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Huddersfield Town 1 v 1 Southampton
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 25th November 2023 Kick-off 15:00
Defensive Headache For Southampton's Russell Martin Against Huddersfield
Wednesday, 22nd Nov 2023 10:51

Russell Martin has a few selection problems for the trip to the John Smith's Stadium to take on Huddersfield Town on Saturday, but for one it appears that they may all be good ones to have.

Only a couple of months ago the headline "Defensive Headache" would have meant something quite different for Russell Martin, he had tried several variations in his back line and in his first 8 League games in charge he had seen 19 goals conceded.

But in the 8 games played since that last 2-1 defeat to Middlesbrough, we have shipped just 7 goals, although the manager would perhaps have liked to have seen more clean sheets with only 2 in that run, only once have we conceded more than once and that has meant that in the space of two months we went from being being the worst defence in the Championship to being one of the best.

The truth was it wasn't as bad as some would have you believe, unbelievably half of our total 26 goals conceded for the season were in just three games, a 4-4 draw with Norwich and of course the 5-0 drubbing at Sunderland and the 4-1 defeat at home to Leicester City.

Russell Martin has worked hard at not only getting his goalkeeper and defenders comfortable with playing the possession football game, but in being confident in their own abilities.

Initially we started to get our defensive play on track with the central defensive partnership of Jan Bednarek & Taylor Harwood-Bellis forming the rock in the centre with Kyle Walker Peters and Ryan Manning as the full backs.

Manning came in for a lot of stick from some quarters but he played every minute of the first 4 games of this run, with just 3 goals conceded, he had got over his early sticky patch and was starting to look a more steady defensively when he was suspended for the trip to Preston .

This looked like being a tough game with not only Manning suspended but Taylor Harwood-Bellis injured, but in came two players much maligned in some quarters in James Bree and Mason Holgate and both played a part in what was perhaps our toughest game out of our last 8.

Suddenly Martin had options in his defence, he has stuck with Bree for the last four games and the former Luton defender played a big role in covering Kamaldeen Sulemana who although a big asset going forward is not so reliable in covering for the left back behind him.

It should be noted though that in the last two games, both won by late goals, Manning came into the fray for the last 20 minutes with the scores level, he is not finished as a first team contender by a long chalk and should perhaps be judged by what he does in the future and not what he is perceived to have done or not done in the past.

So Russell Martin has some thinking to be done ahead of the trip to Huddersfield, his first decision is his defensive pairing, Bednarek & Harwood-Bellis formed a great partnership, but Mason Holgate came in against West Brom and had a superb game, man of the match in some quarters, does he keep Holgate in the side or does he restore Bednarek & THB as the centre partnership.

On the right KWP is undroppable, but there is the question of the left side, Huddersfield are not one of the form sides in the division, they are one of the lowest scoring sides in the division, 3rd lowest, but also one of the worst defences again 3rd highest in terms of goals conceded.

Does the manager opt for the attacking Manning or go for the more defensive minded James Bree.

But it is still not that simple, Mason Holgate can also play as a full back, does he go for the Everton loanee in the back four, this time either left or perhaps right full back, to offer not only the ability to get forward and play the ball, but the defensive qualities, in truth Holgate could be the missing link, perhaps not as good as Manning going forward, but better than Bree and potentially a better defender than either of them.

Holgate has redeemed himself after a rocky start to his Southampton career and with his experience both in the Premier League and the Championship could well become a vital player this season, certainly he is an asset with his ability to play anywhere along the back line and indeed as a wing back.

So what will be Russell Martin's choice for the trip to Yorkshire on Saturday ? will he choose to make minimal changes, if any at all or mix and match to play the side best suited to the task ahead ?

We will find out on Saturday at 2pm.

So what is your view on the dilemma facing Russell Martin, what would your back line be for this game, give your opinion in the comments section below.

Photo: Action Images

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underweststand added 12:22 - Nov 22
" much maligned " is a bit strong (Nick) I didn't think Bree was any worse than anyone else last season and I'm quite impressed by his recent run-outs. Holgate arrived almost overnight and was thrown into a game without being introduced to the rest of the team, and it showed but he has looked more the part in the last few games.
We know that Manning was " Martin's man " from his old club and no-one can fault that but I hope that he can be more consistent in the longer term, because I haven't been over-impressed by him so far. Considering the opposition I think RM ought to follow the age old managerial adage .." never change a winning side ".
If they are his first choice side ...and they can't DAJFU at Huddersfield, then RM will need to re-think a lot more than just the LB spot. We need to start scoring goals big time, as it would be sad to miss promotion... because of an inferior goal difference.

WestSussexSaint added 12:57 - Nov 22
As we are throwing in managerial adages then how about "horses for courses". In this context on the left I think we should go with the more attack minded Manning as there is likely to be less threat from Huddersfield. Bree has done nothing wrong in that position but there should be less need for his defensive strengths.

I would also put Bednarek back in with THB as this is clearly the long term partnership. Holgate played well but he is a back up in the managers thinking so should be back on the bench.

Bowlercow added 14:12 - Nov 22
If we take the opposition into account then perhaps this would be an ideal chance to try 3 at the back Jan Bed Bellis and Holgate Allow Manning and KWP to charge forward at will
Holgate's dodgy start reminded me of Jos Hooveld when he joined from Celtic but once established he was a main stay of our promotion push

halftimeorange added 17:20 - Nov 22
My overall impression thus far this season is that Bree is a better all-round player than Manning. He reminds me of Dean Hammond in style, very tidy without being spectacular. Manning looks ragged at times. As for the centre of defence, continue with Bednarek and Harwood-Bellis.

SaintEPW added 14:54 - Nov 23
The good news is there are plenty of options - all good yet all slightly different- as analysis above shows. So- guess it is not just about one game but about intense game- after- game for the rest of the season - and in a physical battle with every game. Teams near the bottom might fight just as hard and be just as tough as top teams. So in game rotation and injuries etc will be the way to judge on who plays where and when - and the squad feeling of team support - as different players get their chance

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