The last five games of 2019 will determine how busy St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright will be in the January transfer window.
As it stands the Perth boss is only targeting one central defender but if he doesn’t see an improvement before the winter break, starting with tomorrow night’s trip to Kilmarnock, the “surgery” could yet be more drastic.
He has, however, ruled out picking up a free agent before the window opens.
“I identified what we needed and there were options a couple of months ago,” said Wright.
“For various reasons we couldn’t do it so we will wait for the window to make the changes which are necessary.
“The level of inconsistency in our defending both individually and as a team is the reason we are in this position.
“I certainly need experience in the back line.
“I know what I want in January. I think I need one experienced defender in but that could change if this level of defending continues.
“This is an important time so it would have been nice to get someone in.
“We can’t do that so we will go with what we have to January and get one or two out to allow us to get people in.
“Results over the next few weeks will determine how big the surgery has to be.
“And I have to make to make sure I get it right in the window.”
For the next few weeks Wright has no choice but to try and get the best out of the defenders currently at the club. And it is not as if those players haven’t put in some good performances.
“The frustrating thing is that I know they can do it,” he said. “So do they.
“They have defended well away to Aberdeen, Ross County and Hibs and at home to Hearts.
“They dealt with Sam Cosgrove and Uche Ikpeazu, two of the most physical players in the country. Those two barely got a sniff. But they don’t do it consistently enough.
“They were dreadful against Hibs at home and at St Mirren and we lost poor goals against Motherwell direct from corners.
“I think we went a season a few years ago without losing a goal from a set-piece.
“We didn’t give up on Saturday. We had a great passage of play before Matty Kennedy got in and should have scored.
“But the damage had been done by the two goals we had already lost.
“Recently it’s not been about tactics or personnel.
“The Motherwell game epitomised it.
“We have played them twice now and three of their five goals have come from set plays.
“In those situations a player should be determined that, no matter what, my man isn’t going to dominate me physically, he isn’t going to get a yard on me.
“It’s a mindset. They have to show a stronger mentality.”
The fact that you can still throw a blanket over a number of clubs in the bottom half of the Premiership is more than straw-clutching for the Perth side. But it’s a situation that could change significantly before the break if they go on a festive season slump.
“Hopefully by the end of December we haven’t let ourselves get adrift,” said Wright.
“That’s the worry if we don’t pick up results.
“We can’t rely on other teams getting beaten to keep in touch.
“We have to do it ourselves, be positive and do better.
“Normally on the run we are on you wouldn’t be three points off seventh place. You would be nine or 10 behind and maybe six points off 11th.
“That is the one thing the players should take heart from and be positive about.
“I’m certainly taking confidence from that.
“We aren’t detached and we can still turn it around.
“We know we can get better. We must get better and we can move up the table. That’s the bottom line.”
Saints come up against a Kilmarnock side tomorrow which will provide a stark reminder of McDiarmid Park teams of old.
“Kilmarnock are difficult to beat with quality in the team,” said Wright.
“They are solid with good experience at both ends of the pitch. In Dicker and Power they’ve two excellent midfielders who work well together and protect their back four.
“They’re a bit like we used to be.
“And they’re helped at home, where they have made the pitch narrower.
“They’re difficult to break down.
“But I still believe we can go there and win.”