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Watt View - Don't panic, we've got Jannik
Friday, 2nd Oct 2020 09:35 by Matt Watts

This week Matt takes a look at whether the answer to Saints central defensive woes might be Jannik Vestergaard, do you agree with him, read what he has to say and comment below.

After the gloom of Saints' humbling at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur, boss Ralph Hasenhuttl was determined to see change against Burnley but had little room for manoeuvre given his lean squad.

One necessity was a shake-up in defence following the ease with which Spurs' Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son slipped the rearguard on five occasions.

With options limited, the obvious choice was a switch at centre-back and Hasenhuttl duly obliged, with Jack Stephens, one of last term's star performers, dropped for Danish international Jannik Vestergaard.

I have previously aired my concerns about Vestergaard, suggesting he has one mistake too many in him and is a player I would be happy to see move on.

Yet I was perfectly content with his inclusion on Saturday evening, as I am sure the majority of Saints fans were, and the former Borussia Mönchengladbach man did not disappoint.

His assured performance alongside Jan Bednarek – the pair produced 13 clearances each – demonstrated his ability and gives confidence that central defensive concerns may not be as significant as first thought.

Despite Sean Dyche's Clarets being without seven senior players, they were still able to field a strike pairing of Chris Wood, the club's top scorer last season, and Czech Republic international Matej Vydra.

The solid display at the back ensured a clean sheet and helped secure Saints' first win of the campaign – as well as a first top-flight victory at Turf Moor in almost half a century.

To contain those two lively attackers is no mean feat.

Unfortunately for Stephens, he looks a shadow of the player we saw after Project Restart last season. However, his early struggles have opened the door to the Dane who has an opportunity to seize the moment.

Given that the 28-year-old has attracted interest from Leicester City and West Ham United, the timing of his return to the first team and convincing performance should put paid to any suggestion of him moving on.

With new addition Mohammed Salisu working his way towards fitness, the centre of defence could prove to be less of an issue than it seemed just a couple of weeks ago.

I would be delighted to see Vestergaard go on to cement his place and deliver consistently; he certainly has the ability to do so and his desire to remain at the club has no doubt enhanced his standing among the St Mary’s faithful.

In an interview with Danish outlet bold.dk prior to the start of the season, he said: “Football is strange, and I have been with it long enough to know it can look completely different tomorrow. So I have never made any guarantees, but at the moment I would like to be a part of Southampton.

"I see myself being fully involved in the battle for playing time, and I think the coach will confirm that as well.

"I try to stay focused on what I have an influence on. I have been made aware that there has been different interest, but it is not something I want to go further into. It is my agent's job.

"We have agreed I will continue as at the end of the season. The coach has been very pleased with my development and that of the team and, with the increased focus on ball possession, I think he sees me having a bigger role.“

Sunday’s visit from West Brom will be a chance for Vestergaard to further highlight how his return to the first team will be key to Saints’ success this season.

Photo: Action Images

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highfield49 added 10:08 - Oct 2
I have sympathy with what you're saying Matt, but Nick must be worried that he can't continue to trot out the "I've been saying for four years now" rant about not replacing Fonte/VVD. None of us can know whether the Burnley game was a turning point defensively but the indications were at least promising. It's looking like Salisu will be the only addition at the back this transfer window so hopefully he will make a real impact once fit. A quality defensive midfielder and creative wide player look to be the club's priorities at present but are they taking a risk that Ings can avoid injury or loss of form?

Saintaxidriver added 10:14 - Oct 2
On his day he can be a good player when we play deeper and the opposition is dumping crosses in to the box, but his problem is his lack of pace and turning speed which has been demonstrated on many occasions. Presuming most of the time we will play a pressing game with a high defensive line he is not good enough. We need centre backs with pace and good heading ability.

HythePeer added 10:30 - Oct 2
Fonte/VVD have been replaced but defenders of their standard don't want to play for Saints or, in financial terms, vice versa. So their replacements are of a lesser standard like those who play now.
Vestergard is the best defender Saints have but the manager insists on playing him and others in an idealistic style he has in his head but that they will never be able to achieve and so their best attributes are unused and their faults are exposed.

halftimeorange added 11:12 - Oct 2
If Saints are not going to find a replacement for Hobjberg then RH could move Stephens into that role. That's not the answer as we don't seem to have much money for a another decent centre-back nor any other position. I fear that if we don't add another two or three with pace we will be ripped apart by most other teams from what I've seen already. WBA will be a good pointer to what lies ahead.

SanMarco added 23:14 - Oct 3
Vestergaard is alright against teams who want to pump it in to the box and when we are defending deep but he is a carthorse and always has a silly give the ball away error in him - he came close to one in the second half at Burnley. We need a CB with pace (and ability too would be good). Vestergaard as third reserve is fine but first choice - no thanks.

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Letters from Wiltshire #09 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #08 by wessex_exile
Lots of discussion this week on football forums, including here, on two subjects – the petition to lobby parliament to allow limited numbers of supporters back into football grounds, and of course the return of that old chestnut from Man City Chief Executive Ferran Soriano, introducing Premier League ‘B’ teams into the EFL. First off, I don’t mind admitting I’ve signed the petition ( https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552036 ), as have 192,779 others at the time of writing, though I don’t actually think it’ll make any difference. I can completely understand why some do not think this is a good idea, as second-wave spikes of coronavirus infection pop up all over the country (mainly because – let’s face it – some people are dicks and can’t be trusted to sit the right way on a toilet). But to me, the two go hand in hand (not dicks and toilets) – whilst football clubs throughout the country struggle financially without spectators, we are always going to be under threat of this sort of ‘B’ team nonsense as a condition of financial support from the Premier League fat cats. They got their way in 2016 with the EFL trophy, who’s to say they won’t again when the financial squeeze really starts to tighten its grip without paying customers through the turnstiles? Robbie has featured prominently in this debate in recent weeks, and looks like he will again on Sky tomorrow if this tweet from Sophy Ridge is anything to go by -
Letters from Wiltshire #07 by wessex_exile

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