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Saints January Transfer Window Needs To Concentrate On One Area Only !
Wednesday, 11th Dec 2019 09:36

There are already news stories claiming that Saints are after forwards & midfielders, but the reality is that we need to concentrate on one position and one position only and that is the centre of defence.

Good football teams are built on a strong spine and the most important part of that spine is the centre of defence, good central defenders control everything, they are the rock of the team and they can win the ball and start attacks.

It doesn't matter what level of football, good sides are built with strong centre backs, the last decade starting in 2009/10 season saw us build in that area and the arrival of Jose Fonte was the rock in which we built our promotion season's back to the Premier League.

Fonte was our ever present and we struggled in our first season back because we failed to find a good partner for him, Jos Hooiveld could not make the step up and the signing of Maya Yoshida brought mixed results.

But the start of our glory period was the arrival of Dejan Lovren and the fact that Jose Fonte kept going, even when I predicted that he wouldn't, after Lovren Fonte partnered Toby Alderweireld and then Virgil Van Dijk and success followed.

But it all went wrong when Fonte got too big for his boots and wanted a big move and Van Dijk got injured and then wanted away, since that time we have never replaced them with payers truly up to the job.

Perhaps one or two of the central defenders we have had since 2017 could do a job with a decent partner and we could put Jan Bednarek in that category, but the truth is his career is never going to blossom until he plays alongside a man who is experienced at the top level and more to the point good enough for the Premier League and from the four candidates we have for central defence at the moment, Bednarek is the only one who is good enough and that is damning on our recruitment policy.

I said this three years ago back in January 2017 and back then few listened and told me that Jack Stephens would play for England and Yoshida was quality, I disagreed and pointed out countless mistakes but was just accused of having something against them, that they were good club men, well good club men are usually good club men for one reason and that is no one else has wanted them. I have never had anything against any of them apart from the fact that they are not good enough at this level.

Our woes this season are very much based on a failure to defend, some talk of missed chances, but no team scores all it's chances and that is not the problem, the issue is at the back and our continuing habit of gifting soft goals, in our last 3 away games we have conceded 3 goals in the final minutes of the game and each one of them has been an error, the keeper has cost us 2 of them and Ryan Bertrand's awful attempted header and failure to mark his man at Arsenal the third.

Just those three games would now see us in 14th place, 4 points above the relegation zone.

But it doesn't stop there, virtually every game sees a soft goal conceded and points thrown away.

I will say it again we are not a bad side, we are a good side with a poor central defence and that is the crux of the whole problem, we sort out this and not only will we be able to win more games, but it will see improvement in all areas, the midfield won't have to sit back to try and protect the back four from counter attack, we will be able to counter attack ourselves more by getting possession fro set pieces and picking passes rather than picking the ball out of the net.

So this January we need to make sure we do not make the mistakes of the last 6 yes 6 transfer windows and we bring in someone who is experienced, forget the up and coming and potential, it has to be experienced and proven.

We bring one in and we will see improvement, Jan Bednarek will definitely benefit and so may Jack Stephens, the goalkeepers will improve as they will not be exposed more, but if we follow the pattern of the last 6 transfer windows and we are stuffed.

Hopefully now with Matt Crocker at the club we have a fresh face who knows what he is doing and who will see the issues and deal with them, certainly in the last 6 windows we have had people who have stuck purely to the blueprint of young and up and coming and this has been our downfall.

Every team needs balance, it needs youngsters, but if that is the case it also needs old heads who steer them on, that has always been the Southampton Way that is often quoted, for every team that had it's youngsters there was always an old head brought in.

Ted Bates had Jimmy Melia and Jimmy Gabriel, Lawrie McMenemy brought in countless old heads, be it Chris Nicholl, Jimmy Case or Dave Watson and the pattern continued right through till 3 years ago when suddenly under Ross Wilson we seemed to look for one type of player and one type only and that was young and up and coming.

Apart from Jeremy ied and Martin Caceres two free transfers under Puel who barely played, the last time we signed anyone older than 25 was in the summer of 2014 and the 27 year old Shane Long and just turning 29 Graziano Pelle.

Aside from those two literally the only signing over 25 has been Steve Davis.

This is telling us something and it is not good.

So in January forget the other areas of the team we are strong enough in them, concentrate on the one area that has been neglected and the one area that really matters and that is Central Defence.

Photo: Action Images

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IWOZTHERE added 10:32 - Dec 11
For how long has this need been obvious? Ralph has no excuses.... He had the luxury of half last season and a full pre-season to evaluate his squad, yet he puts his trust in Vestergaard?
OK, we're skint and had to trade to scrape up some cash, but he bought a forward when an experienced CB should have been the 'out and out' priority!. This, and him ignoring our need for a leader in this position, (a Cahill type), raise questions about Ralph's judgement.

IWOZTHERE added 10:38 - Dec 11
I should have mentioned, as you did, the misguided 'age bias' in my last sentence.

Frederik added 10:54 - Dec 11
Pontus Jansen from Brentford would be my pick but I don't follow none saint's football enough to have a great opinion.

darthvader added 11:05 - Dec 11
We also need full backs especially right back, and cover for Bertrand

petedoors1 added 11:41 - Dec 11
The club made a big mistake in not going for Cahill. He is just what we need someone to be captain and organise the defence.

Colburn added 12:03 - Dec 11
I agree another CB is needed but I don't agree this is the one position to focus on. We desperately need cover for both full back positions and a big strong quick cdm. Atm we have Bertie on the left, a wantaway Cedric who isn't u to it and Valery out of favour. We should have gone for Billings or brought Victor back for our midfield. The chairman needs to invest a little for a change, not wait for us to sell another to bring in the next player, but we know he wont do that.. Selling Targett has not been our best move..

HythePeer added 13:07 - Dec 11
Is a quality CB or any other player going to want to play for a team that has been mismanaged in a way that leaves it currently in the Championship.

BoondockSaint added 14:59 - Dec 11
You could just "Cut & Paste" this from previous years, but in our hearts we know Saints will not spend. We look to every transfer window for salvation, and yet either nothing happens, or the players just don't perform as we hoped.. As HythePeer points out, due to our table position, no player of quality is going to risk coming here.

When the window closes the next post will be: "Saints were not going to overpay and will wait until the summer. This is good business. Mr. Gao believes the club should be self-sustaining. That is the Southampton Way. The manager obviously feels he has the right squad, so we all need to get behind the players and cheer louder. If Saints lose, it will not be the players being out of position, or having no finishing skills, it will be the supporters fault! (and of course, Yoshi's)"

underweststand added 15:30 - Dec 11
YES Jose Fonte became the mainstay of our defence after his arrival. Even before Nick's list (above) started we saw Fonte's partnership with Rahdi Jaidi (before his injury), after which he steadied the ship through two promotion seasons alongside Danny Seabourne and Aaron Martin who DAJFU (in their own way) despite their obvious inexperience.
Even after Hooiveld we saw Alderweireld and Wanyama being well supported by Fonte,

My question has always been ...WHY? we allowed ourselves to think that Fonte was "finished" (at 31) when it was obvious VvD was eventually going to be sold.
The mere fact that Jose can still maintain a start place with Lille AND Portugal ...and even play CL football at his age (36 this month) is surely proof that it was a huge mistake to let him go. A simple contract extension and a pay hike would have saved us all the heartache (and expense) of signing *Hoedt and *Vestergaard and commiting ourselves to long and expensive contracts with players who clearly weren't upto Prem. standard.

If the two named above * were Ross Wilson signings (?) maybe someone ought to re-write the history of a man who apparantly claims he masterminded the Van Dijk signing.. but seems to have done little else of note to benefit the club.

Now the hunt for YET another CB is on the cards .and the burden of those "loaness out" is a still a major burden on the club's finances.


steve73 added 16:36 - Dec 11
Just wait. January will come and go. Nobody will be signed and we'll get yet another sycophantic article saying it's not the end of the world, the club is in safe hands, January is a terrible time to do business and it's all the fans fault for being so negative.

LoisDeem added 17:04 - Dec 11
Nick, you have identified the area that masks the root of our problem, where we do need quality rather than quantity. which begs the next question, is the Championship the unofficial home of three central defenders?

the_saint added 17:33 - Dec 11
The problem seems to be that our chairman cannot get his money out of China as the chinese government have put a stop to it as silly money was going out of China on players.
This is why saints always state and spend on transfers what they recoup first.
So in january we will but nobody I can put my house on it.

1970 added 22:51 - Dec 11
The man in charge of Saints is running the club on a shoestring which would be fair enough if we weren't in the most prestigious,most watched and richest league in the world so imagine how he would run the club in any other lesser league,
we will continue to use the one in one out policy until the players of worth have all gone and we are left with expensive up and coming players that are wanted by bigger teams as soon as they come good (Che Adams) and a load of players that are not good enough, does this sound familiar,
We are desperate to sell anyone of value regardless of there importance to the team or what the team needs its very sad but roll on Jan and we will see coyr

SanMarco added 23:19 - Dec 11
The article is spot on. We had a golden era in central defence as Nick accurately outlines. It is no surprise that we couldn't keep it up - we weren't going to keep bringing quality like Toby and VVD in. The problem has been that all of the main purchases since have been appalling - does no one from the club go and watch them play before signing them? The only one who is half decent, Bednerak, was bought cheaply as a reserve. The refusal to bring in a stop-gap experienced player such as Cahill has also been perverse.

If we can stay in touch until January then one good CB purchase will keep us up. I agree that there are other areas such as full-backs but we will live or die on the CB situation. I, however, agree with those who fear we will do nothing (just like in the summer given Danso's disappearance). I hope I am wrong.

NewburySaint added 13:29 - Dec 12
1 of your more well balanced articles Nick.

And i'd like to know who it was that ever thought Jack Stephens will play for England!

A lot has also been said about Danso- As a watcher of the Bundesliga he's a player that came from an average side where he was far from an automatic choice every week and, for me, it's no surprise that he doesn't appear to have impressed anyone at EPL level.

Saint4Life247 added 15:11 - Dec 12
Personally I believe we need at least 2 defenders (1 CB and possibly a RB) , 2 Midfielders (one of which a creative playmaker type, the other a CM or CDM that has pace)

However, the rest of the world and his dog knows how desperate we will be in the transfer window and therefore will probably price us out of the running for most players. So I'm guessing we'll end up bringing a teenage GK in on loan during the last minute of the window

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