Premier League Bootroom: Running short of clean sheets as defences leak
23:00 GMT, 2 November 2012
It pains me to say it as a defender but it seems that keeping clean sheets is becoming a lost art.
There have been only 41 clean sheets in the 89 games so far this season — the second-lowest number since the Premier League began.
I think the main reason for the leaky defences is a positive one. Managers this season are looking to play expansive, attractive football.
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You imagine, like most people, they watch Real Madrid and Barcelona — the doyens of modern football — and will want to emulate their style.
We now have managers who want to play football. Of course, sides like Stoke often deploy a direct approach against the top teams but in general teams are trying to pass the ball.
That includes the newly-promoted sides, which hasn’t always been the case.
But the problem with passing the ball is that you need to commit men forward, meaning you are vulnerable to being hit on the break.
Full backs who bomb forward are a huge attacking threat but leave space behind them. Rafael, at Manchester United, is almost a winger in the way that he plays.
United are one of the teams who have struggled to keep goals out. They have kept only two clean sheets in the Premier League this season and champions Manchester City and Chelsea have also leaked too many goals.
As far as City are concerned, a lack of stability at the back is one factor. They have used so many different combinations of back four this season — even a back three at times — and that cannot help.
You need to know instinctively how your fellow defenders play and react and you can’t do that by changing personnel each week. That includes not switching a player from full back to centre back or vice versa.
What's the score
Manchester City also have defenders who are not playing as well as last season, notably the normally excellent Vincent Kompany.
The goalkeeper is part of that stable unit and that might be where United have had trouble, as they have switched regularly between David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard. Southampton cannot seem to settle on a permanent No 1 either.
Another factor is that marking from crosses seems to be a thing of the past. Defenders are obsessed with occupying space rather than marking the man and we are seeing so many strikers scoring in space.
I used to make sure I got to the ball ahead of the centre forward but I’m not seeing that now. It is vital, especially now there is a higher calibre of centre forward in this country. Van Persie, Suarez, Aguero, Tevez and Ba can shoot from distance, wriggle past you and make good runs time and time again.