2011/12 review: Defensive blunders

Burnley FC Burnley FC
Jamie Smith July 23, 2012
Three goals resulting from grant's mistakes is perfectly acceptable. At ... 3 years ago

If there’s one part of last season that will stand out, it’s mistakes from the defence, writes Jamie Smith.

There isn’t anything a manager can do about individual mistakes. Players are human beings and they will screw up from time to time. But howlers from the back five really cost us last season.

The best goalkeepers in the world are capable of making untimely ricks, but it’s fair to say Lee Grant makes his fair share. His problem is shots from distance. With alarming regularity, they get parried into the danger zone, rather than collected or pushed around the posts. It’s a major failing in his game and I’m not sure a technical issue like that will go away. The defence and midfield have to shoulder some of the blame for the lack of protection they have offered Grant in the last couple of years, but it’s hard to stand up for him after some of his mistakes. It’s a big season coming up for Grant. He’s a decent stopper, but has to cease causing so many goals with the same error.

Even our more reliable players were at it, though. Reading away. It was a massive game in our season. We were on a good run, they were on a better one. They went on to take the title at a canter following a tight 1-0 win over us at the Madejski. The goal came early on from Jason Roberts, a scrappy finish from a low cross. He’d got free in the area because Michael Duff had let him wander into space. If Duff stays tight on his man there, Roberts probably doesn’t score, we perhaps go on to win the game and the end of the season could have been very different. Mistakes cost goals and they change the shape of whole seasons.

David Edgar generally had a good season. But, almost like Andre Amougou, he always seems capable of throwing one in, as Stan Ternent used to say. Take Blackpool at home in front of the Sky cameras. Arguably our best performance of the season, we dominated the Lashers and led 3-0 in the closing minutes. It was a wonderful effort, with Ross Wallace’s handbags with Amougou over the opening free-kick a lasting memory. But the clean sheet was spoiled when Edgar dallied, letting Ian Holloway’s side in for a consolation. It might not have meant a lot in the grand scheme of things, but the best sides don’t give up chances like that.

Even Kieran Tripper, who deservedly swept the board at the player of the season awards, was at it. He seems a little susceptible to crosses over the centre-backs to the far post and will need to work on his concentration in these areas next season.

It’s harsh to point fingers at Brian Easton too much as the lad looked out of his depth for much of his Burnley career. A rampaging run against Leeds was a highlight of his Clarets career but we saw the worst of him in that game too. Leading going into the last 15 minutes, Easton switched off twice and United punished him for the errors on both occasions. Somehow, we lost that match.

A bad back-pass sticks out from Ben Mee as well. Nobody escaped costing us at least one goal last season.

All Eddie Howe can do to try and stop this in the future is drill the players relentlessly on their positions and keep them switched on at all times. The addition of Jason Shackell, who will organise the back line, will hopefully help in that regard.

Next summer, I don’t want to be counting loads of defensive errors that have cost goals and wondering what might have been.

Which mistakes stick out for you? Comment below.

  • Quoonbeatz

    The biggest defensive error was selling Danny Fox when we did. As for the rest of them, goals are always going to come from defensive errors at this level. I don’t think we’re any worse than a lot of teams. Grant is the one who gets all the stock but I can only think of three goals that were tap ins from his parries. Were there more?

    • Jamie Smith
      Jamie Smithin reply to Quoonbeatz

      Isn’t three enough? Obviously I don’t watch the other Championship teams enough to compare with us, but it seemed like a large percentage of our goals against came from errors you wouldn’t expect defenders at this level to make.

      I expect Shackell’s presence to have a big impact on our defensive stability.

      • QBin reply to Jamie Smith

        Three goals resulting from grant’s mistakes is perfectly acceptable. At this level you aren’t going to get perfection, so to say he has to cease causing “so many goals” with that error is a bit unfair. It only really cost us once at Leeds.

        Completely agree shackell will improve things, as will mills, but I think they’ll all improve purely for the experience of last season.