Opinion: Signs of encouragement at Huddersfield
Today's memorable 3-2 victory saw Zola ring the changes for the first time, brining in Fitz Hall & Tommie Hoban for debuts at the back whilst Troy Deeney made his first start since being released from prison less than three weeks ago.
The biggest change though was the shift from four at the back to three. Lining up in a 3-5-2 with Marco Cassetti & Daniel Pudil employed in wing back roles on either side of the 'Horns back three, Zola's side looked shaky to begin with.
As one would expect, second in the league Huddersfield dictated the play early on but gradually the Golden Boys grew in stature as they found their feet in the new system.
Cassetti & Pudil were causing the Terriers all kinds of problems in the wide areas, both continually finding the space to trouble Simon Grayson's side time & time again.
After struggling with the defensive side of his responsibilities at right-back, it's easy to reason that Cassetti would be more comfortable as a wing-back, leaning heavily on then clear skill set he has acquired from his days at right midfield for AS Roma. Defensively he never let Hoban down as the right sided central defender, but you wonder whether he can fulfill such a physically demanding role more than once in a week.
On the opposite flank Pudil has proven himself to be equally capable when defending or attacking. If anything, playing at left wing back he was almost wasted, as on several dust half occasions he hugged the touch line so religiously that his team mates failed to pick him out.
However, blessed with a great engine & a real cute left foot, the Czech international never looked out of his comfort zone - he has after all been employed at being back for the Czech Republic before.
The success of the back three in this instance was underpinned by Hall, impressive on the ball & clearly keen to buy into the pass & move philosophy. The giant former QPR man as the senior party in a youthful defence, leading by example and cajoling professional debutant Hoban as well as the concentrationally-challenged Neuton.
Neuton, by the way, is an impeccable footballer. Defending though isn't his strong suit & good on the ball though he is, you know a clanger isn't far away.
Fernando Forestieri is an equally impressive 'baller' as the youngsters would doubtless term him. His short stature affords him a low center of gravity, something he leans on to great effect when slaloming between challenges. He will have to watch the theatrics, though there was definitely contact for the penalty.
The Argentine's leveller & Troy Deeney's winner proved that if nothing else, team spirit is not something we should questioning. The scenes of jubilation which followed both strikers are indicative of a unit all pulling in the same direction.
This remains a work in progress and another three points could see us leap to 7th - the fledging status of the season has never been more evident. That said, history is littered with examples of teams who play quite well without ever quite getting their act together before it's too late.
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