we are playing against Huddersfield that is not in a good season, I think we are going to make a big mistake.”
“It’s a team that fights for every ball as if it is the last one and just won its first game and lost against Liverpool just 1-0, so I think we are going to have to play a complete game in defending and attacking if we are going to win the game.”
West Ham have righted themselves with 11 points in eight matches after Pellegrini’s switch to a 4-1-4-1 formation in which Declan Rice shields the back line. The 19-year-old Ireland international – still being wooed by England to join their senior side – is one of two key young players on the team with winger Grady Diangana, who has filled the spot created by the long-term injury to Andriy Yarmolenko.
“He must continue learning because his position in the team is a very tactical position and filled by a very intelligent player, but I think he has a lot of potential,” Pellegrini said of Rice to the club’s official website. “He is a mature player for his 19 years because he is always listening. If you see young players, at the beginning they try to do what they think is best, but I think that Declan is always listening to us and what we are talking to him about what he must improve.”
The Irons will again be without midfielder Mark Noble, who will serve the second of his three-match ban for a direct red card received at Leicester City.
West Ham did the double over Huddersfield last term, including a 4-1 romp in the corresponding fixture. Arnautovic had a blinding 15-minute spell after the interval in that victory, scoring the go-ahead goal almost straight out of the locker room before setting up a brace for Manuel Lanzini in a five-minute span.
Per Ladbrokes, West Ham are the pick to win this match with 5/4 odds, with a draw (21/10) just ahead of Huddersfield making it back-to-back wins themselves at 23/10.
The Irons are a 16/5 pick to win this match with more than 2.5 goals and a 10/3 selection to post a 0-1 or 0-2 scoreline. A draw with under 2.5 goals actually has the shortest listing at 27/10, while the home Terriers are getting little love as a victory on either side of the 2.5 threshold has 5/1 odds.
Hammers strikers Arnautovic and Chicharito are joint-top for first goal honours, with both 4/1 selections to make it 0-1. The odds of there being no goal-scorer ranks a surprisingly high third at 11/2, just ahead of Huddersfield’s Laurent Depoitre and Steve Mounie (6/1). Despite his brace last week, Anderson is laying in the weeds as a first-goal selection with 8/1 odds.
Arnautovic edges out Chicharito as the favourite for a goal over the course of 90 minutes, with the Austria international getting 6/4 odds compared to the Mexico international at 8/5. Depoitre is against Huddersfield’s top option behind the no goal-scorer at 12/5, though this time Mbenza is the second pick among Terriers players at 9/2.
There is a difference between “must-win” and “need to win.” For this game, Huddersfield are dangerously near the former category, though viewing this match as one “not to lose” may be more accurate given how closely grouped the bottom six teams in the table are. More than a need for a result, Huddersfield have to get offence from their attacking players. Billing is the only non-defender to score for the Terriers this season, and that goal came eight matches ago in the draw versus Everton.
For West Ham, this is a “need to win” if they do have serious intentions on finishing in the top half of the table, something everyone agrees this side can do based on the talent it accumulated in the offseason coupled with the fact Pellegrini’s tactics and 4-1-4-1 shape are taking hold. Even without Noble in the midfield, West Ham can still play down the flanks through Anderson and Diangana, while Arnautovic is capable of creating his own success as evidenced by his first goal versus Burnley.
The Hammers are capable of getting a result on the road — they were deserved winners at Everton in September — and if they avoid playing down to Huddersfield and taking the match by the scruff of its neck, they should be able to go into the break on a positive note.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Huddersfield Town 0, West Ham United 1.