Cohesion and confidence look like a Giant problem

The famed soccer coach Johan Cruyff was reportedly a great believer in the idea that fractiousness and conflict can create great things.

Apparently, the notorious febrile and argumentative atmosphere of many Dutch football squads can be put down, at least in part, to this belief.

It does not appear to have worked at Huddersfield Giants this season.

The club finally parted company with coach Paul Anderson last week, with rumours of dressing room dissent leaking out of the John Smith’s Stadium

To be fair, the squad has looked demoralised and, in some cases, angry for most of the season.

Danny Brough tends to be the canary in the mine when it comes to assessing how Huddersfield are feeling.

The Scotland skipper is famed for his competitive and assertive nature, something which has made him reportedly a difficult character to manage at times during his career.

He is always fully committed to the cause, though, and his displays of frustration and annoyance during games are rumoured to have carried over into behind-the-scenes friction with the coaching staff.

But concepts like confidence and cohesion are often hard to pin down into concrete analysis. Just how can we measure a side’s confidence, and its ability to maintain tactical and intellectual structures whilst on the field?

Statistics can help in this regard, and, looking at Huddersfield’s stats for this season, two things jump out.

First, their lack of overall metres made, and second, their lack of clean breaks.

The Giants have made 22,675 metres this season, putting them 11th out of the Super League teams.

Only Wakefield have carrried for less, with Trinity making 21,392 metres. Warrington, in contrast have gained 25,859 metres, and Hull 24,337.

Even Hull KR have made 23,522, putting them in eighth place in the rankings related to this particular stat.

Brough himself highlighted the Giants’ recruitment as being a little light at the start of the campaign, and it is clear that the Giants are lacking something in the pack this year.

A lack of clean breaks looks somewhat puzzling on paper, with Brough and Jamie Ellis both being dynamic halfbacks, and a back line featuring Jermaine McGillvary and Leroy Cudjoe.

Injury has played a role here, with Brough and other key men out for long periods. Morale and confidence as results continue to tank will also play a role in players feeling sharp enough to take opponents on.

A worry about making errors as the pressure has intensified may also have played a part, and the Giants’ attack has been blunted and ineffectual as a result.

Their middle unit is not as aggressive or as penetrative as in the past, and their backrow forwards are not smashing through opponents’ edge defences either.

Only 270 runs from dummy half also demonstrates another weakness in the middle of the field. Only Wakefield have a lower tally, while Warrington have made 476 and Widnes 436.

Luke Robinson’s retirement begins to look more damaging than ever when that stat is considered.

They are also ninth in carries, with only 3241 made all season. Only Wakefield are lower, with 3235, suggesting that holding onto possession is also a problem.

The Brett Ferres situation will also have contributed to the squad’s overall cohesion lacking something this season.

However cool and professional players profess to be in public, they are not robots. Emotions and personal loyalties are complex things, which can exert tremndous influence on people, whatever their rational minds are saying. Anyone who argues otherwise is being foolish.

When Ferres left, he was not just an important cog in the team, but his behaviour will also have tested friendships and left conflict behind. It might be pertinent to note that since he joined Leeds, the Rhinos have not been setting much on fire when it comes to form either.

What becomes clearer is that the new coach has to improve his team’s ability to make metres, retain possession and execute well in positions of threat. He also needs to recruit and maybe move some players on, in order to generate a new spirit and confidence.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The new man, whoever he turns out to be, will not be saying that…

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