Sebastian Coates

Sebastian Coates
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Not so long ago Sebastian Coates was a young centre back who was starring at the back for Uruguay and on the verge of a move to Liverpool, joining them with a player of the tournament award at the Copa America under his belt. Sadly for him, injuries and poor form have stopped him being able to hold down a place for the long term, leading to loan moves back to his first club Nacional and to Sunderland last season.

Still highly thought of in Uruguay, Coates now has the chance to rebuild his reputation in Europe, with a permanent deal to Sunderland AFC in the bag. Now is time for him to show that it was just the injuries holding him back, though he did miss time last season due to them, and that he is a Premier League quality player.

It will be difficult for him, despite his attributes, his weaknesses are the ones that are most often targeted in England. He lacks pace, his acceleration is lacking badly and he can often be exposed by a pacey forward. Worse he can be bullied by opponents, as was shown in cup action for Liverpool against lower league opposition.

While he was not the only culprit, he showed he was completely unable to cope with a powerful, physical forward using his strength against him, even his usual good aerial ability went missing under pressure. Not just his ability to direct headers to a team mate, which he is usually adept at, but even his ability to win them in the first place completely deserted him, as he allowed himself to be moved out from under the ball far too easily.

As you can see from this clip from 2011, his weakness against a powerful forward is not a lack of strength, it is that he allows himself to be intimidated, which suggests a fragile confidence. On his day, with the confidence flowing, he is an excellent technical defender who positions himself well to make up for his lack of pace.

When he is lacking confidence, that positional sense will go AWOL, as he dithers and second guesses himself, leaving him reacting to situations constantly, rather than anticipating them and cutting them off early. With his lack of pace, he needs to be anticipating, getting himself in position early, as he will not be able to catch up later with a burst of speed, such as a defender like Sol Campbell was able to do when poorly positioned.

As you can see from that goal against QPR, Coates has excellent technique on the ball, with the ability to be a quality ball playing central defender, if given the chance. He does struggle against small nippy forwards, to cope with the twist and turns, but can usually use his positional sense to just keep himself goalside in the main.

Coates also likes to throw himself in at times, which is evident in the above video, which could be dangerous in modern football, as even getting the ball cleanly is no longer seen as a 'safe' tackle in the modern game. I feel he will need to look to stay on his feet more and use those long legs to sneak the ball away from attackers, he is certainly capable of that.

Personally I feel he is better when he keeps his feet, as he does have very good timing, in the main, and can usually pick the right moment to nick the ball away from his opponent. It is when he goes flying in that I find myself wincing and expecting the decision to go against him. He could also do with making himself more of a threat in the opposition area during dead ball situations, as the QPR goal showed, he is capable of scoring.

With his height and aerial prowess, you would expect him to net a minimum of 5 goals a season, if the delivery is good, though he will need to stay fit enough to get the games to do so. That I feel is the main issues surrounding Sebastian Coates, not his pace or tendency to throw himself into a challenge, simply his injury problems, which seem to arise every season.

If he can steer clear of injuries, Sunderland fans will be getting a very good defender, one who can help them steer clear of the relegation zone over the next few seasons, and provide a platform to compete in the top half of the Prem. If he can steer clear of injuries, Liverpool will come to regret letting him leave. Sadly that is a big if. A very big if.