DAVID WAGNER last night warned his Huddersfield Town players not to fall into the trap of focusing solely on beating only the teams expected to struggle in the Premier League.
The Terriers travel to Swansea City today to take on a side that looks set for a second consecutive season fighting relegation.
Only a stunning late rally saved Paul Clement’s men last term, relegating Hull City in the process, so in a four-game autumn run that includes games with Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Liverpool, the trip to south Wales stands out as one where Huddersfield need to claim some form of reward.
Wagner, however, does not want his players to adopt the mentality of pouring everything into games like today’s and then treating encounters with the big boys as akin to ‘freebie’ hits, where anything but defeat comes as a welcome bonus.
“If you look at the season so far, these are the games where we are told we must be successful and we have done that so far,” said the 45-year-old German. “That has shown we are competitive in the Premier League.
“But I am totally sure we have to collect some points against the top teams as well. If we are speaking about the top six, that is 12 games and a club like us – plus all the others who are around us – have to get points in those games.
I am totally sure we have to collect some points against the top teams as well. If we are speaking about the top six, that is 12 games and a club like us – plus all the others who are around us – have to get points in those games.David Wagner
“It might be two, three, four or five – I do not know the total. But we cannot say: ‘Okay, we collect no points in these 12 games and, instead, focus on the other ones’. This isn’t how it should work.
“We have to try to collect points against the big names as well. This makes it much easier for a club like us to have a successful season.”
As if to underline Wagner’s point about getting the better of a direct rival not being the be all and end all of a club’s attempts to survive, Swansea stayed up last year despite Hull doing the double over the Welsh club.
A five-game finale that yielded 13 points proved to be the saviour of the Swans, who finished 15th despite being odds-on to go down as May dawned.
The summer brought the loss of two key figures in that successful survival push, as Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente joined Everton and Spurs, respectively.
Wilfried Bony and Sam Clucas were among the expensive replacements brought in by Clement but the club has again started slowly, their three home games this term having all been lost.
Huddersfield’s task is to extend that run, something that would leave the Yorkshire outfit on 12 points from eight games. Even allowing for Wagner’s desire to approach every match in the same manner, such a tally would provide a useful cushion going into those back-to-back meetings with Jose Mourinho’s United and Liverpool.
“We target every game for three points,” added Wagner. “Even against Tottenham, we wanted to win. They were just better than us and beat us.
“Maybe before some games it looks as if we have a bigger chance – and Swansea is an opponent where I think we have a chance.
“We will try our best but everything we speak about before the game is based only on the current situations we have. The past doesn’t count at the start of the game.”
Pressed on whether this could be considered a ‘must-win’ game for the Terriers, Wagner replied: “It is the eighth game of the season, so ‘no’. Wembley (the play-off final against Reading) was a ‘must-win’ game but not Swansea.
“It is a game where we have a chance. But we will not make the mistake of now talking about ‘must-win’ games, especially when we have nine points from those seven games.
“It is an important game, like we have played a lot of important games so far this season – and we really will have to be at our best. We have a lot of respect for Swansea’s team and their manager.”
One area Town need to sharpen up is in front of goal, with the last six outings having seen an opposition defence breached just once.
Laurent Depoitre was responsible for that strike in a 1-1 draw at home to Leicester City and he is set to lead the attack again today.
Asked about his side’s scoring troubles, Wagner said: “I have spoken with the players. They know we all have responsibility for defence and offence.
“Our defensive players, they have to search for their opportunity at every set-piece where they go up front. For our full-backs, we like to create some moments and dangerous situations. It is not just the strikers who must score the goals.”
Match preview: Page 3.