Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Despite the win, The Dons defensive deficiencies were on show

Well I should be delighted that the Dons recorded a victory against a Dundee Utd team on the ascendancy but...

Even a quick glance at the highlights shows that the Dons are still susceptible to shedding a goal or more a game (statistically 29 in 22  league games) and were fortunate to leave with 3 points. The Arabs had a decent shout for a penalty too in all fairness.

On a positive note, Kari Arnason's 35 yard strike would be worthy of winning any game. When "Arnie" plays the Dons have more to offer defensively and as we have witnessed, offensively too. This may explain why he has been utilised both in defence and midfield this season. The Dons may have a hard job holding on to the Icelandic international at the end of the season.

The Main Problem

However, as good as Arnason has been his defensive partners have not been up to scratch and the Dons defending can be amateurish at times. Failure to perform defensive basics and several individual mistakes have undone the Dons in several games this season.

Now, every defender makes mistakes it's just part of football and human nature. But that aside, defenders in my mind should be primarily pro-active; reading the game and occupying positions that ultimately enable them to prevent the opposition from scoring or mounting an attack. Combined with defensive prerequisites; tackling, aerial ability and more importantly in the modern game, ball have the nucleus of a defense materialising.

But I feel the Dons are the inverse. When your team are consistently defending re-actively and from bad positions, it's just not a sustainable defensive model. Compounded by midfielders masquerading as defenders and poor distribution several points have been lost this season as a result.

The Dons have had varying line ups at the back this season due to injury and suspension with Considine (21 of 22 league appearances) , Foster (22 of 22),  Malwene (18 of 22) and Arnason (18 of 22) forming the main nucleus of defence. However, as mentioned Arnason has frequently been deployed in midfield. 

The defensive supporting cast has been Rory McArdle, Ryan Jack and Issac Osbourne. McArdle being the only recognised defender from those three. 

Defense in focus

Andrew Considine for me is positionally poor and does not contribute at defensive set pieces as he should. He has a habit of being caught on his heals and consistently misjudging the flight of the ball, allowing the opposition to prosper.  It's an area he needs to improve on for sure. Ironically, he seems to be more effective in the oppositions box, contributing 3 goals to the Dons cause this season.

Richard Foster is not a defender to trade leading to the label of utility player. Personally I feel he has to play further forward to utilise his pace and allow him to be more natural. I am not saying that people can't be converted or utilised elsewhere on the pitch, it just doesn't work in Foster's case. He's not a defender. The captaincy needs to transfer from Foster too, as much as he has the ability to shout, he is not a leader.

Mawene in all honesty bar a couple of mistakes, has had a decent season and looks positionally sound and composed on the ball. He has also chipped in with 2 goals this season, continuing the trend of Dons defenders effectiveness at the other end.  When Mawene or Arnason are missing I feel the composure is diminished in the back four. He is an experienced defender with a decent CV of playing for Lens, Derby and Preston.

Arnason as mentioned previous is the stand out defender this season, but has frequently been utilised in midfield. It's like robbing Peter to pay Paul; what you gain in defence you lose in midfield and vice versa.

McArdle has has only started 5 games this season. He is far more comfortable at center back than full back where his lack of pace is exposed. He is decent in the air and has made significant contributions in the oppositions box like he did at Tannadice this week.

Jack has made headlines for some spectacular goals this season against Celtic and St.Johnstone and looks comfortable further forward. I feel he is just simply filling in at right back.

Osbourne is more defensive as midfielders go and his defensive duties have been tidy as a result.

Possible solutions

Immediate solutions are the removal of the common denominators Considine and Foster, with Foster being deployed wide right or left in the midfield. When Mawene is fit, he needs to find a partner in the middle whether it be McArdle or Arnason. I can't recall Mawene and Arnason forming a defensive partnership this season?

One interesting concept may be a back three with McArdle and Mawene protected with younger legs with options from but not preferably Foster, Jack, or Osbourne. Young Clark Robertson who has shown promise has only started once this season, but could add left sided balance but that is more likely to be part of a back four for now. When playing three at the back Arnason would play in front of the defence as marshal and protector.

Of course, defending is not just a defensive units responsibility. Great teams defend in all areas when they don't have the ball and work hard to retrieve it, the current Barcelona team are the finest example. "Special" midfield players that are very mobile and can snuff out attacks before they mature are worth their weight in gold. Scott Parker at Tottenham is a fine current example.

And finally, this one is obvious. If your team are creating and converting chances then that takes a huge pressure off the defense too. I intend to analyse the Dons offensive side over the next few matches.

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