This summer, should we avoid relegation, is one that will require a huge overhaul of the squad if we are going to be competitive and many would say that up front is where we most need to sign players.
However, I am absolutely certain there is only one place that needs significant work above all others and that is the defence.
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This season, with two games left we have conceded 61 goals. That is already our third worst defensive record in 21 years of Premier League football. The two years we did worse were 2012/13 when we conceded 68 goals & 2007/08 when we conceded 65. Given our form I wouldn’t put it past us equalling the 07/08 season.
Part of the reason our defence has been so poor this season may have been the coaching, it very likely has had an impact. But looking at our defensive options, especially at centre-half, it becomes painfully obvious why we are doing so poorly at keeping goals out.
Our three centre-halves are Fabricio Coloccini, Mike Williamson & Steven Taylor.
Coloccini has seen a huge drop in form the past two seasons. It is obvious age has caught up on him and he is no longer the top quality defender he once was.
Mike Williamson was never a Premier League quality defender, bought as a Championship stop gap and never moved on, he’s also on the wrong side of 30.
Taylor is a perennial sick note and complete lunatic on the pitch, which more than overshadows the ability that he has shown in years gone by.
There is also one thing that unites all three of these defenders. They are the same centre-halves that we had in the Championship. Yes, promotion and 5 seasons of football have seen us make not a single improvement in our central defensive options.
We obviously did sign Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa over 2 seasons ago, who we quickly started to mishandle and underuse, before finally sending out on loan and selling while signing no replacement. That’s it, not a single other centre back signed for the first team squad.
In my opinion we do not have a single Premier League quality option in the centre of our defence. At centre-forward we have Cisse and Perez who are good quality Premier League strikers, as well as De Jong who is a very talented No. 10 (assuming he ever steers clear of injury). Not ideal, but given most teams play one centre forward and one in the hole, not horrific.
The fact of the matter is, if you think about which two players have put in the best performances at centre-half this season, the obvious names are Daryl Janmaat and Paul Dummett. One is a right-back mostly known for his attacking ability and the other is a left-back with barely a season’s experience of Premier League football.
So this summer, without question the first area that needs to be addressed is our defensive options. We need at least two quality centre-backs brought in. The concern is, with Lascelles returning from his loan at Nottingham Forest (where he has struggled to hold down a starting position), I can see us sticking with the options we have. If we do, relegation looms.