Three teams that must…improve their defence

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The World Cup has come to a dramatic close, and already Premier League teams are readying their squads for the new season. Many have already acted in the transfer market, attempting to do their business as early as possible, to ensure as orderly a pre-season as possible.

In the coming weeks, this activity is sure to escalate even further. Of those teams who competed in the Premier League season last year, here are three who should be particularly prioritising defensive recruits during the remainder of the summer transfer window.

1. West Bromwich Albion

Despite finishing the season with a reasonable goal difference (-16 – six teams finished the season with a poorer record), a closer look at the stats tell a more worrying story for Baggies fans. Only Cardiff and Fulham kept fewer clean sheets than West Brom last season, both of whom will be playing football in the Championship this season.

Furthermore, the Baggies conceded three or more goals on nine separate occasions last season – of the teams who survived last season, only West Ham and Newcastle conceded three goals on more occasions.

Work has already begun to improve in this area – Diego Lugano, Steven Reid, Liam Ridgewell and Billy Jones have all left the club, while Joleon Lescott and Chris Baird have arrived. Time will tell if new coach Alan Irvine can organise his side more effectively than Steve Clarke or Pepe Mel could manage last season.

2. West Ham United

Commentators often pointed to West Ham’s defensive record as one of the few saving graces of their season. Indeed only Everton, Southampton, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea kept more clean sheets during the campaign.

But once again, a closer look at the data shows that despite Sam Allardyce’s reputation for defensive organisation, the Hammers nevertheless displayed a number of defensive weaknesses last term. Allardyce’s men conceded three or more goals on ten separate occasions (over 25% of games) – only Newcastle United boasted a worse record.

In addition, no team conceded more chances than West Ham in the division last season, and no side conceded more chances in their own penalty box. The Hammers have already released Jordan Spence, George McCartney and Matthew Taylor, and recruited defensive midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté, so changes are underway. But Big Sam certainly has his work cut out not only in the attacking third, but in the defensive third too.

3. Liverpool

All of the focus on Liverpool this summer will be on how they replace Luis Suarez – the Uruguayan so fundamental to their impressive campaign last season. However, Brendan Rodgers must also look to improve the defensive elements of his side’s play.

Despite finishing runners up to Manchester City last season, of the teams that survived only Stoke City, Hull City, Aston Villa, Swansea City and West Brom kept fewer clean sheets than the Merseyside team.

Liverpool kept ten shut outs in total, compared to 16 for Manchester City, and 18 for Chelsea. Just as worryingly, Rodgers men conceded three or more goals more often than the Citizens or the Blues, often against poorer quality sides – for example Hull City, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City.

Partly this reflects Rodgers’ preferred style of play, which delivered goals often at the expense of defensive solidity – 23 of Liverpool’s 38 games featured four or more goals in total. But it also reflects a lack of quality at the back and in defensive midfield compared to their Championship rivals.

If Rodgers’ Liverpool are to progress this season, reinforcements in attack can not be their only transfer priority.

Trackbacks

  1. […] already examined which teams should be prioritising defensive recruits before the beginning of the new season, let’s move on to focus on those teams that based on their performance last season, are most […]

  2. […] Three teams that must…improve their defence […]

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