So there are rumours that we are trying to sign Luke Young again, but isn't he a right back? Ben Haim is not the best right back in the world, but he is only cover for Jacobsen. Our interest in Young suggests that the Israeli will be allowed to return to Pompey when the loan deal expires in January, but I think that would be a shame. The guy is a good utility defender who can cover across all four positions in the back four. It's also a shame for Pompey who cannot afford to pay his wages!
Ben Haim is not the problem. Get Jacobsen fit and we have a reasonable right back able to attack down the flanks. The big concern is Gabbidon and that left back position. Sadly, the Welshman is now a liability. How many times did he give away the ball yesterday, and how many times did he even cross the half way line? Play Gabbidon, and you lose all width on the left hand side when in possession.
Want to see the importance of a full back "working the flank", then look at Tottenham's first goal against Villa yesterday. When that cross for Van der Vaart came in, I assumed it was Lennon who had delivered it, but no, it was Hutton, running into acres of space and delivering a cross virtually from the byline.
Watching Spurs under 'Arry, you see how simple the game can be. Van der Vaart is a positional genius, to be fair, finding acres of space in a freshly packed tin of sardines with his brilliant movement, but there is nothing terribly sophisticated about Tottenham's use of the flanks. They simply get the ball wide and stretch opposition defences to snapping point. Look at Tottenham's second. They only had ten men on the pitch but still had a man over because Bale had thrust down the wing following a clearance from defence. Oddly, Bale found himself on the right and Lennon on the left, but both contributed to setting up Van der Vaart's second with brilliant counter attacking football, exploiting the flanks and pulling the opposition defence out of shape as a result.
How often did we stretch Fulham down the flanks yesterday? When we did, we created chances. Sears fired in a cross and found Stanislas, who knocked the chance wide. Stanislas ran at the Fulham defence and slipped a lovely ball through to Cole, who had a pot at goal. Sears crossed low to Cole too, who lost possession before he could get in a shot. Sears also "contributed" to the first goal, albeit his "cross" was crap. The point is, width removed the dense conglomeration of defenders from the centre of the penalty box. Parker was on the left hand corner of the box when he delivered the cross for the second too and even the third came because Piquionne was pulling to the left, drawing his marker out of position and creating space for Cole.
Playing with Stanislas and Sears gave us some shape yesterday, reintroducing the width that Zola seemed intent on ignoring when he sold Etherington, but Ben Haim and Gabbidon are centre backs and offer virtually no attacking support whatsoever. As a result, it is so much easier to close out the cross as the full back is never isolated one against two, forcing a centre back out to cover. Look at Fulham's goal. Who was trying to close down the cross on the right hand corner of our box? Tomkins, pulled hopelessly out of position as a result.
I'm not sure Luke Young is the correct priority personally. Unless Ilunga has miraculously found his brain, heart and courage, our desperate need is for a left back who can tackle and offer drive and width down the left flank when we have the ball. Until we find a square peg for that square hole, we will never have balance.