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The ghost of Michael Theoklitos

Do we still have a problem at the back?

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As a way to ease my way back into work on the most depressing day of the year (i.e. procrastinating), I''ve had a little go on Statto, taking a look at our season so far. I was surprised by a few things in our recent form.Currently after 20 games, if you take a look at the difference between our goal difference when comparing the first ten games to the 2nd ten, I''m surprised at the difference.1st 10 games;Goals Scored: 14Goals Conceded: 21Goal Diff: -7No clean sheets9 points - 16th place in the league over the 10 games2nd 10 games;Goals scored: 9Goals Conceded: 11Goal Diff: -23 clean sheets14 points - 10th place in the league over the 10 gamesI was surprised in the turn around when looking purely at the numbers. We have made quite a few changes in that time. Rudd in for Ruddy. Ryan Bennett in. Moving Martin over to right-back, along with the change in approach, specifically after the Newcastle game - which was our 9th game.Since the summer, I''ve always said that the main issue has been with the failure to invest in defenders in the summer. Looking at the numbers, was that actually the case? I''m not suggesting that we don''t reinforce at the back and get more in - injuries at the back would really hurt us at the moment. However, maybe it''s not as pressing as I thought. Maybe we do actually need more at the other end of the pitch?Maybe the upturn has more to do with a young manager learning his trade in the Premier League, rather than the talent on the pitch?Anyway, I just thought it was interesting. I''m not sure if others will agree.

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Could be. Interesting stats, Ghost.

Most of you know I am not a fan of Olsson, and our two last clean sheets (out of a total 3) has come with Olsson benched.

I know this does not tell the whole story, but for me, Olsson is a player that does not fit very well with us.

Bennett in as CB has helped a lot, and we look much less vulnerable to concede from crosses.

I guess it is a combination of change of personell and change of approach from AN, espescially after the Newcastle nightmare.

The difficult part of any managers''s work is how to balance the defensive part of the game with the offensive part, without sacrificing one for the other. The key here is the midfield, the part of the team linking it all together, both defensively and offensively.

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Ryan Bennet has really grown into his role this last month but I believe there is a lack of quality in our back 4 overall.

For me we still have issues, a new CB to replace Bassong and a RB to keep Martin on his toes would be great. Bassong is slow and I think he is over-reliant on clever fouls and body checks he makes me nervous. I''d be completely fine with him being back up to either Bennet or a new CB. At the moment with injuries our back line is severely weakened.

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The main problem we have at the back is cover. The guys in place are doing ok. If we can upgrade, then fine, if not then some form of cover at CB must be priority.

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Rudd coming in has made a big difference he spreads confidence in back four by dominating his box.

The problem is still we really have no strength in depth for cb position , if Basong or Bennett not available we have big issue replacing them.

We must get decent back in transfer window as a minimum, up front I think we have enough to do the job if we have to.

The real truth is also much cheaper getting good defenders than a goal scoring machine at this level

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[quote user="wcorkcanary"]The main problem we have at the back is cover. The guys in place are doing ok. If we can upgrade, then fine, if not then some form of cover at CB must be priority.[/quote]

Agree. Lack of cover could be precarious in the coming months if things go a bit against us in the injury front, maybe suspensions, etc.

Injury to Bennett and maybe a suspension for Bassong... who to play CB?

As for Bassong being slow, I agree, but I think it has a lot to do with his concentration. He switches off now and then, and lose a yard just by being off focus.

Ryan B is not the quickest either, but is very good at camouflaging it. Positions himself quite well.

Still think we need an upgrade both at CB and RB in this window, also at LB if Brady is to play LM.

With Jarvis back, I expect Brady to continue at LB, and Jarvis to play LM in most matches. Olsson as backup/benched.

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[quote user="grefstad"] I expect Brady to continue at LB, and Jarvis to play LM in most matches. Olsson as backup/benched.[/quote]While I think I have a better opinion of Olson than yourself, I agree that Jarvis in front of Brady is our strongest line-up down the left side. I was a massive fan of the start Jarvis made before he got injured. I can''t wait to get him back.

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Agree stats are very interesting, more so when maybe we played more so called big clubs in the 2nd amount of 10 games. Obviously bringing in Declan and Ryan B, plus the switch of emphasis in our tactics has changed things for the better. Looking back, that hammering City had at Newcastle was likely a blessing in disguise, although at the time it felt an ouchy moment. Huge importance imo is we have a manager who straight away changed our approach, brought in the Declans and Ryans, and steadied the City ship. Alex is just an amazing manager.So yes, defence as of now is much better than the first 10 games, but if we do not strengthen this window with more defenders coming in, then yes we could have problems, big ones.

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Without a doubt things have improved as personnel have been moved around.

We look far more effective as a defensive unit having made wholesale changes across the back 5 from the preferred set up at the start of the season to get to our current improved and best available set up

- Rudd behind

- a CB partnership of Bennett & Bassong

- Jarvis at left back ahead of Olsson

- with Wisdom at right back.

However it also coincides in reinforcing the defence by doubling the midfield shield by moving from 4141 (and its extra goal threat) to a less expansive/exciting 4231 with the focus on protecting the back 4.

Within games we still see issues; while Ryan has been good, particularly in the air, both he & Seb continue suffer from a lack of mobility, which, when combined with an inability to read the game, does continue to cause us problems This is highlighted by the frequency that rudd is called into action to thwart attacks through that soft centre. Add in very limited cover and adding at least one CB remains a requirement.

Right back remains an issue; we prefer to have attacking full backs; whoever we dont possess one that can both defend & attack effectively - the best defender (wisdom) is not as effective as Whittaker (our best attacking right back) or a very similar Martin; sadly neither Whits nor russ (who is the better defender of that pair) are consistently good enough in defending, or possess the pace to recover position, to rely on as the regular starter. On sat it was only when Howson went to help out Russ that the threat from Bertrand dissipated. As such the signing of a RB remains a key target, hopefully Pinto can fulfill that brief.

Hopefully improving one what we have will enable / free the attacking potential (50% more goals per game) we have that is being blunted by the additional defensive burden while continuing the miserly performance at the back.

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We are stuffed if either Bennett or Bassong get injured as we have no other CB worthy of the name. We know Martin is a good right back but not up to PL standard as a CB. Don''t tell me he plays there for the Scots as they are rubbish, even N Ireland qualified for Euro16 unlike the sweaty socks.

Ideally we could do with two CBs this window and certainly need one. To get to the end of the window without bringing in another CB would be very poor work by the recruitment team.

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In my opinion Bennett is our best centre back and the back 4 needs to be structured around him. Doesn''t mess around with it and defended brilliantly against some quality forwards of late. The chap alongside him has to be the ball player, wether that''s bassong or someone else.

As for olsson, I''d much rather have him left back and Brady playing infront than Brady at left back, he offers way too much quality going forward with his final ball than to be stuck left back. Part of olssons game is he''s always bombing down the pitch and never getting back, bit of restraint I don''t think he''s an issue at all defensively. It''s easy to say he''s been the root of the problem as were getting clean sheets but I think Bennett and Rudd have been the main contributors to that stat.

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[quote user="The Great Wall Of Tettey"]In my opinion Bennett is our best centre back and the back 4 needs to be structured around him. Doesn''t mess around with it and defended brilliantly against some quality forwards of late. The chap alongside him has to be the ball player, wether that''s bassong or someone else.

[/quote]

Yes, Bennett is imho also our best CB at the moment.

As for the other being a ball player, I agree to this, but it will normally have to be a left footed CB, which are not so easy to find.

Playing a right footed CB on the left hand side of central defence can ofcourse work well, but it is better to have a left footed player there.

With our defensive record after Bennett came in, I doubt he will be dropped if/when a new CB comes in.

Bennetts prowess in the air is of massive value to us.

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Firststeps-Russ has been playing well recently and certainly not a liability. I would say Bassong is more of a weakness especially with the ball at his feet.

Do you only come on here to slate Russ?

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[quote user="ZippersLeftFoot"]

Within games we still see issues; while Ryan has been good, particularly in the air, both he & Seb continue suffer from a lack of mobility, which, when combined with an inability to read the game, does continue to cause us problems This is highlighted by the frequency that rudd is called into action to thwart attacks through that soft centre. Add in very limited cover and adding at least one CB remains a requirement.

[/quote]

ZLF; whilst agreeing with most of the discussion on this thread, is it such a problem that our CB''s are less mobile if Rudd comes out and makes the saves he has been? This was one thing Ruddy never did effectively. Due mainly to his size Ruddy could never hit the ground quick enough when there was a one on one - there was our big problem with immobility. Our "slow" defenders are better used to intimidate the opposition and make them think twice about their preferred choice of attacking (never did Big Dunc any harm!).

As I''ve mentioned on other threads if there was not a choice between Rudd and Ruddy, the latter would be in my starting line up. However the chemistry is so much better with Rudd: why it took Neil so long to realise this really bugs me (as does his delay in getting Vadis into the side or stopping Wes from turning up field instead of back to his own defence). But that''s for another thread?

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[quote user="shefcanary"]

As I''ve mentioned on other threads if there was not a choice between Rudd and Ruddy, the latter would be in my starting line up. However the chemistry is so much better with Rudd: [/quote]

True, and it seems the defenders trust him to come out and intercept any throughballs, if the defenders are beaten, more than they perhaps did with Ruddy. Maybe just a feeling I have got, more than it can be backed up by facts (I dont know what the players are thinking), but it just looks like it.

Seems Rudd is a better fit for the Premier due to his agility and being quicker, while Ruddy is better equipped for the more physical Championship.

Someone likened Rudd to De Gea in an earlier thread, and in body frame, and to a certain extent playing style, they are not to assimilar as keeper types, although there is ofcourse a big gulf in quality.

But Rudd can only get better, and I think he will. Seems to have his head screwed on, at least so far.

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We do need to strengthen. But credit to Alex Neil for looking at his current squad and figuring out a way to stop conceding goals, yet still pick up wins. Rudd, Bennett and O''Neil have all come in and made a real difference to the resilience of the team.  However, as others have said, injury and loss of form can happen at any time. So more bodies are required.You can be sure Alex Neil still wants to play attacking possession-based football. To do that he will need better quality defenders who can look after themselves without the need for such a heavily defensive midfield shield set-up.

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[quote user="grefstad"][quote user="shefcanary"]

As I''ve mentioned on other threads if there was not a choice between Rudd and Ruddy, the latter would be in my starting line up. However the chemistry is so much better with Rudd: [/quote]

True, and it seems the defenders trust him to come out and intercept any throughballs, if the defenders are beaten, more than they perhaps did with Ruddy. Maybe just a feeling I have got, more than it can be backed up by facts (I dont know what the players are thinking), but it just looks like it.

Seems Rudd is a better fit for the Premier due to his agility and being quicker, while Ruddy is better equipped for the more physical Championship.

Someone likened Rudd to De Gea in an earlier thread, and in body frame, and to a certain extent playing style
, they are not to assimilar as keeper types, although there is ofcourse a big gulf in quality.

But Rudd can only get better, and I think he will. Seems to have his head screwed on, at least so far.[/quote]Ahh geezus. Here we go again.Is there a way we can put some filter or something on this thread to make sure LDC doesn''t read it?[;)]

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[quote user="Pyro Pete"]We do need to strengthen. But credit to Alex Neil for looking at his current squad and figuring out a way to stop conceding goals, yet still pick up wins. Rudd, Bennett and O''Neil have all come in and made a real difference to the resilience of the team.  However, as others have said, injury and loss of form can happen at any time. So more bodies are required.You can be sure Alex Neil still wants to play attacking possession-based football. To do that he will need better quality defenders who can look after themselves without the need for such a heavily defensive midfield shield set-up.[/quote]
The fundamental reason behind our improvement over the last 10 games has been AN''s realisation that in this league (and at this level generally) you cannot afford to play "attacking possession-based football" while relying solely on "quality defenders who can look after themselves".  It took Arsene Wenger 10 years to learn the same lesson and he has quality available to him that we can only dream about mirroring. Can you point to one team in the league which isn''t specifically set up to provide its back line with a protective midfield shield? 

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It''s been noticably better and excellent to see

The easy errors have been looked at. Southampton had a load of corners and set pieces at the weekend and we read them all really well.

Whatever the improvement what is certain is our need for depth in defence, I''m sure this will be addressed.

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I think that there is still a weakness, perhaps now in the fullback positions, with a lack of pace which can be so cruelly exposed by quick wingers.

In the centre, with advent of Bennett, we are tighter, although Bassong occasionally does something worrying.

I have no idea which position(s) AN is trying to fill, but we certainly need a centre back, as we have no cover if either is injured, and unless Olsson can find himself we need a left back to allow Brady to play further up the pitch. At right back I am not too happy with either Martin or Wisdome.

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At GK I decided it was time to give Rudd a start after seeing him play at Rotherham in the cup, having seen Ruddy play there at the end of the previous season. In both games we were under the cosy for long spells and for me Rudd looked much better at getting down to make saved of several shots from distance and also more comfortable dealing with crosses despite Rotherham having some tall and physical strikers. The other benefit since Rudd has been playing is that Ruddy had made several mistakes which cost goals and we haven''t seen those since.

At CB, my take is that in the Championship, RM could bring the ball out better than Basso or Bennett, the advantage being that if your CB has brought the ball forward into midfield, you''ve now got a man extra, creating space for him to play the ball into. This is more the way a right back typically plays than a CB (and RM is good enough to play defensively at CB in the Championship although he would be caught out from time to time, but we were strong enough as a team to mean that didn''t matter). So we had the benefits of playing him out of position.

In the Prem this hasn''t worked because he''s not good enough defensively to play at CB against Prem quality attackers but also to have your CB bring the ball upfield in the Prem is more risky because Prem players are better at closing down and if your CB loses possession in that part of the field, it''s much more likely to result in a goal ( and it''s not something you see Prem CBs doing under pressure very often for this same reason). So overall the downsides to playing RM at CB outweigh the benefits, and IMO Bennett is simply better at the CB role overall than RM.

The problems this leaves are that we don''t have any real cover for Basso or Bennett if they''re injured or suspended, and Basso although OK as a Prem CB is no better than that, while Bennett I think has real potential, but is still relatively inexperienced at this level, so a quality CB signing is our top priority for me.

Overall since the Newcastle game we''ve moved to a more conservative approach which leaves us less exposed at the back. Those 3 clean sheets have produced 9 points and in the end there''s no arguing with that.

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Ps when I say "I decided" it was time to give Rudd a start it sound like I have delusions of grandeur, I''m not AN and it''s not my decision who he plays, but at that point I thought he should be starting Rudd. Oh for an edit button!

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[quote user="Crispy"]Ryan Bennet has really grown into his role this last month but I believe there is a lack of quality in our back 4 overall.

For me we still have issues, a new CB to replace Bassong and a RB to keep Martin on his toes would be great. Bassong is slow and I think he is over-reliant on clever fouls and body checks he makes me nervous. I''d be completely fine with him being back up to either Bennet or a new CB. At the moment with injuries our back line is severely weakened.[/quote]

HOLY S--- THE STUPID!

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It''s Character Forming wrote: " to have your CB bring the ball upfield in the Prem is more risky because Prem players are better at closing down and if your CB loses possession in that part of the field, it''s much more likely to result in a goal ( and it''s not something you see Prem CBs doing under pressure very often for this same reason)."
Yes it is more risky, and yes it isn''t something Prem CBs do under pressure. Nevertheless it is definitely something PL managers look for from their CBs when the opportunity presents itself (for the reasons you give in your first paragraph). Equally though, when it''s too risky for the CB to do that, managers expect possession to be kept when the CB plays the ball out of defence. AN is no different, as his expression on the touchline makes clear when Bennett heads or hoofs the ball clear to no-one in particular. I agree that the proof of the current (not currant!) pudding is in the eating. The interesting question is what AN will do when alternatives are available in the RB/RCB positions.

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I think Bennett is more capable of playing accurate long passes than either RM or Basso, and this part of his game is likely to improve with experience, that''s how I see it.  But I''d agree he''s less able to take the ball past another player.

 

I guess the tricky bit is deciding when it''s safe to bring the ball forward as a CB.  For the top teams, not only are their CBs better than ours generally, but also their opponents are more likely to drop deeper, giving them more scope etc etc.

 

I remember having a similar discussion about Rob Newman 20 years ago and reaching the conclusion that if he was quicker, he''d be a top all round CB... and not playing for City any more.

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Hairy Ken, I was just responding to the thread title. It wasn''t a bashing, just he is where we need to strengthen. I thought he was poor against Southampton, his unforced errors do seem to be accumulating. I think as the team grow stronger, Martin isn''t. In my Martin thread I was asked who I wanted to replace Martin at CB, I said give Bennett a go, and I was slated by many for saying so. At the moment he is our best defender and a better CB than Martin ever has been. I think we need new blood at RB too. He may well be a nice guy and all that, but we need to move on.

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[quote user="shefcanary"][quote user="ZippersLeftFoot"]

Within games we still see issues; while Ryan has been good, particularly in the air, both he & Seb continue suffer from a lack of mobility, which, when combined with an inability to read the game, does continue to cause us problems This is highlighted by the frequency that rudd is called into action to thwart attacks through that soft centre. Add in very limited cover and adding at least one CB remains a requirement.

[/quote]

ZLF; whilst agreeing with most of the discussion on this thread, is it such a problem that our CB''s are less mobile if Rudd comes out and makes the saves he has been? This was one thing Ruddy never did effectively. Due mainly to his size Ruddy could never hit the ground quick enough when there was a one on one - there was our big problem with immobility. Our "slow" defenders are better used to intimidate the opposition and make them think twice about their preferred choice of attacking (never did Big Dunc any harm!).

As I''ve mentioned on other threads if there was not a choice between Rudd and Ruddy, the latter would be in my starting line up. However the chemistry is so much better with Rudd: why it took Neil so long to realise this really bugs me (as does his delay in getting Vadis into the side or stopping Wes from turning up field instead of back to his own defence). But that''s for another thread?[/quote]

I agree Rudd has impressed and he has earned his many accolades. He is bringing confidence to his colleagues ass his self belief grows too .

I just dont thing any side can continue to allow so many chances through the same channel and expect their keeper to continually bail them out; is it reasonable to expect Rudd to maintain a 70%+ save ratio longer term?

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Ok. We might need a bit more cover at the back but surely every spare penny should be spent on a quality striker that terrifies opposition.

No teams look at the opposition and say "they have that terrific centre/full back" What they do say is "They have x striker who terrorises defences we need to make sure we mark him well"

What teams come to Carrow Rd. thinking what are we going to do with Hooper/Grabban/Jerome/Lafferty/Mbokani?!

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