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The Season's Verdict - Central Defence
The Season's Verdict - Central Defence
Monday, 14th May 2012 12:29

The most difficult area to comment on, for large parts of games our central defence did its job, but in every game there would be an error.

Throughout this season my comments about our two regular central defenders were often met with derision, however i sometimes felt that many were missing the point.

Both Jos Hooiveld and Jose Fonte would be fairly decent in most games that they played, but in virtually every game, one or the other and sometimes both would commit errors that would sometimes cost us very dearly, yes the defence did not let many goals in, but it wasnt a case of hjow many we let in, but when we let those that we did.

A look at our results shows that our record against the top 10 sides especially away from home was not great, defensively we looked good when we were dominating sides especially at home, but when pressure was put on us we cracked at vital times.

This is the part in the article that certain people will throw bricks at their computer screen and tell me that we had one of the best defensive records in the division, that we got promoted and what a great time to be a Saints fan it is, all of course are true, however we should not allow those facts to blind ourselves to our weakness's.

As I mentioned in just about every game our central defensive pairing would commit an error, indeed even Nigel Adkins mentioned this on more than one occasion when commenting that very rarely did the opposition score a quality goal against us, yes to a degree any goal conceded will usually find someone wanting, but this was happening far too often for comfort, Nigel Adkins realised that, but it was too late to do anything about it and it nearly cost us dearly come the end of the season.

Hooiveld and Fonte are not bad players, both are very good in fact, but they both committed too many individual errors when they really should have done better, a good player will probably have around 3-4 of these moments in a season, both of our centre halves got into double figures and as I stated they not always cost us goals, a good example of this is the superb block that Jos Hooiveld made at Nottingham Forest back in January, the home forward looked certain to score until Hooiveld threw himself in the way, a great tackle, but one that he would have had to make if he hadnt been easily turned and forced to concede a free kick and booking that lead to the situation, one incident that illustrates the diachotomy of my argument and shows that not every mistake leads to a goal.

Maybe im being harsh, but even if we take the last games in the run in too many of the goals were poor defending, Millwall away when Hooiveld got turned this way and that way before the resultant shot came off the post and hit Fonte before going in, Blackpool away when Hooiveld failed to win a long ball and Fonte didnt get a tackle in for one of their goals, Portsmouth at home , first goal when the defence backed off and let their man get a shot in and the second goal when a weak defensive header from Fonte tee'd up there second,Middlesbrough away, when Hooiveld again put out a weak defensive header straight to their man who smacked in the equaliser and the second goal when Fonte panicked under pressure from Jutkiewics and gave away a needless free kick for their winner.

Reading at home when all three goals saw some form of lack of concentration from one or the 0ther of our two central defenders, and before any one says, yes Fox does have to shoulder a big part of the blame in the first.

These examples are just from the last six weeks of the season, if they had been spread out over 46 games it would be bad enough, but this number of errors in a ten game period is telling us something.

So what is it ? is it lack of concentration or do they not gel togather as a pair, I think there is a little to be said for both suggestions.

I dont think either is a bad player and again as i said its not about the number of goals conceded, but when they were conceded, yes we got promoted but football is sometimes about certain moments and if Hooiveld's inexplicable handball in the first half at Upton Park had been spotted by the ref, or Nicky Maynard had put away the chance he was gifted by the same player in the final minutes, then we would have been in the play offs, it was that tight, we got away with it though and we are in the Premier and this perhaps pushes home the point that we have to learn from last season, if we concede soft goals against the likes of Blackpool, Pompey, Middlesbrough and Millwall, what are Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea and Spurs going to do to us.

The verdict on our central defence is that they buckled too often under pressure, and lost concentration too often, when we were dominating sides they looked good, but too many teams showed us that if they ran at us and put us under pressure then we were found wanting.

I havent mentioned Dan Seabourne or Arron Martin, both didnt let us down in the few games they played, however neither deserved to replace the usual two either as in most games Hooiveld and Fonte were rock solid for 99% of the game, it was the other 1% that was the problem

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allsaint added 13:10 - May 14
Some fair points here Nick. I would however argue that the Middlesbrough/Pompey type goals were the fault of our central midfield players who failed to pick up at the edge of the box.
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landsdownsaint added 13:20 - May 14
It's a shame that some players might not make the step up but have been great getting us there,I think Fonte will get run ragged in the Prem !Jos will be fine tho
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slynch added 14:56 - May 14
Central defender's are good. They make errors but you won't get an error free one?
Some of their errors came from being pulled out of shape by absenteeism by the full backs. This is not always FB's fault but the style played. The judgement is, is the gain worth the risk. I can't say that Adkins made the wrong judgment cos we got promoted. I think that now we are in the premier league (that sounded good, I'll say it again, now we are in the premier league, Ha!) risks will be punished more. The FBs need to cover more, pass to the wingers more and return to defence and only allow our CBs to be exposed when the best opportunities arise.
Blackpool threw everything into attack and got relegated. I'm sure Adkins has worked that out or is reading this for ideas and we'll make the top six next season.
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SaintNick added 15:05 - May 14
I dont particularly agree with the view that we made errors in the centre because the full backs not being there pulled us out of shape.

Most of the errors that our centre backs made were about decision making or just being run at, ie Fonte's mistake for Readings 3rd goal was his failure to deal with a through ball, same as the blackpool goal were Hooiveld didnt win the ball and then Fonte didnt get a block in, nothing to do with the full backs, same as both Middlebrough goals or the Millwall goal where they just ran at us in the centre.

We got found out a lot in the final ten games
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Whatsforpud added 15:23 - May 14
Centre backs have to be more than just blockers - they need to be comfortable on the ball. Fonte is that, and showed it to good effect on the final day.

On defending, sometimes the most awkward area to deal with is the inside channel, that is between central defender and full back. This requires a good understanding between the two. This is an area we will have to improve on next season.
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mattsergcooper added 16:20 - May 14
100% agree with everything you write! Fonte didnt have a great season and his running out of defence in the last game of season was probably his highlight. Unfortunately I think he'll be backup for a solid premiership centre half thats been there and done it before. Martin n seabourne in the defence are not challenging Jos or Fonte for me... Kelvin also needs competition - another article perhaps but just saying as bart really isn't challenging him for his shirt.
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SaintNick added 16:30 - May 14
good points, your right next season is for another article, this series is just about this season
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Simo_Saint added 19:04 - May 14
We've had a long running joke that Fonte makes one mistake every game. If you can get away with it early for the expense of perhaps only a throw in, or go 3-0 before it comes along, all the better. Next season mistakes will be punished.

I'd quite like to see him given a go at defensive midfield. As you say he's solid 99% of the time and plays the ball out from the back superbly. We do lack someone in that position too. Might be worth a crack!

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ExiledSupporter added 20:01 - May 14
Given the content of the last two articles and the comments following we seem to have problems across the whole back four (and possibly between the posts too) Are none of these players really Premiership standard, because some of them are going to have to be since we can't buy a whole new defence...can we?

I think we need to be a little clearer about specifically who should be replaced (clearly Nick thinks Harding is a first up candidate for disposal, probably rightly). But if neither current centre back is really up to scratch and the two young understudies are insufficiently proven which ones should be discarded.

Tell us, which of the present defence could credibly be pencilled in for the first Premiership game of the season and who must be repalced...this is after all Adkins challenge over the coming weeks?
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saintBob added 22:20 - May 14
What's the point of analysing last season if you are not, at the same time, looking towards next season? Last season has gone and now we face a tougher test. It's evident from the article that we need a new central defence!
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JimmySteal added 09:06 - May 15
If you're this critical of the back four I can't wait for you to get stuck into the midfield or forwards. Looks like we'll have to replace the lot. Look out Rickie! Honestly, some of these lads will be OK.
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bstokesaint added 12:46 - May 16
Both Fonte and Jos deserve a crack at the Premiership. As you have stated they will need competition for places though, as Martin and Seabourne are not tried and tested at that level.

On another note surely Jos' goals contribution more than nullified the majority, if not all, of his mistakes? I'd have him in my side any day. I enjoy watching the big man.
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