Yoshida An Appreciation
Tuesday, 4th Feb 2020 11:53
Two Saints stalwarts left the club at the end of last week without a real chance to say goodbye, let's take a look at their time with the club first up is Maya Yoshida.
Maya Yoshida was not my favourite player of all time I have to say that, I based that purely on his performances, but that does not mean I did not appreciate some of the things that he did here in his 8 seasons & 7 1/2 years at the club.
He arrived in 2012 as we were enduring a torrid start to our season back in the top flight and made his debut at Arsenal as a 28th minute sub for Jos Hooiveld who had opened the scoring for the home side with an own goal, things would get much worse with the Gunners 4-1 up at the break and eventually winning 6-1.
Yoshida would be a regular for the rest of that season and would play pretty much all of the games going forward as we pulled clear of the relegation zone.
But the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino would not be good for him and with Dejan Lovren in the team alongside Jose Fonte the Japanese central defender's opportunities would be limited, he would start only 7 games and another as sub in the Premier League in 2013/14.
Under Ronald Koeman it would be a little better with 18 starts in 2014/15 but he was now regarded very much as a back up with 10 starts and another 10 as sub in 2015/16 as we finished 6th.
But his luck would change in 2016/17 with Fonte in dispute with the club and Virgil Van Dijk injured, January saw both not to play again that season for the club, Fonte permanently.
So after over 3 years in the wilderness Yoshida was back as first choice and had the honour of being one of the few Saints players to have represented the club in a Wembley Cup Final, although in truth the game was not good for either Yoshida or Jack Stephens and the late winner saw Ibrahimvic completely unmarked to give Manchester United a win they did not deserve.
I recall this not to be uncharitable but to emphasise that if we had still have a fit Virgil Van Dijk, this would not have happened and we would have won the cup, Yoshida was a capable central defender on his day and good back up, but not truly a first choice player.
2017/18 was another of turmoil in our back four and with Van Dijk sulking and eventually leaving we struggled to find a decent partnership in the centre of defence, Yoshida would make 20 starts, Jack Stephens 22, with Wesley Hoedt on 28, we never truly found a solid partnership and slipped into a relegation battle that we eventually scraped out of by a whisker.
Last season saw more back four woes and Hoedt was gone in January, out on loan leaving Yoshida, Vestergaard, Bednarek and Stephens to form various partnerships as Ralph Hasenhuttl pulled us out of the mire, but we were a team that might get away with it sometimes, but were prone to letting in soft goals.
The writing was on the wall for Yoshida as it was clear that Ralph preferred the other three before the Japanese player.
This season saw him firmly behind in the pecking order and he paid the price for that defeat to Leicester more than anyone, although in fairness he was no better or worse that day, since that October night he has played only 5 minutes in the Premier League and an FA Cup game against Huddersfield.
So it was no surprise to see him leave in January, at 31 he is reaching the twilight of his career and he needed to be playing games, with his contract up and no sign of a new one the club allowed him to seek other pastures and try to earn a deal for next season in doing so.
I have no complaints about Yoshida the club man, he served us well, he always gave 100%, indeed back in the days when we had truly class players alongside him he could do a job, but he was never suited to being the man who had to organise and lead, not a criticism but a fact.
Some will say I am a little harsh on him here, but I have told it like it is rather than given some emotional diatribe, he deserves to be remembered for what he did for the club which is more than most who have played for it over the past decade or so
Over the years we have had many players of his ilk who gave their all for the club and should be applauded for their service, every club has had one or two over the years, Maya Yoshida is one of those, good luck to him on the next part of his journey.
Photo: Action Images
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