HEAD COACH David Wagner has set Huddersfield Town a target of 12 victories to guarantee Premier League survival.
The Terriers banished their away-day blues with an emphatic 4-1 hammering of Watford at Vicarage Road.
On an afternoon when both captains were dismissed, Aaron Mooy’s double and a strike apiece for Elias Kachunga and Laurent Depoitre sealed a first win on the road in four months.
Kachunga’s early goal also ended a 648-minute wait to score a league goal away from the John Smith’s Stadium as the Yorkshire club claimed a sixth maximum of the season.
With common consensus suggesting 40 points and 10 wins is enough to stay in the top flight, Town seem well on their way to extending their stay among the elite beyond May.
Not that Wagner will allow his side to harbour such thoughts as he underlined by revealing to The Yorkshire Post the safety target he has in mind.
“I didn’t have a real expectation before and that made it difficult,” he said after watching Town move on to 21 points from 18 games.
“Before the season I hoped we could survive. But, since a couple of months ago, I now have the belief that we have a chance to survive. This is what we are all about.
“We are on track. I thought before the season we will need 12 wins to stay up and I still believe this is right. We have six and that means we are on track and no more. It is only the halfway point.”
Wagner’s belief that a dozen victories will be needed to stay up is not necessarily backed up by recent history.
Usually 10 wins are enough with last season’s trio of relegated clubs failing to reach double figures as Hull City claimed nine victories, Middlesbrough five and Sunderland half a dozen.
If Aaron Mooy is the heartbeat of our team, Hoggy is the blood supply of our team. He is everywhere, so unselfish, and he has an attitude every manager loves.Huddersfield Town manager, David Wagner
In fact, only four clubs – Blackpool (2010-11), Reading (2007-08), Sheffield United (2006-07) and West Ham United (2002-03) – have gone down since the turn of the Millennium with 10 wins to their name.
Wagner, however, is not taking any chances.
“Some managers talk about 10 wins to stay up, but I say 12 because it makes this more secure,” he added.
The only blots on an otherwise excellent day for the Terriers came via a knee injury suffered by Kachunga and Jonathan Hogg being dismissed during the second half.
Scans today should reveal more about what Wagner admits could be a “serious” injury for Kachunga.
Hogg, meanwhile, saw red after twice being booked by referee Michael Oliver, the second of those coming for a foul on Richarlison that warranted a free-kick, but no card.
For the Town midfielder, it was a bitter-sweet return to the club he joined Town from in 2013 after producing a superb performance before following former team-mate Troy Deeney in being dismissed.
“Hoggy is a proper terrier,” added Wagner, who will be without the 29-year-old for next weekend’s trip to Southampton.
“If Aaron Mooy is the heartbeat of our team, Hoggy is the blood supply of our team. He is everywhere, so unselfish, and he has an attitude every manager loves.
“I would say we have improved him tactically.
“He is a box-to-box midfielder who covers every yard of the pitch and we are so happy to have him in our team.
“He has improved on and off the ball.”
As for Town’s mid-table position as the season approaches the halfway stage, Wagner added: “We know what size of club we are and what our budget is. It is not comparable with any other budget here in the Premier League.
“But we are ambitious. We say, ‘trust in yourself, be focused’. So far the players have done very well, but it is only the mid-point of the season, nothing more. We can improve.”
Wagner’s pride at the final whistle was in stark contrast to the mood of his Watford counterpart.
Marco Silva, the former Hull City head coach, bemoaned what he considered to be the Hornets’ worst performance of his reign along with the red card handed to Deeney following an ugly challenge on Collin Quaner.
“I spoke to Troy and he has spoken with the officials as well,” said the Portuguese. “He said he touched the ball, that is what he told me. I think the referee answered him by saying, ‘It is not because you take the ball, it is because of the speed’.”