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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Letters from Wiltshire #08 by wessex_exile
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