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Last Pieces In The Jigsaw Needed For Saints ! But Will They Find them !
Monday, 5th Oct 2020 09:21

Since the breaking up of the partnership of Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk, Saints have been looking for those last pieces in the jigsaw puzzle, will they finally find them in this transfer window.

It doesn't take rocket science to see where most of Saints woes have been in the past 3 1/2 years, the sight of Zlatan Ibramhovic rising completely unmarked in the final minute of the EFL Cup Final at Wembley to score an undeserved winner in February 2017 was prophetical for Saints supporters of what the future would hold.

The proof of the pudding has been in the eating and since then we have gifted goals too frequently, whether it has been leaving players unmarked, getting caught on the break or a number of other things, since early 2017 Saints defence has given out more presents than Santa Claus.

Some say I have had something against certain players, that is totally untrue, the only thing I judge a player on is their ability to play football and do their job for Saints and at this moment in time, of our four central defenders only Jan Bednarek has shown he has something in his locker that could make him a Premier League quality player, judgement on Salisu must be reserved until we ave seen him play.

Perhaps Jack Stephens, Jannik Vestergaard & indeed Bednarek could make it at this level convincingly, if they had someone with experience alongside them, an organiser and a leader.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has revamped the Saints squad and improved it to the point that we should be challenging for the top 10 again, but last season saw us fall short because of defensive errors and they happened more often than they didn't, some weeks we got away with them, others we didn't.

So now Ralph needs to look hard at the jigsaw puzzle on the table and the last pieces he needs , one they will probably leave to later and that is in goal, we have three keepers but none have been either convincing or consistent in the last few years.

But the biggest piece is staring him right in the face and it is at the back in the centre, the past few years have seen us try to replace Fonte & Van Dijk, firstly with Stephens and Van Dijk and then with three signings, Hoedt, Vestergaard & Bednarek, the latter was a youngster so I am giving him some leeway and he has been consistent over the past couple of years, but the truth is none would have got in the side ahead of Fonte, Lovren, Alderweireld and Van Dijk.

When we signed those players they looked the part immediately, there was no questioning their ability, so why have we gone to playing that calibre of central defender to the level we are at now, that of those who were 4th choice or worse when they were here.

Our transfer policy seems rigid at the moment, we only sign players under a certain age who have promise and can be improved and eventually reap a big transfer fee, I have no problem with this, I accept that to compete we have to do so by buying and selling players and re investing, I think it is the ONLY way forward for us.

But every football team needs a leader, an experienced head at the heart of the team, sometimes with his better days behind him, look at the Saints sides of the past 40 years or so, Lawrie McMenemy had Alan Ball and then came Jimmy Case, in the 90's we had Claus Lundekvam and then latterly Jose Fonte, all experienced players, all who could read the game and organise those around them.

At the start of the 1990's we had a team of youngsters second to none, they started to fall apart when Jimmy Case left the club and they had to dend for themselves, back then we saw rollercoaster results and that is what we are seeing now.

We do not have anyone of that calibre now and we really need to bring him into the club.

Perhaps he won't fit the pattern, but a 29 year old central defender with 250 -300 Premier League games to his name is that crucial piece of the jigsaw that we need, it is not Mo Salisu who is 21 with 30 or so games in La Liga, indeed if Salisu plays alongside our defenders he will go backwards not forwards, at his age he needs a teacher not those also looking for guidance.

This is a critical period for Ralph Hasenhuttl, I am loathe to criticise him, he has done a great job, but even the best managers get it wrong sometimes and I think at present we are getting it wrong by not accepting that we need a leader at the back who doesn't fit the usual transfer mould.

Some might disagree, but in evidence I can submit just about every game in the last 3 years, most of which have been riddled with defensive errors, I would also ask if any of our current central defenders would get into any other Premier League side, I think we all know that and it shows how our standards have dropped.

Yes we have won some games and kept some clean sheets, but the Spurs game showed we are far from a cool, calm, collected organised unit at the back and as the old adage says, great sides are built from the back.

Maybe not a great day to write this article after seeing United ship 6, Liverpool 7 and last weekend City concede 5, but they are rare off days, every team has them, for us it is the opposite.

When Ralph Hasenhuttl leaves Southampton and I truly hope that is a long way off I want him to be remembered for many things, a stubbornness in the transfer market to only chase a player that fits the blueprint is not one of them.

Sign a quality central defender in this window and we finish in the top 10 fail to do so and it is another season of what if and more memories of unmarked players in the penalty box and long balls finding our defenders trailing in the wake of attackers.

I make no apologies if you have read all of this before, but I am sick of writing the same story season in season out.

Photo: Action Images

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davepid added 09:41 - Oct 5
Spot on,Nic. Let’s hope one comes in today.

saintmark1976 added 10:00 - Oct 5
Honestly Nick you’ve done this one to death. For your own wellbeing it’s time to let it go.

Firstly, where is this mythical 29 year old centre back with 250 to 300 Premiership games to his name?

Secondly, even he exists why would he want to come to St Mary’s?

Finally, do you honestly think that at the present moment we have enough money to buy him?

Sorry, but you are just going to have to accept we are going to have to muddle on with what we have. Given the recent displays by the £80 million Man Utd centre half perhaps it’s not too bad an option after all?

michaeljoycetf added 10:29 - Oct 5
A negative & boring post in my view. Saints are doing ok, we win some and we lose some, that's the reality. Ralph is an excellent manager and were lucky to have him. I'm think he might succeed without your repetitive criticism.

highfield49 added 10:31 - Oct 5
Totally agree saintmark, please Nick, if we don't sign the mythical centre half today stop banging the incessant drum it's obsessive. And, on the subject of experienced defenders, VVD didn't exactly do your cause many favours yesterday.

pwithers123 added 11:05 - Oct 5
I am afraid I have to agree with many of the posts on this question.

Playing with a high line and pressing - has high potency - yet also has very high risks. As a player and a manager - it requires that you live permanently on the edge of the Lines of Risk. You are also relying heavily on every single player doing their job and pressing correctly and pressing with intensity yet high intelligence. If any one players drops off performance in physical level or intelligence level - then everyone is suddenly highly exposed.

There is much less margin for error.

This takes time to learn. This also means that the people MOST exposed are the two central backs. Who have least cover and most risk.

We were exceptionally fortunate to have Van Dijk - who was very fast, very big very bright. As we see with Man United - they paid £80m - and did not get what they needed.

Just asking for the " Ideal " mature player - does not cut it. Such players also have to learn how to play the High Line- some don't. They are not cut out for it in some manner- as it is very demanding.

We can see that Vestergard HAS improved. We can see than both Bednarek and Stephens have also improved. Great - Lets give them credit

We need 4 x CB to play this game. It is mentally and physically exhausting

Give us a break please - Lets accept that sometimes it fails - and when high line fails - It looks aweful - Lets not personalise every error and make it the fault of the player at the back. It might well have been the player at the front who was to blame.


erick added 11:46 - Oct 5
Currently there are four central defensive players 2 right footers as well two left footers. Hasenhutle does not think a defender is needed priority signing a winger and if possible another central mid. The defensive debate is over

Berber added 11:48 - Oct 5
More than half the teams in the PL are looking to sign a leader CB, with Man U leading the chase.

Centurion added 12:00 - Oct 5
I think Nick is right. Yes, he has repeated the point over and over again, but this does not mean he is wrong just that the issue has not been addressed!

underweststand added 12:10 - Oct 5
If this article is about CB's?....my take on this has always been ..the problem was not selling VvD, but letting Jose Fonte leave the club. JF partnered half a dozen others from our L1 days upto his part in Koeman's squad and beyond. I blame Puel for letting him go.

IF your headline refers to other "missing jigsaw pieces" I don't think that taking Theo Walcott ON LOAN is a bad idea. I can hear many disagreeing with me already.
We are not talking about offering a 4 year contract to a 31 year old, but loaning a player for 9 months until his Everton contract runs out . His experience at senior level and goal-scoring record will be invaluable to Saints as a back-up / assist to Danny Ings, and much as i admire Che Adams workrate and application, it's sadly beginning to look like ...
"he ain't gonna make it " , or until they widen the goals.

IF..(a big IF) Walcott can make any reasonable contribution to the team (in goals / assists) then it will be upto Ralph to decide... IF.. he wants to employ him for a while longer.
Surely a win-win situation.

schatfield added 13:07 - Oct 5
Oh man, you are like a broken record with the copy/paste button on full function. You still have blinkers on with regards to Claus and Fonte, both were not very good defenders who organised naff all and were made to look good by others around them.
Do you not know how Saints operate yet?? We do not buy older players.
As others have said, we play with a high line which provides a risk. Yet, our last 2 games have given us clean sheets....look at other teams in the league, many top teams shipping goals a plenty. No team is perfect in defense even with experienced defenders in.
So please, please, stop with the endless stories on the same topic. I repeat Saints will not buy an older player in the mould you want so it's time to let it go.

NYC_Saint added 13:37 - Oct 5
Smalling no longer going to Roma - I’d take him and way prefer to shoulder a chunk of his wages than walcotts

KohSamuiSaints added 17:03 - Oct 5
When you see Leeds Utd & Sheffield Utd & Wolves & Leicester City spending £25-£30 Million on players they want and go out to buy and improve their team it makes the £35 million we have spent on 3 untested players it puts our position in to perspective ....Southampton have had quality central defenders for years but those days seem long past ....Dean Richards , Ken Monku. Van Dyke , Mark Wright , tha days of us always having an older aged player have gone .. Mark Hughes , Jimmy Case , Alan Ball , etc etc you need experience and we don’t have it now

Peterx added 18:35 - Oct 5
Weve wasted the VVD transfer money and this season and last I suspect a major project has been to rectify that without getting relegated. If Salisu and Diallo come good with support from Walcott and hopefully a quality Chelsea second stringer I suspect we will be highly competitive with RH getting the most out of the group.

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