2019/20 Season Review - The Centre Backs
Thursday, 30th Jul 2020 10:40
Perhaps the most debated area of the Saints team, today we take a look at our central defenders and why we haven't had a settled centre of defence not just this season, but going back several years now.
A good central defensive partnership is based on having players who have contrasting skills, in the 90/00's that meant the silky skills of Claus Lundekvam alongside a stopper like Dean Richards or Michael Svensson, in more recent times Jose Fonte provided the organisation leadership and holding the back line together whilst Dejan Lovren, Toby Alderweireld or Virgil Van Dijk provided a little less subtle skills, although in fairness both Alederweireld and Van Dijk could play a bit as well.
But since the departure of Fonte we have lacked a leader at the back and to be blunt, the central defence has never found a partnership where each player complimented the other.
In Jan Bedarek we had a young player that was looking for guidance, but could attack the ball, that is bore out by the stats that show he has made more clearances, more blocks and more tackles than most in the Premier League let alone just Saints.
It shows that he has what it takes to be the stopper in the partnership, but he needs an organiser and a leader alongside.
Since the restart Jack Stephens has come in and formed a partnership, but it is not one that has contrast with each player contrasting each other.
Stephens has some good characteristics, he can carry a ball from defence and that often blurs the issues in question, we need him to be a leader and an organiser, but he is neither of those, nor can he read a game to the standard that we need.
To coin a phrase he is a reasonable player but he is neither fish nor fowl, he is not big or strong enough to be the stopper, but he can't read the game well enough to be a leader.
I am coming to the conclusion that perhaps Stephens talents do not lie as a central defender but as a holding midfielder.
The other contenders for the central defensive spot Jan Bednarek and Maya Yoshida were both more in the stopper mode, but they too suffered from the lack of a player with composure alongside them.
Until we find another Fonte or Lundekvam, players with composure, with organisational skills and leadership qualities we are going to continue to leave players unmarked, get caught on the break and just conceding goals that we really should not concede.
I have no bias against any of the players in the centre of defence, they are just not up to the standards we have been used to, first question I always ask myself is whether a player would get into any other Premier League team, Bednarek perhaps aside none of the four mentioned would.
It is rumoured that Mohammed Salisu will join the club within the week, but at 21 I am not sure that he is the answer to our problem, at least not yet, he doesn't have the experience that we need and until we get that , neither Bednarek or for that matter Stephens can truly prosper, both need a contrasting player alongside them.
So with the departure of Yoshida we had a gap for a new central defender, that will be filled by Salisu, but if we are to turn our bottom 3 back four into a top 8 one, then we need to replace Vestergaard with experience and leadership.
Some will point to our form since the restart and say that we do not have problem, but truth is those 9 games have still been riddled with defensive errors and lapses in concentration, in the first game against Norwich we could easily have been 2-0 down in the first 10 minutes due to poor marking, Arsenal say no more, Manchester City at home was a glorious rearguard action, but we kept a clean sheet because we threw ourselves in the way of shot after shot, it could have been much different as we still kept failing to clear the ball and leaving people unmarked, the stats for the City game were not much different to that game against Leicester in October, the only difference was spirit.
Both Brighton and Bournemouth could have punished us and Sheffield United could have been 3-0 up at half time but for several good saves from Alex McCarthy.
So let us not let some good results of late gloss over the season as a whole in the back four, I have said all season that each game would always be about whether we would get away with our defensive lapses or be punished, before the break we were punished more often after it we got away with it on far too many occasions for it to be just coincidence.
So we need two new central defenders, if we get them then both Bednarek and Stephens have a future at the club, but I think that for Jack Stephens he may find an opportunity in the midfield or in a back three than in a central duo.
Some say I have something against certain players, that is far from the truth, I want them all to succeed as that will see us move up the table, I just don't close my eyes to where and when we fail to reach the standards required either as a unit or individuals.
I have given my thoughts here in a reasoned way, if you feel I'm wrong then tell me why in the same manner, if you feel I am wrong to say that certain players would not get in any other Premier League team then tell me, I will point out the door at St Mary's that is in perfect condition due to a lack of other club's battering it down to sign our centre backs.
With regard to Leicester City wanting Vestergaard that is baffling, perhaps Brendon Rodgers is feeling guilty for the way he pillaged us back in 2014.
Photo: Action Images
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