The Art Of Defence

Friday, 30 August 2002, 0:00
3 mins read

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Defence. In football terms, this word describes the body of players responsible for foiling opposition attacks usually consisting of 3-5 members. Unfortunately in Swansea City’s case, for large periods of any match, it appears that our "back line" consists either of no members whatsoever or just one defiant munchkin by the name of Terry Evans.

For those ofus that made the trip to Bristol on Tuesday night, I think that you will agree with me for stating that for 79 minutes of the game, we were rubbish. Thebetter period consisted of the first 60 seconds of the match when we held on to the ball and an inspired last ten minutes that at least allowed us to belt out a few chants before returning glumly home. Thats means that we effectively came all the way down the M4 for 11 minutes of play – paying around £1.10 per minute (Indeed, how can Bristol Rovers justify charging that much to cram 800 of us into a space no larger than mykitchen(!)).

Swansea City are not the only side to have had such a defensive problem. Notably, Manchester City and Newcastle United have historically had defensive difficulties along with Rothes FC of the Scottish Highland League (non-league) who came rock bottom and suffered humiliating defeats against Clach (12-0) and Inverurie Loco Works (10-0)last year. Obviously we cannot compare Swansea’s defence to that of Manchester City and Newcastle but perhaps the defensive record of Scottish amateurs Rothes will be regrettably achieved unless the back line is secured immediately! With the exception of Rushden, we haven’t come up against any top sides this season – but that is about to change with York, Hartlepool and Hull all venturing to South Wales within the next month. However, the big date is the Worthington Cup Game live on sky against Wolves, when we could be embarrassed on a national stage.

"So Richard", I hear you say, "where do we go from here?". Well Cusack if you’re listening, I don’t envy your job right now. Nevertheless I am going to stick my neck out and say keep the wing-back system currently being used (despite the abuse it is being given) and concentrate on improving the communication along the back. Terry Evans gives us a slight tactical advantage in that he is comfortable on the ball and allows us to keep possession when under pressure. Despite this positive aspect of his game, he is only 3 foot tall (at a slight exaggeration) and would be the equivalent of a Shaun Wright Phillips – Paul Parker centre back partnership for England! Therefore if Evans is going to playat centre back, which he undoubtedly should, then you need to provide him with cover from aerial threats.

Patner him with O’Leary because we lack leadership. Cusack was influential against Bristol Rovers when he came on because he lifted the lads a little bit and we were lacking the experienced head to turn things around. O’Leary is an excellent leader but needsimprove on his deiscipline.My other choice is going to be contraversial but would be a battle between primarily Mumford,then Sharp. Sharp was excellent against Bournemouth and at times last season and has the pace and aerial dominance to cover should our defensive line be broken. Understandably many have been annoyed with his passing game, but this can be improved with confidence, etc. If Cusack isn’t going to play Mumford in the midfield, then stick him at the back. This way you have three players who are all comfortable on the ball and can hold possession – a must away from home.

At wing-back, stick Jenks (who didn’t play that well against Rovers but is one of our most dangerous players) and David Smith (who still hasn’t settled in yet). Theobald can be the cover for when injuries take their toll (as they always do) and as for Jason Smith…get rid of him? He has shown no resemblence to the Smith that was so influential in 1999/2000 andif sources are to bebelieved, thenhe is on a large wage…therebeing myreasoning.

To conclude, adefence of:

Jenkins Mumford Evans O’Leary D.Smith

Cover = Sharp.

I have no doubt that you won’t agree with this aspects of this choice, but who cares what system Cusack employs – as long as we don’t end up like the Scottish Highland League’s Rothes FC!!

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