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Saints Closing In On Salisu But Youth Is Not The Solution In The Centre Of Defence
Wednesday, 15th Jul 2020 08:07

Saints are said to be closing in on Mohammed Salisu, but is a 21 year old the answer to our problems in the centre of the defence where we need experience organisation and leadership.

Mohammed Salisu from Real Valladollid in Spain is said to be near to a move to St Mary's, but having only just turned 21 and with only 31 appearances in La Liga to his name, all made in the 2019/20 season, is he or for that matter a number of other central defenders all around the same age and experience truly the solution to our defensive problems.

The Jack Stephens/Jan Bednarek pairing in the centre of our defence is the best we have, but it is way down the pecking order in terms of the best in the Premier League.

The truth is that they do not compliment each other, a good pairing would see one partner being the steel, the player who gets stuck in and wins the ball and the other holding the back line, controlling the defence and talking his fellow defenders through the game.

I feel Bednarek has the qualities to be the stopper, but I am afraid that Jack Stephens does not seem to have the organisational capabilities nor the leadership qualities and cannot seem to read the game.

Time and time again we are caught on the break, Arsenal did it with a hopeful punt down the middle which left us for dead and so did Everton when they scored their goal last week, sides know that we are not organised at the back.

That does not mean that Stephens is a bad player, there is some who believe he is better suited as a holding midfielder, he has many good qualities and I am sure he is a great person, but he is a player caught between two types of central defender, he is neither leader nor stopper and every good defence has that balance, sometimes as in the case of Virgil Van Dijk you have a player with both those qualities.

So another young defender is not the answer to our defensive woes, we need experience, we need leadership and that comes with age, the Saints teams with youth in them saw that flourish because of the old heads around them, Alan Ball and Jimmy Case spring to mind, they talked and they organised and they helped nurture the youngsters, we do not have that in our team.

Last summer we should have brought in someone like Gary Cahill or even Phil Jagielka, they had the age and experience that we needed, they would have helped both Stephens and Bednarek become better players.

Neither have truly had the benefit of a mentor in the back four, Yoshida had the experience, but he himself was not an organiser or a leader, age alone doesn't bring that, indeed he needed quality alongside him.

So although it would be good to see Salisu or another starlet join Saints, if we sign one then we should not forget that we need experience in the centre of defence, Jannik Vestergaard like Yoshida didn't have the qualities needed, he himself would be good alongside a leader, Leicester clearly see that, but he flounders when playing alongside those who are just as at sea as himself.

But if Vestergaard goes we need two new central defenders, Bednarek & Stephens have earned their right to be in the Saints squad, but we have to accept that in the last two years they are not compatible as a pairing, a 21 year old like Salisu might improve our options, but it won't solve the problem of organisation.

Therefore I would like to see two new central defenders in, one a youngster and the other an experienced player, preferably some of that in the Premier League, I suspect that there will be a few currently at other Premier League clubs either out of contract or surplus to requirements.

Supplement Bednarek & Stephens with a young player like Salisu and an old head who can bring them on, not just in matches but on the training ground and we will have the balance right, competition for places and the ability for Ralph Hasenhuttl to change his formation to three at the back when he feels the situation needs it.

When Jimmy Case and Alan Ball arrived or for that matter central defenders like Chris Nicholl they brought balance to the side, we need to get back to that now, most players we seem to chase fall in the promising youngster category, nothing wrong with that, but ask Lawrie McMenemy what the secret to his success was and he will tell you having the right balance of youngsters and old heads to talk them through games.

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benalisbroom added 08:23 - Jul 15
Nick, when Mark Wright made his debut he was 17. I contend that he was a better player aged 19 than he was at 29. Likewise, Van Dijk was barely 24 when he signed. If you’re old enough, you’re good enough.

Simples, ‘innit?

benalisbroom added 08:24 - Jul 15
...or maybe the other way round!!!😁

saintmark1976 added 08:35 - Jul 15
“ we have to accept that in the last two years they are not compatible as a pairing “. Actually Nick we don’t have to accept anything that you write. Your opinion carries no more weight than any other contributor to the site, the purpose of which I thought was for the ongoing tolerant exchange of different views concerning S F C. Perhaps you will be kind enough that this is still the case?

SaintNick added 09:18 - Jul 15
Benalisbroom- When Mark Wright joined he had Chris Nicholl alongside him for his first full season and when Van Dijk signed he had several seasons behind him for Groningen & Celtic so was hardly a youngster, With Wright he was raw but Nicholl talked him through it and talent shone through

SaintMark, No you dont have to accept anything that I write, but lets not get hung up on wording, perhaps you would prefer to give your opinion in as much detail as I have given mine as to why you think that they are compatible as a pairing and have shown that they can be solid in defence and not give soft chances and goals away in most games, you are right this is a site to have tolerant exchanges of opinions not to pick up on every sentence being grammatically and technically correct, I look forward to your reply on Stephens & Bednarek with interest


misterg added 09:28 - Jul 15
Johnny Evans looked a great asset for Leicester at Bournemouth the other night !!!
Good job that Jack was not doing that because you would have crucified him Nick.
Think it is time you got off his back because you have made your point and its your opinion.

highfield49 added 09:56 - Jul 15
Looking at the defensive problems from another perspective is it worth employing another defensive coach? Is there more to be gained by better coaching rather than buying in a Cahill or Jagielka on high wages for a short term fix?

JGH added 10:03 - Jul 15
Genuinely how many times are you going to re-write the same article?

You don't rate our central defenders and want experience/leadership/organisational skills in their replacement(s). You think we should have bought Gary Cahill last summer (ignoring the fact that he likely would have wanted to stay in London/Surrey over moving to south coast).


halftimeorange added 10:12 - Jul 15
I share Nick's views on Bednarek and Stephens, as do a number of my friends. Jack is good at driving forward from defence but, his defending is regularly sloppy - if you don't agree then view again the Man U game. Bednarek has more defensive ability but needs coaching or an older head to make sure he stays in position. Vestergaard isn't first choice so, he's not the answer. We can't afford Ake or Mings but, we could look at someone like Smalling who is better than any we have and is reputed to be available to Roma at £15M.

abingdonsaint added 10:24 - Jul 15
Buying experienced players does not fit our model Nick. I would have thought that was obvious by now. Ralph clearly wants to mould the team to play in a certain way, and if he thinks that youth is the way to achieve that, then I trust him. As I’ve said many times, the only way to have any success in the modern PL without spending shedloads of cash is to have a unique ‘philosophy’, for want of a better word. Pochettino achieved this for a while, but we drifted away from it until now, despite the Koeman years. Lawrie Mac was a long time ago, and I’m old enough to remember it well, but the landscape is very different now I’m afraid.

erick added 10:30 - Jul 15
I feel your assessment is all wrong we had Yoshida in the team an experienced centre half yet the problems persistent. My opinion I feel Bednarek n Stephens have improved a lot, we need to replace Danso n Vestergaard if he leaves, otherwise I feel we need fullbacks, forward left sided attacker more

saintmark1976 added 10:31 - Jul 15
Thanks for the reply Nick. I’m delighted that you now acknowledge that we don’t have to accept anything that you write. So perhaps in acknowledgment of this fact your contributions will in future be posted in a less strident manner? I’ve always found that one usually has more success in changing others opinions by attempting to convince them of a point of view rather than telling them they must accept it.
In reference to your kind offer of justifying our current time centre back pairing I’m going to decline. Why? Simply because like countless others have pointed out to you, we don’t have what appears to many to be your obsession with the subject.


dirk_doone added 10:56 - Jul 15
I think Jack Stephens is developing into a very good central defender, as he displayed with a magnificent performance against Man City, and that he will be at the heart of our defence for many years to come. He also displays leadership qualities. I believe that Ralph shares that view too. Maguire cost £75 million but I don't think he looked any better than Stephens when we played United. Overall, Stephens has been one of our best players this season and one of the reasons for our recent improvement.

Salisu is a left-footed player who may well slot in alongside him but Bednarek is improving so it is by no means certain that he will be replaced.

ChristchurchSaint added 11:11 - Jul 15
Nick, we just do not have the money to buy a “good experienced CB”. Cahill is ok, but at his age would be asking huge salaries. I have read, rightly or wrongly, that we will offer Salisu a 4 year deal worth £35k a week- probably half of what we would have to pay an older player. You say about Vestergaard being poor in his leadership skills, he is 27! If he hasn’t got that ability by now, will he ever get it?

Ripleys_revenge added 11:18 - Jul 15
Broadly I'm in agreement with Nick here. I can't understand why people get so worked up about Stephens being called out for making mistakes?? You only have to look at his performance against Man U this week to see a mixture of bad positioning, turning away from the ball, sloppy passes and lack of organisation that directly led to goals. Even in the barn storming performance agains Man City that he put in (in which yes, he did play very well) there were a number of instances where he was all over the place - the deflection off his back from Bernardo Silva that went just wide of the post springs to mind. It was his spirit in that game that shone through and he deserves a lot of credit for that, but he is nowhere near a premier league quality CB in my view.

As for Salisu, I'm excited about this guy. He looks like an absolute beast in the challenge at 21 years old. Youtube clips are of course notoriously misleading when it comes to assessing a player, but I notice in a lot of them he seems to be gesturing to other players around him and communicating quite a lot - despite his young age, does he already have the leadership qualities that we have been lacking?

In summary, yes a gamble but at 12 million or whatever it is it seems like good value for money at this point. An older / more experienced head to come in alongside Salisu would be perfect, but if that doesn't happen I wouldnt be too upset. Think Ralph has got it in him to fix up someone like this and he looks to fit the bill of the sort of player we seem to be aiming for these days

dirk_doone added 11:27 - Jul 15
Our defensive problems, like the 0-9 thrashing by Leicester, occurred when Vestergaard and Valery played in a back 5.
Some of our results this season when Stephens and Bednarek have played in a back 4 with Bertrand and Cédric or Walker-Peters:

Saints 1 Man City 0 Leicester 1 Saints 2 Saints 1 Spurs 0 Chelsea 0 Saints 2

Those results against some of the best attacks in the country show what a good central defence we have when they have 2 reliable full-backs alongside them. . Valery and Vestergaard were the problem, not Stephens and Bednarek , and Ralph realized that, which is why he made the change.

ElSanto added 12:02 - Jul 15
I agree with NIck that we need a leader and an organiser.

Highfield's comments never fail to impress. Fair play, dude. Always look forward to reading your opinion.

ElSanto added 12:02 - Jul 15
I agree with NIck that we need a leader and an organiser.

Highfield's comments never fail to impress. Fair play, dude. Always look forward to reading your opinion.

Farlow added 12:11 - Jul 15
If a great coach like Brendan Rogers can see the ability of Vestergaard then surely the Saints fans should.Against Watford,who usually bully us off the pitch he was absolutely outstanding.
I think he is a useful squad member and Ralph will surely improve him.

dirk_doone added 12:19 - Jul 15
Well somebody must be showing some leadership out there because the results we've been getting against some of the top teams in the country have been outstanding. In fact, this is the best our team has played since Koeman left 4 years ago and he had van Dijk, currently rated the best central defender in the world.

felly1 added 12:40 - Jul 15
I believe we are 6th in the form table since the Leicester debacle. Which Stephens didn't play in. Im all for bringing in another CB to compete with the other 3. Who wouldnt want that?
The issue for most posters on here is the writer going on and on and on and on and on forever and ever amen!!!!
Yes!! We get it.. you don't rate Stephens, Fair play that's your opinion. Please can we talk about some positive stuff occasionally. Ie.. Armstrong . St Danny, the emergence of Smallbone etc.

bidds83 added 12:49 - Jul 15
I think with him being the left sided cb he will have Ryan Bertrand next to him who is one of our most experienced players he will be fine, i blame the 9-0 on vestergard and valery so i think Salisu with Bednarek as a back 4 with Berty and Kwp is definitely workable

schatfield added 13:13 - Jul 15
hahahahaha, this article is hilarious. I would put Stephens just behind Ings and Armstrong as player of the season, he has been very, very good.

Nick, I think you need to stop banging on about our 2 CBs now being poor. Clearly our Manager doesnt agree, or he wouldnt play them week in, week out, but if you know how the game works better than him, maybe get your CV over to St Marys sharpish.

No need to bang on about Cahill either. You know the Soton model and its never been to buy older players on expensive salaries, we buy young, and develop them, eventually selling for a fat profit, and repeat.

AmericanSaint added 14:26 - Jul 15
Sorry Nick, but I think you have this one mostly wrong. I agree that we need another CB and maybe two, but there are no top quality CB available for the money we will spend. Watching the tv pundits, they are saying that ALL the top-six teams need at least one CB, so if that is the case, how are we getting one? Your dislike for Stephans and lack of confidence for Benderak is well known, but your unrealistic desire for new CB pairing with world class level players is never going to happen. Do you think MU Maguire is an good? His 70 mil price tag shows how bad MU failed in scouting him. He was horrible against us and I think a liability for MU. Look at Stones at MC. There is talk of shipping him out as he is not any good, but they bought him for a ridiculous price. You keep talking about VVD and Fonte as this amazing pairing, but I would argue that Fonte was a weak link even with his experience, especially towards the end. He was slow and always was lunging at the ball. In today's game of speed, he would be eaten alive. I do appreciate your opinions and how you look at some of our issues, but on the CB pairing/need for new CBs, I think you need to take a step back and look from a different perspective. Finally, if Bournemouth go down, I think we need to go after Ake, as he is the only CB in the bottom three right now that has the steel and character for the PL.

Colburn added 14:53 - Jul 15
I think Stephens must have run over Nick's cat or something.. Having an opinion is one thing, to find a way to pursue the same blinkered opinion on virtually a daily basis is cheap and cowardly, not to mention boring and constantly negative. You lack the ability to give praise, claiming each time we play well at the back as a situation where 'we got away with it again'. How many times will we have to get away with it before you realise there is a reason for this. It seems you wish to make personal attacks on Jack at every given opportunity simply because you have the power to do so. It is cowardly behaviour. I'm sure we all know your opinion, are willing to accept it, however wrong, but to bang the drum as often as you do is a total disgrace. What league position is Gary Cahill in? 2 places below us. Where are we in the form table since that awful game Jack didn't start. Chelsea, Man C, Spurs, Leicester, etc all wins since then. Jack and Jan are improving all the time, only been a partnership for half a season or so. 6th in form league as mentioned and this is toughest league in the world. Try denying those facts Nick.. Cahill not exactly free of errors and he's old, where are Palace Nick?

Player harassment is not just an opinion, it's cowardly

SaintStu7 added 15:37 - Jul 15
You can’t always blame the defence for every goal. It normally starts from poor defending from the front or good play from the opponent. Some of the goals we have scored recently I would have been berating our defence had we conceded i.e Ings Watford x2, Ings Everton, Armstrong Man U. It’s just part of the game and sometimes the attackers out shine the defenders. We seem to have come three quarters of the way with Stephens and Bednarek and it would be a shame to throw that away especially as a new signing as proven with the last 3 or 4 centre backs doesn’t often work. Maybe best to develop what we have as even if we spend millions (Stones, Keane, Maguire) that will probably not lead to success.

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