Carl von Clausewitz once said attack is the best form of defence though that only works in the Premier League if you have a decent back four to start off with. Sadly for most of this campaign we have been sorely lacking in that department. Yesterday’s defensive performance and composure against Manchester City is the type of showing we need to see every week to make sure the unthinkable doesn't happen and we stay up.
We have been shaky at the back all season, vulnerable from set pieces and conceded far too many times. Yesterday however we looked strong, resolute and willing to put bodies on the line for the cause and we managed to keep one of the top teams in Europe out. For me, Wes Brown was the stand out performer and was massively impressive for a lad who hasn’t played a competitive game in nearly two years. If he can keep fit he could play a massive part in turning our season round.
Brown is our best central defender and is head and shoulders above John O'Shea and Carlos Cuellar. I have never been O'Shea or Cuellar's biggest fan; I feel they are both footballing dinosaurs. They are both slow, often caught out of position and prone to costly mistakes. I don't think either are good enough to be anywhere near our first team and would rather see Brown, Valentin Roberge or Modibo Diakite in front of them in the pecking order. It really baffles me how three successive managers have all played O'Shea yet everybody I speak to doesn't rate him. I have to say though, to give him his due, O'Shea did look decent against City but again I feel that was down to the quality of Brown.
We have started to turn the corner with two wins in the last three games (three in four if you count the cup) and given that we had a nightmare fixture list to start the season there are definite reasons to be cheerful. Phil Bardsley's re-emergence has been a definite highlight for me, I never felt he should have been ostracized for the casino incident and the Instagram thing seemed more borne out of frustration at being frozen out. He may not be the most naturally gifted player but most of the time he gives 110% and can’t normally be accused of lacking effort, unlike some of our other squad members. Yesterday, Bardsley proved he has plenty to offer this squad in terms of quality as well as guts and is a welcome addition especially given Andrea Dossena’s embarrassing start.
Gus Poyet did wonders with Brighton's defence which included the archetype League One ‘hoof-it’ defenders and I'm sure he will continue to do a good job organising ours. Hopefully we can see some more outstanding defensive performances like yesterday going forward – we will need them given the home fixtures coming up!