Five Minutes And You're Almost There !
Wednesday, 24th Apr 2019 13:47
At Watford Saints conceded yet another late goal and the statistics are worrying when we look back over the last few months. Just what is the reason behind this here we take a look.
In the last 11 games that they have played Saints have conceded a goal in the final five minutes of the game in 6 of those fixtures, yes you read that right 6, that is over half the games played.
In 4 of those games it has cost us points Burnley(2) Cardiff(1) Man Utd (1) and another 2 at Watford last night, ironically all of these goals were in the final minute whereas the 2 games where it didn't actually cost us points were in the 86 minute.
If you add those 6 points dropped to our current total and we would sit 13th with 43 points equal with West Ham who would be above us in 12th on goal difference.
Relegation would not even be in our thoughts, Cardiff would be 14 points behind us in the final relegation spot, indeed we would have a shot albeit an outside one at the top 10.
So why do we keep conceding these late goals ? More to the point why are they always so sloppy !
The answer is that we lack a true leader in the centre of our defence, look at the goal at Watford last night, yes the Hornets got slightly lucky with a rebound, but they had three men on the edge of our six yard box, we had four players and not one of them was anywhere near a Watford player we were floundering without any guidance.
In the final few minutes you need defenders who have a cool head, talk to those around them and more to the point organise, last night at Watford in the dying minutes we had no one in our back three (five if you include Bertrand & Valery) who has those attributes.
In the back three central trio you can excuse Bednarek as he is young and at his age should be being helped by his fellow central defenders and talked through games, but it appears that he is getting no help.
Jack Stephens is still regarded by some as a potential talent, however at 25 and with over 120 League games to his name, around half in the Premier League he should have the experience, but isn't showing the attributes he should at this stage in his career.
Yoshida was the main man in the defence last night, the most experienced and at 30 at the height of his career, no one can argue that he doesn't have commitment, no one can argue that at times he can produce some great games, but he does not have the consistency and he is not a leader in the way that Jose Fonte or Virgil Van Dijk are leaders.
He cannot control and organise a back four in those crucial final minutes, so therefore like last night we have too many players ball watching and not keeping things tight, so opponents know that if you sling the ball into our box in the dying moments of the game you are going to find us wanting and chances are find a man unmarked.
I think that back in January Ralph Hasenhuttl took a gamble, with the club unable to sign the players they wanted and aware of the issues of a year earlier where £20 million was spent panic buying Carillo, they took the calculated risk that the squad was good enough to stay up and it was better to keep the money in the bank and wait for the summer and get the right signings at the right price.
That gamble is on the verge of paying off, however it has meant that we have had the frustration of having to do it the hard way when it could have been so much easier.
In the summer the club have to rectify the situation, in Jan Bednarek they have an upcoming talent and he is good enough, in Jannik Vestergaard they have an experienced player who has shown under Hasenhuttl he might have what it takes to be a Premier League player, they also have in Christoph Klarer an 18 year old who might be capable of breaking into the first team set up in the next year or two, but assuming that Wesley Hoedt has played his last game for the club that is as far as solving the problem from within the club.
Jack Stephens sadly is part of the problem and not part of the solution, likewise Maya Yoshida, yes he has been a good club man, but out of around 330 Premier League games he could have played in he has started just 129 with another 17 as sub.
That tells you he is a good squad player and he can do a job, but he is not the leader of men that we need in the centre of our defence.
Truth is that we need to sign at least one good quality central defender in the summer, a true leader who can organise a defence and when the chips are down stand firm and talk his team mates through it.
There is a case for signing two of this ilk, but I think that will be asking a bit much , so I would suspect we will go for one major signing to play with Bednarek and Vestergaard and then look for either Yoshida or Stephens as back up with Klarer on the edges and I think there will be room for only one of them at the club next season.
So who will go Yoshida or Stephens ? personally I think it will maybe time for Stephens to move on, the club will be looking to raise transfer funds in the summer for 2-3 major purchases and although some will come from decent transfer fees received from the likes of Hoedt and Cedric even Boufal and Carrillo to add to Gabbiadini's money already in the kitty, the club will look to bolster that from selling a number of fringe players who have come through the ranks.
That means they will look to get rid of the likes of Stephens, Gallagher, Reed, Hesketh and a few more youngsters to lower league clubs for small fees that will all add up.
We have to solve this problem in these final five minutes that have been blighting the club since January 2017 with the departure of Van Dijk and Fonte and the solution is from outside the club not within it.
The gamble has almost paid off and hopefully this weekend Saints safety will be confirmed and we can start to plan for next season, Ralph Hasenhuttl has performed wonders in the other ares of the team in getting it playing the way he wants and getting the best from players who had been written off by some, however in defence it is a problem even he can solve with what he has, it must be frustrating for him to see good work further up the pitch undone by poor defending at the death.
These last couple of months alone have seen dropped points that if held on too would have made this season extremely healthy even accounting for the debacle that was Mark Hughes reign, once we are over the line Im confident that we won't see the same next year.
Photo: Action Images
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