by David Sweeney
Southampton were hit for six at Arsenal yesterday with their very questionable defence looking like they would concede every time the Gunners stepped it up. The Saints have conceded 14 goals in just four games and to stay in the Premier League this record is just not good enough.
Southampton’s mentality seems to ‘if you score one, we’ll score two’ which is in direct opposition with one of manager Nigel Adkins favourite quotes which he had emblazoned in the dressing room last season; this quote was ‘defences win Championships’. One thing is for sure, if the Saints don’t sort their leaky defence out quickly they will be soon heading back from whence they came.
Take a look at West Ham with the experienced Sam Allardyce in charge. They are far better equipped to survive in my opinion due to them being tough to beat and having brought in the experienced James Collins at the back. This gives the Irons solidity and although their style might not be as exciting as Southampton’s they grind out results such as their 0-0 draw at Norwich yesterday. Adkins failure to sign quality defenders in the transfer window was very apparent yesterday; their defending has been embarrassing at times this season. The Saints must cross their fingers and pray they are within touching distance of survival come January and then do some serious business to strengthen at the back or else I really fear the worst for them.
Similarly to Southampton, Peterborough United’s weak defence is letting them down badly and could easily lead to them being relegated into the third tier of English football come the end of the season. In his post match interview, beleaguered manager Darren Ferguson simply stated the obvious by conceding that his team ‘aren’t defending well enough’. But the surprising aspect is the fact that United’s defence had been terrible throughout last season, whilst their attack were always good for a goal and the trend doesn’t seem to have changed this time around. Yesterdays 5-2 defeat at the hands of Burnley was a perfect example of this, holding their own at 2-2 entering into the final fifteen minutes, Posh shipped three goals without reply to receive a hammering.
Yesterday midfielder Michael Bostwick, who signed for around the £1 million mark during the summer, was deployed at centre half. The question I ask is why? If I was the chairman at the club I would be why that money wasn’t spent on a proper defender and not a makeshift one. £1 million is a lot of money for a club like Peterborough and I am very confident it could and probably should have been used elsewhere and that is no slant on Bostwick who I consider a solid player, having watched him regularly whilst he helped Stevenage to promotion up the football leagues.
Without sounding too harsh Posh are and have been punching above their weight, given the level of their support and their current stadium they have done fantastically well to get to and stay in the Championship but at the moment things are looking fairly bleak for them. So unless Darren Ferguson can beg his father for some players fairly sharpish I can see them being relegated come the end of the season.
What is going on with Grant Holt? Last season he took the Premier League by storm, scaring defences across the league with his no nonsense, rough and ready style, which helped secure the Canaries a safe mid table finish and even led to justified calls for Holt to feature in England’s Euro 2012 squad. However this season Holt and Norwich City look like a completely different outfit. They are yet to find the net this season and Holt especially looks lost under the management of Chris Hughton. I for one thought Hughton and Holt would be a match made in heaven as the strikers style matches perfectly to the tactics Hughton deployed at both Newcastle with Andy Carroll leading the line and at Birmingham where Nicola Zigic did a similar job. So why has it not taken off thus far at Norwich? Well for starters Holt needs to up his work rate drastically. In the opening four games he has looked well off the pace in each and doesn’t even look capable finding the back of the net. Or is it that he is still frustrated that his close season transfer request was turned down and this is the reason behind his poor form? Or finally could it be the reward of a lucrative three year contract as a reward for not leaving has made Holt lose his spark? Whatever the reason for the sake of City’s survival prospect they need to start scoring goals and fast. However it’s not all doom and gloom. As you would expect from a Chris Hughton team, their defence is solid and Canaries fans can take comfort in the fact that Holt has started slowly in the previous two seasons and hopefully he will find his shooting boots soon and replicate last season’s all-conquering form.