Friday, January 22, 2021

What’s next for Portsmouth FC?

I’ve been a season-ticket holder at Portsmouth FC for the past two years. After renewing my ticket for a third year, I hold high hopes for their second season in League One.

The fall of this club from the Premier League to the depths of League Two is a very well documented disaster. Indeed, in a discussion of the negatives of toxic ownership, the demise of Portsmouth almost always earns a mention. It is incredible that the same stadium which welcomed Ronaldinho’s AC Milan in 2008 would host such teams as Barnet less than a decade later.

My period of attendance at Fratton Park luckily coincided with a much needed period of progress for the club. The final game of the 2016/17 season against Cheltenham is without a doubt the most excitement I’ve felt at a live game. After such a long period of pain, it finally seemed to be a turning point for this club.

The first season of League One football was promising, with Portsmouth securing an eighth place finish and narrowly missing the playoffs. For a side playing in the third tier of football for the first time in four years, even a top half finish along would have sufficed. With new owners possibly bringing a large financial boost to the club, exciting times seem to be on the horizon.

Despite this, the omnipresent question arises- how can Portsmouth build on their momentum?

Initially, this summer transfer window will be a pivotal time for the club. Last season proved that many holes exist in the squad. As a whole, I feel that depth is needed for most positions. During the exceptionally injury plagued mid-season, positions such as centre-back and striker seemed to be especially affected.

In an environment as physical and unforgiving as League One, injuries are no longer a possibility, but an inevitability. It is only suitable that Portsmouth should prepare for this eventuality by bringing in players for these key positions.

Portsmouth need to reassess

One position in particular which needs improvement is at striker. Throughout last season, the attack of Portsmouth ran through two players- Brett Pitman, and Jamal Lowe. Pitman acted as the main threat, becoming top-scorer of the team in the process. However, especially throughout the final period of the season, Pitman rarely played at full fitness. He also seemed to have a personal agenda against moving at a speed faster than a quick jog.

Jamal Lowe seems to be the perfect counterpart to Pitman in this respect. Boasting electric pace along with a skill in finishing, Lowe also scored a fair amount of goals last season. Lowe often plays as a winger rather than a striker, however. Therefore, Portsmouth are in definite need of a superstar forward- who would release some pressure from Pitman.

Furthermore, I would also suggest some tactical changes. First of all, get rid of that god-awful kick-off routine. Essentially, the ball is played to midfield, where they punt it to a player making a run on the far wing. Seven times out of ten, the other team win the ball in the air. The other three times, the ball is sloppy and goes straight out-of-bounds for an opposition throw-in. I have seen this tactic work precisely zero times. Please, just try something different.

Secondly, on some occasions, the team needs to play more attacking football. Manager Kenny Jackett seems to firmly believe in the tactic of keeping possession. This idea works in practice. However, on too many occasions has the midfield opted in favour of passing sideways or backwards instead of attempting forward movement.

On several occasions, a sloppy pass in the middle of the pitch has resulted in conceding a goal. On the contrary, Portsmouth often achieve positive results when playing attack-minded football, especially along the wings. Therefore, in my opinion it would be beneficial to utilise this tactic.

Will Portsmouth take my opinion into account? Probably not. However, the fact remains that this next season will be an exciting affair. I can’t wait to re-take my seat in row D on those rainy October evenings which every football fan lives for.

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