‘Negativity around the side is paramount’ – Our Portsmouth fans previews the season ahead

We kick off our look at League One and League two seasons this afternoon with Pompey fan Freddie Webb. 

We’re taking an ill-timed holiday over the next four days, but have plenty of these lined up to keep you entertained whilst we’re away.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m Freddie Webb (@FredsDotW on twitter), I write for the PompeyNewsNow fan and news blog and I also appear regularly on the PO4cast as a co-host. I’ve been a fan of Portsmouth for 15 years, despite living up north all my life (I managed to get a far few away days under my belt).

Sum up last season from your perspective?

Last season is rough to describe. Portsmouth were unbeaten at home in the league throughout the season, had the 2nd highest xG (expected goals) ratios in the League, had a strong run in the FA Cup and made the final of the EFL trophy. Unfortunately, for a lot of people including myself, this was entirely ruined by the playoff series against Oxford. Like last season (2018/2019), arguably Portsmouth’s worst performances of the season were in the playoffs and Kenny Jackett’s squad selections and tactics were a major factor in Portsmouth not getting promoted. Even with all the great experiences last season brought us, all of it was soured because the team underperformed when it truly mattered. The aim before the season was automatic promotion, and Pompey were not close to it. The start to the season was dreadful, but the right signings were made in January and the squad played a lot better, but never quite looked like gaining automatic promotion. Then we crashed out in the playoffs in a depressing fashion.

What has the transfer business been like this summer?

What transfer business? So far, Portsmouth have only resigned Sean Raggett who was on loan here last season and deserved to be given a spot permanently and Lee Brown’s contract got extended. Aside from that, Portsmouth lost Christian Burgess to Real Union Saint Gilloise in the Belgian 2nd division, who was one of the best centre backs in the league last season. Pompey also released talented left-back Brandon Haunstrup (who refused to sign a new deal), Oli Hawkins and Brett Pitman. The salary cap has restricted a lot of the Blues transfer activity, but so far, nothing tangible has been reported, and the team really needs help. The board have been saying a lot about wanting to achieve automatic promotion, but the club only have three centre-backs and one professional left-back for the upcoming season. The squad has a lot of holes in it and is worse than last season.

How has pre-season been for you?

Pre-season has been going ok, Portsmouth haven’t played many friendlies. Their first competitive game was against Stevenage in the 1st round of the League Cup, which the Blues scraped through on penalties. Even with Ronan Curtis, John Marquis and Bryn Morris having good games offensively – and Craig MacGillivray saving three penalties in the shootout – the game brought up more questions than answers. Some of the defending in that game was the worst I’ve ever seen as a Pompey fan. Just like last season, Sean Raggett and Paul Downing looked awful as a defensive pairing and the team resorted to a lot of long ball. Many fans have no faith in Kenny Jackett’s tactics on the pitch, as he focuses too much on trying to get the ball up the pitch as fast as possible, rather than breaking a team down. #Jackettball often trends regularly on twitter, and not in a good way. The fans trust most of the players, just not the manager on the touchline.

Which players are looking like they’ll stand out this season?

Ronan Curtis looks to be continuing his form from last season. He’s a very talented young player, who carves defences open from the left-wing when he’s allowed to cut-inside and shoot. I also really rate Marcus Harness on the right-wing. He has great technical flair and adds so much creatively to Portsmouth’s 4-2-3-1. Having had his first year playing for the club last season, he looks set to have a break-out year having improved on his shooting and crossing.

 


Have you tried our League One and Two scorers quiz?

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Can you identify this player who finished last season on 10 or more goals in either League One, or League Two?

 

Any players likely to explode onto the scene from nowhere?

Pompey don’t have a lot of depth this season and the majority of their top performers are already known to fans of the EFL. But that does potentially leave space for a few youngsters to step up if need be. One player who can potentially do well is Haji Mnoga. He’s a young right-back who’s been capped at U17 level for England, and from what I’m hearing, he’ll be selected more as a backup option. Quick and defensively sound, he could feature more than people expect. As for players who could potentially “explode onto the seen from nowhere”, Pompey have few options. The squad depth is very thin and that means there will be more pressure on the starting XI to produce every week.

What matches are you looking forward to most this season?

Both games against Oxford will be massive for Portsmouth in order to get over their playoff demons. Last season, the main problem was the Blues simply not getting results against their promotion rivals and conceding far too many last-minute goals. Any match against a promotion rival (Oxford, Fleetwood, Peterborough, Hull City to name a few) will be ones that Pompey fans will look forward to, simply to see if this side can actually compete seriously in League One. Any game against Sunderland is a standout. They’re now Pompey’s competitive rivals and the animosity between the fan bases will give both those matches a bit of an edge.

What can teams expect from you this season?

Previously, Portsmouth have been a defence first side. Setting up in a 4-2-3-1, Portsmouth look to hold down the game and break on the counter attack really quickly. But as things stand, this side is weak defensively. The back-four has no depth behind them and none of them are comfortable playing the ball out from the back regularly, so have a real problem when other teams press them. Without any signings, the defence is a major weakness. Going forward, Portsmouth have some great players for League One. John Marquis had a poor season last year but already looks to be improving his finishing, and hopefully won’t be short of chances with Curtis and Harness on both wings. If Ben Close plays in the midfield, Portsmouth can attack quickly and hopefully create chances. However, there are so many cracks in this side, so opposition fans could expect a worse Pompey side from last season.

Where do you think you’ll finish?

With a lack of help in the transfer window, and with no changes in the tactical set up looking likely, this side is not good enough for promotion but they often find a way to win games while looking unconvincing. The negativity around the side is paramount, and rightly so. My prediction is 7th, and that is more of a symbolic choice. I don’t see Pompey, like some others do, falling off a cliff, but I don’t see them competing for promotion if there are no changes on and off the pitch. The salary cap, Kenny Jackett’s tactics and the lack of depth in the squad seem insurmountable.

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