League One Club-by-Club Preview for 2017/2018: Portsmouth

Best Blog or Account to Follow: Pompey Memes are often on the money and certainly one of the more light-hearted accounts in these previews. They also have a podcast hosted on YouTube and are well worth engaging with.

2016/2017

Record Last Season + Quick Summary: 

League Two - 1st; W 26 / D 9 / L 11 / F 79 / A 40 / Pts 87

After a four-year stint in the basement division the probably felt a lot longer to their fanbase, Pompey finally ‘played up’ in 2016/2017 and now find themselves back in the third tier after experiencing extremely tumultuous decade firstly of sharp decline, then plateauing and latterly beginning to reverse the trend. Chugging along nicely in the opening half of the campaign, they turned it on in the latter stages along as part of a chasing pack hauling in Carlisle United. Their 11th win in a 13-match stretch secured the title on goal difference, thumping Cheltenham Town 6-1 to bring the trophy to Fratton Park, with the attacking prowess of their midfield a large contributing factor in achieving promotion.

During the close season, the Supporters’ Trust voted in favour of selling the club to Michael Eisner, with the businessman promising investment but principally off the pitch. Additionally, their liked but not loved manager Paul Cook decided to jump ship to new divisional rivals Wigan Athletic, with the administration moving quickly to replace him with Kenny Jackett.

Top Goalscorer: Kal Naismith (13 goals in 22 starts/2,151 minutes)

Top Creator: Enda Stevens (9 assists in 45 starts/3,981 minutes)

tareiq.jpg
Stepping into Enda Stevens’ boots will be no easy task but in the season-long loan signing of Tareiq Holmes-Dennis from Premier League newcomers Huddersfield Town, Portsmouth have a precocious talent who should continue to develop well and make the attacking left-back role his own during his stay on the south coast

2017/2018

Manager/Head Coach: Kenny Jackett; putting aside his very brief spell with Rotherham United for a moment, the former Welsh international has an enviable pedigree in the lower leagues, guiding the trio of Swansea City, Millwall and Wolverhampton Wanderers to promotion. His time at Molineux was brought abruptly to an end because of the takeover by Fosun International and at the New York Stadium, he inherited a side already looking destined for relegation in November 2016 and it was clear that not all was well behind the scenes. With Pompey, he is likely to be afforded time to assert his proven methods of success and a promise to play enterprising, attacking football.

Ins: Nathan Thompson (Swindon Town), Brett Pitman (Ipswich Town), Luke McGee (Tottenham Hotspur 23s) & Tareiq Holmes-Dennis (Huddersfield Town on loan).

Outs: Amine Linganzi (Swindon Town), Michael Doyle (Coventry City), Liam O’Brien (Coventry City), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Calvin Davies (free agent), Noel Hunt (free agent) & Stanley Aborah (free agent).

Predicted First XI & Shape:

Portsmouth1718.PNG

Tactics: The capture of Luke McGee, who spent last season on loan at Peterborough United and who was voted their Players’ Player of 2016/2017, looks to be astute business. The custodian was certainly a busy man between the sticks at the ABAX Stadium, often digging his teammates out of trouble with his quick decision-making and command of his area. Ahead of him is likely to be Christian Burgess, who was a colossus at the back in the title-winning outfit and could be partnered by Matthew Clarke. Together, the duo will be extremely tough customers for most third tier attacks.

At left-back, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis likes to get forward whenever possible and should provide an option on the overlap for the winger ahead of him, which could be any number of players in the squad. On the right, Gareth Evans will be tasked with a similar remit if he establishes himself as first choice. New signing Nathan Thompson can operate across the back four but if he can shake off a fresh injury concern, he could be the pivot at the base of midfield to provide a modicum of balance. Danny Rose is much more of a playmaker and maintaining his level of supply to the front four will be a key area for Pompey to be successful.

There are a multitude of genuine contenders to support Brett Pitman. Kal Naismith was a consistent gem for Accrington Stanley and he has stepped up to the plate in a blue shirt; his turn of pace and dead ball skills help him stand out in the lower leagues. However, his place could just as easily be filled by Curtis Main or the very promising Conor Chaplin in more of a shadow striker role if Jackett decides to have someone just off Pitman. Speaking of the former Tractor Boy, he has no distinctive weaknesses in his game: he is good on his left foot, an excellent penalty taker, physical when the time calls for it and a threat in the air, so he ought to prove to be both a foil for his attacking teammates and someone who more of the goal-getting burden can fall upon. Again, he is one of the favourites to be the League One top scorer and with the emphasis firmly on taking the game to the opposition under Jackett, it’s not difficult to understand why.

pitman.jpg
Brett Pitman will ably assist in Pompey racking up the goals and on paper, looks to be one of the best signings any League One team has made in the summer thus far

Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Play-off chasers. Jackett has proven on more than one occasion that he knows what it takes to get his charges promoted, even with expectations from the stands high. The array of attacking talent in the first team squad are certainly in the top two or three in League One and I wouldn’t be at all shocked if they can fashion a similar number of goals to what they achieved last term in the division below. Further back is a more of a concern, however. The current defensive midfield options are extremely limited and with Thompson’s injury record, there is a pressing need for one, preferably two, new faces to come in to help balance the XI. I am also less than convinced about the right back area but how much that can really be exploited is difficult to say for certain. They are strong in both boxes and the future for the club is bright, regardless of whether Pompey crack the top six at the first time of asking.

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