Transfer Talk: All eyes on O'Brien as Huddersfield head to Wembley

Sam McGuire
LiveScore
Huddersfield's Lewis O'Brien is being courted by a host of Premier League clubs
Huddersfield's Lewis O'Brien is being courted by a host of Premier League clubs

Huddersfield are vying for a place in the Premier League — but Lewis O'Brien looks set for England's top tier regardless of what happens in today's Championship play-off final. 

The Terriers face Nottingham Forest at Wembley this afternoon with the prize of promotion and at least £135million in extra income awaiting the winners. 

And though O'Brien will be key to ensuring Carlos Corberan's men reach the promised land, it could well be the 23-year-old's last match for the club. 

We take a look at the in-demand midfielder's meteoric rise ahead of this seismic showdown.

Biding his time

It has been a steady climb to the top for Huddersfield star O'Brien. 

He spent the 2018-19 campaign on loan with Bradford City in League One, doing enough at Valley Parade to then force his way into the first-team picture at the John Smith's Stadium following the Terriers' relegation to the Championship. 

The Colchester native's influence on the side has increased with every passing season and he is now considered one of the best box-to-box operators in the second tier. 

As a result, there has been plenty of Premier League interest in the 5ft 8in midfield dynamo. 

According to reports, Southampton, Leeds and Crystal Palace are all keeping tabs on the £15million-rated left-footer.

A particular skillset

O'Brien has played in a variety of positions for Huddersfield but primarily finds himself on the left of a midfield three. 

It is notable that he is not heavily involved in possession, attempting just under 38 passes per 90 minutes. 

For context, Sheffield United's Oliver Norwood and Fulham's Tom Cairney both averaged north of 55 passes on a per 90 basis this term. 

Lewis O'Brien is a progressive midfielder, completing an impressively high percentage of his take-ons
Lewis O'Brien is a progressive midfielder, completing an impressively high percentage of his take-ons

O'Brien ensures he progresses play swiftly — and a trait that stands out is how effective he is as a ball carrier. 

The No8 has completed over 70% of his dribbles this term, combining his ability to retain possession with a directness that will appeal to potential Premier League suitors.

Key cog for Huddersfield

In early December, Corberan singled out O'Brien for special praise. 

The Terriers' main man bounced back after a disappointing display against Middlesbrough to dominate proceedings against Barnsley — and it did not go unnoticed. 

Speaking after that match, the 39-year-old boss said: "From the last game, he [O'Brien] was not happy with his performance. 

"And I like to say that when a player is not happy with his performance, they show the reaction that they showed [against Barnsley]. 

"Maybe in the first half the other day, we did not see the normal level of O'Brien, as he always has the habit of playing the level of the game he did [on Saturday]. 

"He is one player who is very special in the team and is one player who deserves everything he has achieved in football, as he makes everything to achieve everything [in football]."

Making the step up

This is O'Brien's third season of first-team Championship football. 

He has morphed from regular starter to key player during this period — and it is clear that he now needs to test himself at a higher level.

If Huddersfield fall at the final hurdle, the Terriers' academy graduate will have to make the big decision to move on for the good of his career.

Though he remains contracted at the John Smith's Stadium until 2025, it would be unwise to stay longer when there is so much interest in his services from clubs higher up the food chain.

Premier League options

Lewis O'Brien would fit seamlessly into Leeds' high-octane team
Lewis O'Brien would fit seamlessly into Leeds' high-octane team

Having survived on the final day of the season, Leeds will want to bolster their ranks this summer. 

Manager Jesse Marsch has a relatively threadbare squad and someone of O'Brien's profile — with his high energy — would be a perfect addition. 

Crystal Palace are in a similar position. 

A final day win over Manchester United secured a surprising 12th-placed finish in Patrick Vieira's debut season at the helm but the Eagles will lose Conor Gallagher this summer after a loan spell at Selhurst Park. 

Crystal Palace need to replace Conor Gallagher in their midfield – and Lewis O'Brien could fill that void
Crystal Palace need to replace Conor Gallagher in their midfield – and Lewis O'Brien could fill that void

They need someone to replicate what he did for the team and Huddersfield's maestro ticks a lot of those boxes. 

Another contender could be Southampton, who won just one of their final 12 Premier League matches. 

Ralph Hasenhuttl's unit need to add quality to their ranks in order to challenge for a top-half finish next term.

O'Brien, with his bundles of energy and stamina, would be a perfect fit for the Saints’ high-pressing style.

But he will hope to give himself the option of staying put and playing at the top level. With another big display this afternoon, he can do just that.

Tags

Huddersfield TownNottingham ForestChampionship
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