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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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SaintBrock added 14:34 - Apr 24
We all guessed where this one was heading Nick and sure as hell you didn't disappoint.

What does a man have to do to please you, just not be Japanese?


highfield49 added 15:55 - Apr 24
I've been hoping that Alfie Jones would get a bit of game time but it looks increasingly unlikely this season. Regardless of sentiment, loyalty, attitude and all the other nice things we can say about players I'm 100% sure that Jack and Yoshi aren't the quality we need as central defenders. Hopefully the scouting has been done and a quality defender is already in the pipeline.

SaintNick added 16:20 - Apr 24
SaintBrock, for two years we have been awful defensively, I have nothing against Yoshida other than in 7 years at the club he has never truly shown that he is a Premier League 38 game a season defender.

You sarcastically say you knew where this article was going, sadly since VVD & JF left I have known where mos games have been going and it isnt a pretty picture.

I would love it for Yoshida or any Saints defender to step up to the plate and prove me wrong, you can't tell me im wrong because we all know there is a problem, all you can accuse me of is having something against Yoshida a man who 3 years ago was 4th choice and for good reason.

Name me another team whom he would get into in the Premier League ?

redwight added 16:27 - Apr 24
The Yoshida debate is becoming as polarised and predictable as Brexit, and just because an opinion is endlessly repeated (Nick's) doesn't mean that it is wrong. Don't shoot the messenger, just look at the facts. If the club has ambitions to be more than perennial relegation battlers then someone like Yoshi is back up and no more. Surely we can all agree on that?

Boris1977 added 17:26 - Apr 24
This season has been another slog and full of disappointment with a few shining moments with Ralph being the main one and beating spuds the other. I'm a massive fan of Yoshi, we all know his limitations and how frustrating that is but he always gives everything he's got and never hides despite playing in a struggling team. He deserves our backing and respect. I can only imagine the vitriol Benali would have received of he played on the era of social media. Coyr. Yoshi to score the winner on Saturday.

Hugh_Jarce added 17:35 - Apr 24
I believe Yoshi was in the football writers team of the tournament at the last World last year. Add to that his commitment on the pitch and loyalty to SFC and I don't understand the criticism.

bstokesaint added 19:23 - Apr 24
Yoshida’s actually had a number of decent games when he’s played with a decent partner in defence. I personally think Stephens is the weakest link, but there are 11 players in that team. When you’re 0-1 and fighting to defend that lead up to the 90th minute then everyone should be chipping in. If we could keep the ball a little further up the field and protect the defence that would help!

SaintBlonde added 19:30 - Apr 24
I think yoshida should stay. He is good back up, committed and seems a well liked member of the squad. But Nick is right, he's not an out and out leader (none of the back line are) and he is not someone you can rely on week in week out. Stephens on the other hand, just can't be relied upon full stop. He's young enough that he might raise a half decent fee (better than yoshida would command) he needs to go.

inthebox added 20:05 - Apr 24
Not taking our chances has put a lot of pressure on the defence. This has been an ongoing issue.

saintmark1976 added 20:49 - Apr 24
Nick, you protesteth too much as the saying goes. You do appear to have something almost pathological against Yoshida as is evidenced by your numerous derogatory posts concerning him over the last few seasons.Give the man a break for goodness sake,after all he is only human like the rest of us.For once try and look at the deficiencies of our keeper,midfield or forwards. Were you to do so I'm certain you will soon feel better about yourself.

underweststand added 21:31 - Apr 24
Whatever the watermark for " a good Prem.player " is, practically every club below the top 6 has some. The closer to the drop zone, the more players you have who can't cut it .

Yoshida was a modest signing in 2012 ..(round £2 million?) from Venlo, and so even Nick would admit we've had our value from him. Interstingly, he still wears no.3 (that he inherited from Shaw) yet was later made into a CB after Bertrand's arrival.

It's hardly his fault that he hasn't played more when you consider that it had been Fonte ..+Lovren, +Alderweired +VvD in the interim (all excellent players in their time with us. When Yoshida did get a regular spot he also took hand on the fledgling Stephens until Hoedt's arrival, and clearly the constant changes in the back line is part of the problem.

Now we have Vestergaard and Bednarek. A tad better than their predecessors but they are still young and Yoshida already has over 80 international caps more than them.

Any player around 30 knows his days are numbered, and in time they will be replaced, but Yoshida is one of the few experienced defenders we still retain, and aside from him, Long and Austin we have a many players still under 26 in the squad.

I hope he can stay out his career with Saints if for no other reason, than he is loyal and dependable and DAJFU with honour - win, lose or draw. I noted that some reviewers made him Saints' MoM against Watford.

Along with a few others, I think Stephens will be the one to go, and we must expect to see us sign another CB at some point, but (hopefully) Yoshi will still be around - until his contract runs out.


saintjf added 21:58 - Apr 24
A very good article free of too much emotion and sentimentality. If we want to progress we need better players and nowhere more than in central defence.

perazi added 23:37 - Apr 24
Nick's "articles" have become laughable opinion pieces. Blinkered, tunnel vision krap. Yoshida HAS proved you wrong time and again - but you carry on overlooking the many limitations in our squad and zero in on someone like Yoshida who time and again in the last two seasons is left to try and retrieve our leaky midfield or flanks manned by fill in full backs and wingers. Of course he isn't on the same level as VVD, Toby and Fonte at his best, but with decent CB partners he is more than adequate. And to answer your question, he would easily get a game in many lower half Prem sides, including on the evidence of the past fortnight Wolves, Newcastle and Watford.

Whiteknight added 09:38 - Apr 25
I think there are a couple of points missed here:

1) Yoshida, although not the best, is a valuable member of the squad and plays well in a 3-man central defence. I think he is also captain of Japan so there is an interesting question as to why he is not a leader for Saints;
2) Both attack and defence are an 11-man game - singling out the defence is counter-productive;
3) To me one of the biggest issues is lack of fitness going all the way back to Pellegrino's first pre-season and exacerbated by Hughes. Ralph has had to play catch up with this and I think that a good pre-season will sort this out.

Ripleys_revenge added 12:29 - Apr 25
I've got to agree with Nick here. It seems a bit weird to suggest that criticising Yoshida means you have something against him. The fact is that as much as I love him for his commitment, he just isn't a very technically good footballer. He never has been since he signed for us!

Against Watford I would say he put in a very classic Maya Yoshida type performance - a lot of last minute blocks, brave headers etc. But he wouldn't have to put in such challenges if his first touch, positional awareness, ability to organise the defence etc etc was better (all parts of what being a decent defender is all about).

When Maya plays, the amount of times I sh!t myself when he receives a pass is too many to count. Very often you can see a mistake coming from a mile off. I think its time everyone got over this weird anti-Yoshia narrative and just accept that as much as he's clearly a solid bloke, he's nowhere near good enough to escape criticism, let alone be a first choice centre back for a premier league team

NewburySaint added 13:27 - Apr 25
To play devils advocate a little, maybe people would have a bit more respect or and understanding of Nick's Yoshida opinions if he wasn't so blinkered in his views on / love of Hoedt, 1 of the worst defenders, in my opinion. to pull on the red and white stripes for Saints in the PREMIER LEAGUE.......

BoondockSaint added 14:27 - Apr 25
Why keep singling Yoshi out?

In his first years I too would shake my head when I saw his name in the starting line-up because he would always have one glaring mistake per game. But he has kept working at his game and has improved. (Nowadays it's JWP name that worries me-but I hope he improves too.)

But for Nick to single Yoshi out as a player that would not get on another Premier team is very unfair.

Nick, take the blinkers off and have a good gander at the rest of the team-----the only Premier League quality player is Gunn. That's the reason we have be flirting with relegation the last two years: across the board mediocrity. Not just Yoshi.


cocklebreath added 19:22 - Apr 25
We could and should have been out if sight before they equalised, I think a proper goal scorer is just as important. If we can raise enough from getting rid of about 12 surplus players we need a top quality centre back and a 20 goal a season striker, maybe another pacy winger and thats it, easy top 10 next season

aceofthebase added 18:14 - Apr 26
What's all this rubbish about leadership spouted by Nick. The team are drilled to defend and with the bullets flying there is no time to say chaps steady the line and don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes. Just a lame excuse to have a go at Yoshi.

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