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3 St Johnstone talking points: Eetu Vertainen is NOT a no. 9, Jacob Butterfield IS a midfield asset and Reece Devine could keep his place

Eetu Vertainen's contribution was one of the big talking points of Wednesday night's game.
Eetu Vertainen's contribution was one of the big talking points of Wednesday night's game.

There was no shock at Ibrox in midweek, with St Johnstone suffering the expected defeat to league leaders, Rangers.

Courier Sport picks out three big talking points as the Perth side seek to secure that elusive victory at Motherwell this weekend.


Eetu is not a number nine

Let’s not kid ourselves, Eetu Vertainen had a poor game, or a poor half a game to be more accurate.

The ball didn’t stick on the rare occasions it was played to him. He lost it more than he retained it.

A 45-minute total of 15 touches and a pass accuracy percentage of less than 50 does not represent a good night’s work.

Eetu Vertainen's Opta statistics against Rangers.
Eetu Vertainen’s Opta statistics against Rangers.

Vertainen’s decision-making has been hit and miss over the course of his eight appearances.

There was one such occasion on Wednesday night when he should have put Shaun Rooney through but delayed too long and then saw his attempted pass to Ali Crawford (the wrong option) intercepted.

His confidence may well be on the floor.

Being taken off at half-time in the knowledge your manager wasn’t best pleased with your contribution to Rangers’ opener takes a strong mindset to quickly bounce back from.

The biggest issue, though, is that he is yet to find a niche in this St Johnstone team.

Even though Vertainen has the physique of a number nine and doesn’t shy away from the physical battles that go with that role, he isn’t a number nine.

Eetu Vertainen closes down Scott Arfield.
Eetu Vertainen closes down Scott Arfield.

He’s a number 10, whose second best position would probably be cutting in from wide areas.

With Chris Kane out for another two games and none of the other forwards or off-the-front men making an inarguable case for selection, Vertainen could well get more chances.

It’s unlikely to be as a lone centre-forward, though.


Butterfield should be a midfield asset

The signing of Jacob Butterfield – and the confirmation of the type of footballer he is – tell us St Johnstone aren’t going to extricate themselves from this crisis with muscle and long balls.

They’re going to attempt to pass their way out of it.

Murray Davidson apart, there isn’t a midfield ‘enforcer’ in the squad.

And if Callum Davidson wanted to go down that route he wouldn’t have identified Butterfield as his latest recruit.

The comparisons with Craig Bryson are valid ones.

There are plenty of similarities to their games – the main ones being their willingness to accept a pass with opponents tight to them, getting their body on the half-turn when the ball arrives, and successfully moving it on to a team-mate.

Jacob Butterfield makes a midfield challenge.
Jacob Butterfield makes a midfield challenge.

Davidson was pleased with Butterfield’s performance (over 85% passing accuracy in that company was impressive) and that he got the best part of 80 minutes under his belt.

Jacob Butterfield's Opta statistics against Rangers.
Jacob Butterfield’s Opta statistics against Rangers.

The former Derby County player will undoubtedly improve the Saints midfield and, in games when they’ll enjoy far more possession than away to the league leaders, he’ll cut open defences if the right run is made by those in front of him.


Devine intervention

There was sound logic to Davidson handing Reece Devine his first start since Saints last played Rangers three months ago.

Seven games in just over 20 days is a gruelling programme for any player but especially a wing-back.

Coupled with the fact that fresh legs would be an asset to combat the power and pace Rangers possess on their right side, this felt like the right fixture to give Callum Booth a rest.

Booth has been a steady performer this season in the main and, with other parts of the team causing his manager more problems, it is understandable that Davidson has opted for continuity on the left of defence.

Of all the ‘fringe’ defenders, Devine is probably the unluckiest to not see more action.

Davidson referenced the on-loan Manchester United youngster’s impressive display and rightly so.

He did well.

As a team, Saints need more of the dynamism Devine displayed when he came close to scoring in the second half after getting on the end of a Liam Craig cross-field pass.

A change that might have been born of squad rotation has turned into a genuine selection quandary for Saturday’s trip to Fir Park.

St Johnstone lose Chris Kane for 10 days as a result of new Covid-19 rule

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