Sebastien Bassong is the leader of the pack

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Sebastien Bassong has been a revelation for Norwich since signing this summerGettyImagesSebastien Bassong has been a revelation for Norwich since signing this summer

Sebastien Bassong is not just Norwich's defensive bedrock. He is rapidly becoming a protected species.

The Cameroonian international at times erected a one-man barricade at Goodison Park last weekend to repel Everton's sporadic attacking surges, yet still found the energy to power home a 90th minute equaliser to maintain the Canaries' recent upward curve. Seven unbeaten now in all competitions ahead of Wednesday's tough Premier League assignment at a rejuvenated Southampton.

For that to continue Bassong will have to reprise his Everton heroics with regular central defensive partner Michael Turner (damaged shoulder) again missing for the trip to the south coast and keeper John Ruddy unlikely to recover from the thigh problem that forced his early exit on Merseyside. Ryan Bennett made an assured return to the heart of Norwich's defence in Turner's absence at the weekend, but add in the uncertainty of a full City Premier League debut for Ruddy’s deputy, Mark Bunn, and it is no exaggeration to state Chris Hughton will need Bassong to perform above and beyond the call of duty once more.

Ranged against the depleted Canaries is a Southampton attacking quartet who blitzed a sluggish Newcastle on Sunday. Rickie Lambert adds the ballast, Gaston Ramirez the South American style and in Jason Puncheon and excellent young skipper, Adam Lallana, the Saints possess two domestic wide players blessed with pace, ability and a hunger to prove they can cut it at the top level.

Hughton could have been forgiven for exhibiting some visible signs of stress at a potentially toxic mix when he faced the press on Monday. The Norwich boss watched his next opponents' demolition job on his former employers and was hugely impressed by their cut and thrust. But even with enforced changes to the settled defence which has underpinned Norwich's recent revival, Hughton will expect his personnel to defend in less brittle fashion. Southampton were good last weekend, but Newcastle made them look even better. Hughton knows if City get dragged into an open, end-to-end, breathless shoot out there is only one winner. The Saints are brimming with confidence after consecutive league wins. Scoring goals had not been the problem. A first top flight clean sheet since 2005 will have brought immeasurable pleasure to Nigel Adkins and his coaching staff.

Hughton's side have four shut outs and counting in the Premier League so far; one more than Paul Lambert's collective managed in the whole of the previous campaign. Norwich’s defence has undergone a transformation from the rabble that succumbed so readily at Fulham and Chelsea and at home to Liverpool. Ruddy’s calm, composed displays have been a striking feature and his potential injury absence at St Mary's should not be underestimated, but Hughton would be far more concerned if a growing injury crisis claimed Bassong.

From Leon Barnett through Turner and latterly young Bennett, all three have given passable impressions of genuine Premier League centre backs. Bassong is the common denominator. Turner and Bennett were torn apart at Craven Cottage. Barnett and Turner were embarrassed by Luis Suarez at Carrow Road. It is no exaggeration to state that Norwich’s impressively assured response to those early setbacks rests on the shoulders of a core of key personnel at Hughton’s disposal. Ruddy is one, Alex Tettey the terrier-like midfielder another. Wes Hoolahan and Grant Holt add attacking garnish to a stodgy defensive mix, but Bassong is rapidly emerging as the main man.

ESPN Conversations