Huddersfield suffered the biggest blow of their Premier League adventure so far when they were beaten 4-0 at Bournemouth on Saturday.
It will not get any easier when they take on leaders Manchester City on Sunday but perhaps it is no coincidence that a certain defender was suspended for the visit to the south coast.
While there have been many heroes during the Terriers’ rise, few have been more pivotal to their success than German central defender Christopher Schindler.
Rob Mackenzie was Leicester’s head of technical scouting and has since worked as head of player identification at Tottenham. Here, he assesses what makes Schindler so special…
A player who continually meets the different challenges placed in front of them is a coach’s dream. As a scout you typically look at how players react to different situations in order to build a profile in your mind of how you think they would react in new surroundings, playing in your team’s style of play and at the level of competition that you play in.
This usually involves an examination of a player’s career history with specific attention being paid to any previous transitions such as a change in competition level, a change of manager or a change of country. When these transitions have occurred, how has the player typically reacted? Has he still played consistently or has he needed some time out to readjust?
David Wagner says Huddersfield are to blame for their 4-0 loss at Bournemouth
In terms of live scouting, clubs look to identify and target a handful of games that cover a number of varying challenges that a player may face so that his reaction can be observed. Particular attention is often paid to games involving either fierce local rivals (higher tempo) or teams who are performing well in the league (higher quality).
Sometimes clubs will look to see how a potential target gets on against a specific opponent whose quality is already known to them. All of this planning and strategising is done so that a full picture of a player’s qualities and psyche can be painted and subsequently assessed in line with what it is that the club is trying to recruit.
One Premier League newcomer whose adaptability has stood out to me is Christopher Schindler of Huddersfield Town. Praise is often rightly directed towards David Wagner or Aaron Mooy when discussing the club’s recent exploits, but in my opinion Schindler has been instrumental in the journey that Huddersfield have been on over the last 18 months.
While fans want to be wowed by a team’s attacking flair, the influence that reliable central defenders can have on a team, as a collective unit, should not be underestimated. Centre-backs who can evolve, improve and adapt to counteract the strengths that opposing strikers possess, while still being able to impose their own qualities on a game, are priceless.
Huddsf’ld vs Man City
November 26, 2017, 3:30pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass
Prior to joining Huddersfield in July 2016, during his last two seasons at 1860 Munich, Christopher Schindler missed only six of a possible 68 league games in Germany’s second tier. Having been entrusted with the captain’s armband in August 2014, he established himself as a solid and reliable performer at that level.
When Huddersfield paid approximately £2m for his services, the big question was always going to be how he would adapt to life in the Championship, one of the most physical leagues in Europe. In short, his ability to adapt to living in a new country and playing at a different level would be heavily scrutinised. He passed that test with flying colours.
Schindler was Huddersfield’s most-played player last season and has played in 55 of their 58 league games since moving to England. He adapted to the team’s ambitious style of play and coped up against a range of strikers with very different qualities. Cameron Jerome, Matej Vydra and Jonathan Kodjia all went to the John Smith’s Stadium and left with nothing.
Schindler has also played alongside various different defensive partners. Michael Hefele, Mark Hudson and Jon Gorenc Stankovic all partnered him in either a two-man or three-man defence. To maintain a consistent performance level yourself is one thing, to do so when adapting and adjusting to the traits of a team-mate playing alongside you is quite another.
When Huddersfield created history by earning promotion in May 2017, David Wagner will have assessed his players and identified those he believed were capable of adapting to life in the Premier League, and those who would perhaps struggle. Matthias Jorgensen was signed from FC Copenhagen in July, but who would he replace in the current line-up?
The fact that Schindler had already handled one period of adaption appears to have been at the forefront of his manager’s mind as he once again placed faith in his compatriot. The player’s record alongside Jorgensen in the Premier League so far, for a side exceeding pre-season expectations, reflects that he has not let the manager down.
Perhaps this is not a surprise. After all, this is the man who was entrusted with the daunting prospect of scoring the all-important penalty in front of 76,682 to put Huddersfield into the big time for the first time. He has stepped up in yet another new league alongside yet another new partner. In fact, examine his performances closely and he has shone.
I have seen Schindler play against a variety of different opponents so far this season, all of whom pose significantly different challenges. For starters, his mobility and ability to step in and nick the ball away from opponents helped keep quiet the athleticism and goalscoring instincts of Romelu Lukaku in Huddersfield’s famous 2-1 win over Manchester United.
He also played his part in keeping a clean sheet against the physicality of Christian Benteke in Huddersfield’s opening day victory. His fine reading of the game dealt with the pace of Leicester’s Jamie Vardy in September and after a nervy start against Andy Carroll, he settled excellently to limit the big striker’s effectiveness even though West Ham won the game.
Schindler personifies a much-sought-after quality for scouts: adaptability. He has adapted to life in England and his mix of qualities – skill, mobility, competitiveness, bravery and awareness – have allowed him to respond to many in-game challenges expertly. Christopher Schindler should now be a name that is on most Premier League teams’ scouting list.