Tag Archives: Portsmouth

Season so far – Part Three; Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Portsmouth, Stoke

Liverpool 

The start of Liverpool’s season has been the most talked of. Questions concerning the defence, midfield and the attack have yet to be properly answered and Rafa Benitez has come under criticism for the poor start in the league and Europe.

 

But where has it all gone wrong? At the beginning of the season Liverpool were many people’s tip for the title; continuing the good form shown at the back of last season into this. Firstly it is important to recognise where the title was lost last season. The home draws against West Ham, Hull, Stoke and Fulham were the reason cited for Liverpool failing to win the league. Converting two of those into wins would have given enough points to be level with Man Utd.

 

This season Liverpool has beaten Stoke and Hull at Anfield, thereby rectifying the mistakes of last year. At this point it is worth noting that the draws come with Alonso in the team and the wins this season obviously did not.

 

However, this season there have been defeats to Fulham, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Spurs and Chelsea. Against Villa, Sunderland and Chelsea Liverpool did not take their chances; against Fulham Liverpool had plenty of possession but did not create enough. The Spurs game was a poor performance and a justified defeat.

 

The argument that Liverpool needs Gerrard and Torres is justified to an extent. The remainder of the attacking players could not command a place in most teams first XI. Kuyt is an average right winger; Benayoun is tricky but wasteful and can try too hard in certain situations, Riera likewise. The third man in the Gerrard, Torres triumvirate, Aquilani, has been injured so judgement cannot be passed. However, Benitez’s wisdom needs to be questioned – was spending 20m on an injury prone player (who was injured at the time) a good idea?

 

Defensively the team is at sea. The players seem to have no confidence in each other and are almost waiting for one of them to make an individual mistake. Furthermore, it is very difficult to join a back four that defend zonally from set pieces. This is found out when Arbelloa replaced Finnan, goals from corners were being leaked with regularity. Johnson and Insua joining Carragher and either Skrtel or Agger has not helped. Particularly Insua who is looking a worse player as each week goes by. For a 20 year old he looks far too slow.

 

The answer is not to sack Benitez. However, he should not be allowed to purchase players. Mourinho said during this time at Chelsea that he wanted a squad of 25; three goalkeepers and two players in every other position. Liverpool have three left backs, three right backs, four central defenders, four central midfielders (I don’t include Spearing), four wide players and three strikers. The lack of quality in some of those positions is the reason Liverpool did not convert the defeats this season into positive results.

 

Manchester City

 

A good start to the season which has tailed away after the succession of draws. City certainly has the quality to challenge for the league and the Champions League places. Alan Hansen explained the difficulty City have right now is the defence. It’d be too easy to pick on Bridge after what we saw on MOTD.

 

I feel that City need to play with more strength in the middle of midfield. Currently the side is playing an orthodox 4-4-2 which I don’t think affords enough protection to Lescott and Toure; particularly if either full back goes on a run up field. Playing a Christmas tree or 4-5-1 and having De Jong, Barry and Ireland in the middle would give more balance to the side. This unfortunately means dropping Wright-Phillips but giving Bellemy and Tevez the license to roam behind Adeybor will cause enough problems to any defence so the attacking potency will not be lacking.

 

Manchester Utd

 

I might be speaking too soon, given the very important match coming up, but this is how I am viewing the season so far. It has been a good start, minor blips against Liverpool, Burnley and CSKA but nothing aside from that.

 

However, a theme of Utd’s season has been the late goals scored, most notably against Man City and Sunderland. This points to the fact that Man Utd need late goals to secure or rescue results. Neither the defence nor the attack has been firing on all cylinders but yet both have been at full strength, player-wise.

 

The reason for the success so far has been Rooney’s form. He has been far and away the best player. Only Berbatov looks like coming close to matching Rooney for the quality he brings to the side. Unfortunately for Utd Rooney is a form player, when on form he scores goals for fun but they a tendency to dry up in patches. The success of the season depends on keeping Rooney fit and others filling his boots when he is not scoring as freely as he could.

 

In January there has been a lot of talk of Villa or Silva and I think at least one needs to be purchased in order to remain on course to challenge.

 

Portsmouth

 

I still maintain that this is what needs to happen on the pitch in order to fix Pompey this season https://thoughtsonfootball.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/portsmouth-fixed/

 

However, off the pitch needs as much attention. Players need to be assured that they are at a club for the foreseeable future and that they will only leave if their performances are so good someone buys them or so bad Pompey sell them.

 

Survival is paramount for the future of the club and Hull’s victory against Stoke will not help Pompey.

 

Stoke

 

Tony Pullis deserves so much credit for what he has done at Stoke. He has developed a squad which has enough quality in each position. There is nothing I would change if given the chance.

 

One potential addition in January which could start the side nicking a few more goals could be a true goal poacher. At the Brittania Stoke are going to have more of the ball than they did last season. Having someone like Michael Owen (obviously not actually Michael Owen) in the side could open up defences which come to Stoke and sit in for a draw.

 

Actual names to consider could be Chopra from Cardiff (if they need to sell) or Leeds’ Jermaine Beckford.

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Portsmouth – fixed

I watched Pompey for the first time this season against Everton and they played well. Tim Howard was forced into a number of good saves and a few good chances were missed without the need of Howard’s intervention.

However, the team finds itself with the worst start to a Premiership season ever. Pointless after 7 games leads me to the conclusion that they could not have played that well in all other 6. So, does Paul Hart put the previous 6 down to the team finding its feet and continue as if the 7th was the way the team will go on to play. Or, does he think that having played well in the 7th game and taken no points requires a drastic change.

I would point to the latter because Everton were poor. If Everton had played well then I could see an argument for sticking with the team but Everton were as poor as Pompey were good.

It is clear that Pompey need to do something to make them somewhat of an enigma; difficult to beat but will have a chance of nicking a win if 0-0 in the 85th minute. Looking at the players at Paul Hart’s disposal then I think reverting the mid to late 90’s is the way to go – 3-5-2 – wing backs.

Both centre backs at the weekend are considered alongside Titus Bramble as the most culpable defenders of the Premier League. By playing three at the back there should be cover for each one and Pompey also have an overload of players in this position but not many full backs; Kabul, Ben Haim, Hreidarsson, Wilson,  Vanden Borre.

In terms of wing backs, Belhadj and the aforementioned Vanden Borre provide the obvious options but Finnan can play on the right and O’Hara comfortably do a job on the left if needed.

Another position of quantity is the centre of midfield; Brown, O’Hara, Diop, Mullins, Hughes, Mokoena, Boateng and Basinas. Pack that with two work horses and allow a creative player to roam with freedom will work wonders.

Hart also has options with his strikers. The squad is not bad in terms of quality but it is unbalanced.

Playing a 3-5-2 will confuse so many other teams in and around Pompey, teams which they should take points off. If a 4-4-2 is played then the two opposing central defenders will be taken up with Pompey’s strikers and the deeper central midfielder will be occupied with the roaming midfield player.

The two strikers of the opposing side will have to deal with 3 centre backs, one will always be spare to take a winger or on coming central midfielder. However, often the central midfielder will be taken by the holding midfielder.

Using this system Pompey will lose against teams like Everton and the other ‘bigger’ sides because the wing play will be more sophisticated than Pompey could handle. However, against teams that they should take points from, Bolton, Birmingham, Hull, Fulham etc. this system will fox the managers and the squad is big enough to keep it fresh and unpredictable. Utaka or Boetang, for example.

Pompey might survive if they make this radical change. They won’t if they do nothing.

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