Huddersfield Town’s Man City loan link sets tone for key summer recruitment task

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Huddersfield Town still have a big summer ahead of them in the transfer market after announcing their first signing earlier this week, with center-back Will Boyle confirmed to be returning from Cheltenham Town as a free agent.

In most positions, Carlos Corberan’s squad looks in decent nick as it is with at least two senior players for each role, but there are clear gaps in the depth of the midfield after the announced departures of Danel Sinani, Alex Vallejo and Carel Eiting.

Manchester City teenager James McAtee is believed to have been on Town’s radar as a potential loanee to help fill that role, but reports have suggested that City will instead look to send the midfielder to get Premier League experience, with Brighton and Hove Albion touted as a potential destination.

Read more: Huddersfield Town face contract decisions as 13 players set to enter final year of deals

Even if that – or any other factors – mean that Town ultimately miss out on McAtee, the link to John Smith’s Stadium might tell us something about how Leigh Bromby and his recruitment team are looking to use the loan market this summer.

Town have had great success with their Premier League loan signings in the Championship, enjoying the services of players including Aaron Mooy, Trevoh Chalobah, Emile Smith Rowe and Levi Colwill over the past few years. Colwill aside, their greatest successes in the market have been in those creative midfield and attacking roles, with Sinani making a good contribution on that front in the season just gone.

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Those are the exact positions that Town are looking to fill this summer, and it’s easy to see why. Even if by some minor miracle Lewis O’Brien remains at the club into the new season, they currently have reliable starters alongside him in the form of Jonathan Hogg and Jon Russell, but little in the way of options beyond that, with Scott High the most advanced of a group of academy products that might also include Josh Austerfield, Etienne Camara and Brahima Diarra.

If O’Brien does attract the top-flight interest his talents deserve and his price is matched, adding a permanent replacement ought to be the priority. But for the time being there is no position that would benefit more from a technically gifted, hungry young player than in midfield.

That is only part of the brief, though. Corberan ideally needs his central midfielders to be energetic, mobile and willing to dig in to do the hard yards defensively; and when he plays a three-man midfield, we often see the number 8s push up so high they effectively operate as a pair of 10s in the half-spaces between the lone striker and the wingers.

Finding players who can do a bit of all of that will be a challenge; Sinani, for instance, was good at the more attacking side, but often looked lost whenever he was played in central midfield rather than off the wings or just behind the striker. If a sacrifice has to be made in either direction, then greater solidity in the middle of the park would surely be preferable.

Town did well to get Colwill’s signing sewn up very early last summer, but that is generally the exception rather than the rule when it comes to how Premier League clubs handle their loans; for attacking players, in particular, the often like to see how their own recruitment is coming together before committing to sending out their most talented youngsters. And that’s not to mention the considerable competition for the best potential loanees.

That may mean that Town need to be patient to get a player who ticks all their boxes through the door – but if they get it right, it will be well worth the wait.

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