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4 at the Back?: What Deadline Day Departures Could Mean for St. Johnstone's Starting Team

Updated: Sep 5, 2021

Tuesday the 31st of August was transfer deadline day which was a day to forget for St. Johnstone with the club losing 2 key players in Jason Kerr and Ali McCann, who moved on to Wigan Athletic and Preston North End respectively.

[Kerr and McCann moved on to pastures new on Tuesday]

The duo were 2 of the first names on the team sheet for Callum Davidson and losing his star player as well as his club captain will have a huge impact on how we line-up for the rest of this season. 4 players have also been brought in to the club who will all be looking to force their way into the managers plans.

So, with over a week until St. Johnstone host Rangers, let's explore a few of the ways that the recent incomings and outgoings may affect the St. Johnstone starting 11 from now on.

Who Will Make-up the back 3?

If it is the case that Davidson will stick with his patented 3 at the back system, which was so pivotal to last season's success, then it will be a hard one to call.

Last term St. Johnstone managed to go the entire campaign with a consistent starting Centre Back trio but now that Kerr has departed things are a lot less apparent.

The Saints gaffer has 4 good players to choose between with Liam Gordon, Jamie McCart, Hayden Muller and new arrival Lars Dendoncker all at his disposal.

[Hayden Muller has impressed so far this season]

As it stands, if all 4 are fit to play then my guess would be; McCart on the left, Gordon in the centre and Muller on the right with Dendoncker as the deputy. However, we will have to see more of the Belgian youth international to know if he has what it takes to be a regular starter.

What is St. Johnstone's Best 11?

This is a question that will always split opinion. Without key starters Kerr and McCann Davidson will have to change his line-up, potentially significantly.

Sticking with the 5-2-3 that we have played so regularly this season, I reckon that this would be St. Johnstone's Strongest 11;

Despite the high-profile departures suffered on deadline day this is still a very strong side and is certainly good enough to play week-in week-out.

However, if he does opt to go for this it would leave out new signing Eetu Vertainen, so it is more likely that Davidson will revert back to the 5-3-2 which we have played in the past which would look like this;

Personally this is my preferred line-up and does leave a lot of room for accommodating players such as MacPherson, Vertainen and Crawford. However, it does leave Middleton either out of position or dropped altogether which is disappointing as the 21 year old is one of our most important and most exciting attacking outlets.

We will do a Twitter poll on which of these two line-ups you think is stronger, so keep an eye out for that!

Will Davidson Change to a back 4?

Following Tuesday's transfer activity, St. Johnstone fan @StAnalysis on Twitter posed the question of whether Callum Davidson could go to a back 4.

[This graphic shows that a 4-2-3-1 shape fits the squad very nicely]

One of the luxuries of playing a back 3 is that if a centre-back is injured/leaves the club there is the option of filling that void by changing formation rather than with a direct replacement.

Doing so would still allow Saints to start a strong back 4 of Booth - McCart - Gordon - Rooney. This also includes plenty of fire power with, Middleton, Wotherspoon and Vertainen all making the cut.

This is a very attractive set-up and does certainly have its benefits, I for one would not be opposed to this change if he decides it is the best way forward.

However, I do not think that Callum Davidson will deviate from his current system. It worked so well last season and we still have the players to maintain a good 3 at the back. Rooney is much better as a flying Wing-Back with a license to go forward than he is stifled further back and Muller looks like a great fit at Right Centre Back.

[St. Johnstone's double win was largely down to the incredible trio at the back]

Overall, certainly do not dismiss the prospect of a return to the 4 man defence of the past but expect us to retain the set-up which brought the double to Perth last season.

Midfield Choices

Despite Ali McCann's exit St. Johnstone have a squad overloaded with central midfield players - in fact there are currently 8 players able to play in the middle of the park at the club, with any of them able to do a job when called upon.

Club stalwart Murray Davidson is currently the only clear starter in the central midfielder role with the other slot up-for-grabs. The most likely options are veterans Liam Craig and Craig Bryson - when he returns from his injury lay-off.

[Murray Davidson has been immense this season]

Young guns Cammy Ballantyne, Cammy MacPherson and Charlie Gilmour are all in contention to break into that spot, it will be interesting to see who can establish themselves in the side this campaign. David Wotherspoon and Ali Crawford are the more attacking options who are more likely to play in a 3-man midfield.

St. Johnstone's midfield is probably the most flexible area in the team and the gaffer is spoiled for choice, I am eager to see who he will pick as well as who fails to make the cut.

In many ways St. Johnstone's season is at a cross roads.

There are plenty of tactical decisions for Davidson to make and I have to say- rather him than me. Despite the squad being one of the smallest in the league, just about every player available to the manager is a starter and it will be a tricky task to decide how to set-up going forward.

[Callum Davidson has plenty of choices in front of him]

The international break will serve as a very helpful period for Saints to reset, rethink and reboot ahead of the rest of this season. I am confident that Callum Davidson will make the correct choices- whatever those choices may be

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