Southampton Need To Sort Out Central Defence Pairing For West Ham Clash
Wednesday, 8th Sep 2021 08:47
Although it has been an ok start to the Premier League season with two draws and a defeat, it really should have been more and already a lack of concentration in the centre of our defence has cost us soft goals, after 5 years of trying we have to now get it right.
Going forward Saints are a potent attacking force, but defensively although at times tight, they still suffer from lapses in concentration and a lack of organisation and leadership.
That was highlighted in the very first game when looking good for a 1-0 lead at half time against Everton at Goodison Park, within minutes of the restart they were dragged back to level terms with a goal that started with the conceding of a needless corner and ended with the goalkeeper standing and watching Richarlison toe poke the ball past him after a lack of communication in the defence
The two late goals that sealed our fate were equally poorly defended.
Against Manchester United it was the same story and it was only by pure luck and some desperate last gasp defending that we stayed on level terms come the end of 90 minutes.
Like last season Newcastle was a game we dominated and should have won, but again we gifted the Mags two goals that really should have been defended better, we once again showed our vulnerability on the break.
The good news though was that unlike last season it was not a terminal blow, we had the firepower going forward to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat.
This is of course not the first time I have brought up this subject. I bring it up so often that some accuse me of having something against certain players, nothing could be further from the truth, just because i feel a player isn't performing to the level required doesn't mean I take to social media demanding he leave the club immediately, I don't think any of them do it personally, but the reason I keep harping on is because since January 2017 it has been happening again and again and again.
Now is the time to get things right, I like Ralph Hasenhuttl as a manager, he has done well under heavy financial constraints caused by some poor signings made before he arrived, who were still on the books up to recently.
But I will criticise him where it is due and the fact is during his time we have never sorted out the problem, never sorted out an experienced leader and organiser at the back and in consequence have paid the price.
All of our central defenders are capable players, I have been critical of Jack Stephens, he has proved he can play in the Premier League, but the problem is he has lapses in concentration, as was seen in the first goal for Newcastle when he should have been the player taking command but allowed his man to get in front of him and score.
Jack is a loyal servant to the club, a good back up player, but to be blunt if he is the first choice then we do have a big problem .
Mohamed Salisu has partnered him in the opening games, Salisu is a talent but he is inexperienced, he needs someone to talk him through games and help him learn his trade.
Why Jan Bednarek hasn't started any of the first three games is a mystery, he has been far our best and most consistent central defender in the past few years and has one of the best records for blocks in the Premier League.
No one knows much about our new signing Lyanco or how fit he is, he has some experience but will he be the new Dejan Lovren or Claus Lundekvam or will he be the new Maya Yoshida ?
That we will soon find out.
The hope for the future is Dynel Simeu, he has all the attributes of being that leader and organiser, but he is still only 19 and yet to play a first team game of any sort for Chelsea or now with us.
The centre of defence is a harder position to throw in a youngster, you can get away with it at full back or in midfield, but in the centre of defence there is little margin for error, I would expect that Symeu will get a chance this season, but not just yet.
So Ralph has plenty of options open to him now, there is no excuse to continue to let in goals that in the main should be defended and now is the time to stop the rot of the last 5 years.
Against West Ham the joint top scorers in the Premier League with 10 goals in their opening 3 games we cannot afford to be so lax we have to get a partnership together.
In my mind that firstly needs the reinstatement of Jan Bednarek, it is only a question of who plays alongside him, the obvious choice is Salisu, he has a little more experience, what he does lack though is someone telling him what is going on.
In three of the goals conceded you could look at Salisu and question his decision, at Everton for the first goal he clearly thought the keeper was going to get the ball but was caught in two minds as he didn't get a shout.
At Newcastle he marked his man but didn't make an attempt to block for the first, again a lack of any sort of communication from the players who were behind him and should have been calling the shots and for the second he was a yard off his man, again someone should be holding the back line and talking, again Salisu didn't know what was behind him and didn't know whether to get tight or hold off.
It is all about communication at the back and the lack of it.
So will Lyanco be fit and ready to play ? I'm not so sure he will be or whether he can even speak English to communicate with those around him and that is a worry.
So for me Ralph has two choices on Saturday, Salisu & Bednarek and a poll conducted on the Ugly Inside message board this week showed that was the pairing favoured by the fans . (Link Below)
His second choice is to play a central trio as he did against Manchester United in the second half, again I think Bednarek & Salisu should be in there with the only question being who is the third man, in the absence of Harry Lime we have the choice of either Jack Stephens or Lyanco.
Stephens may get the nod here, he was fine against Manchester United and in a deeper lying central three it might suit him better, with Lyanco it will be the unknown and we will soon find out if he is the tough tackling ball playing central defender we are told he is and our recruitment department have found another hidden diamond or we have signed a dud.
The one thing that has to happen though is that we have to sort out our lack of a leader and experience in defence, it can't go on, we seem to have a rigid policy these days that stops us buying players over the age of 27, in any walk of life you have to have some flexibility and sometimes go outside your own parameters and with the centre of defence I think this is the case.
In the B team Saints brought Ollie Lancashire back to the club to mentor the B team and talk them through games and perhaps we need to look at that experiment and consider it for the first team.
In the past previous managers have brought in players past their best to slot into and run the back four who have got a new lease of life, Chris Nicholl or Dave Watson for Lawrie Mcmenemy springs to mind .
There are out of contract central defenders out there who could do a job not just on the pitch but on the training ground, one of them would be David Luiz formerly of Chelsea and Arsenal.
At 34 you would not be signing him to play 38 games a season, you would be signing him to step into games where experience is needed and he certainly has that, he played 20 Premier League games for Arsenal last season and that would be perhaps what Saints would need from a player like Luiz, a calm head off the bench in the final 20 minutes.
I am sorry to have to write another article like this and in the main repeat the same things that I have said 3 or 4 times a year for the past 4 1/2 years, but here we are further up the road and I am saying these things because nothing has changed and they are still happening.
Going forward we potentially have a top 10 side, defensively we are bottom 3, last season we counterbalanced poor defending with good attacking play, but we can't keep doing that.
Good sides are built with a strong spine and that starts with the goalkeeper and central defence, it is time to get that right.
Photo: Action Images
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