WLB 2015/16 Preview | Why Portsmouth Won’t Finish In The Top-7


PORTSMOUTH have been busy in the offseason as they look to make it third time lucky in their exit from League Two. But Gabriel Sutton (@_FootballLab), editor of thefootballab.co.uk, reckons we should steer well clear.

Why Portsmouth Won’t Finish In The Top-7

Being a big club at this level means nothing – just ask fans of Bristol Rovers and Tranmere. That’s why the bookies decision to place Portsmouth, a side that finished 16th last term, as odds-on promotion favourites is questionable.

There are too many luxury players in their squad. Key men such as Matt Tubbs and Gary Roberts can, evidently, thrive in a team that plays to their strengths, but it may be surprisingly difficult for Paul Cook to find a system that incorporates them both successfully. Tubbs does not have the strength nor work rate to play up front on his own, and needs a target man alongside him. However, if Cook were to abort his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation and put two up front, this creates more problems.

Gary Roberts, who tends to thrive in the hole with quick wide men either side of him, would be likely to have to play in a midfield four, and he does not have the work rate or tactical discipline needed to do so. Other players coming in, such as Kyle Bennett and Adam McGurk, can provide fleeting moments of brilliance with the ball, but they are not players who will consistently work hard for the team.

If there is a system that can get the best out of Tubbs, it is 4-4-2, with a target man alongside him and industrious midfield players behind, who are willing to cover the extra space. However, with the number of luxury players Portsmouth have, it is impossible to play 4-4-2 without there being huge gaps in midfield for the opposition team to take advantage of. Michael Doyle, who joins from Sheffield United, has very little pace to justify his aggressive style of play, meaning opposition teams will find it easy to find gaps in Portsmouth’s midfield.

The whole reason that Portsmouth are so heavily fancied by the bookies, and the neutrals, is because they have a lot of star players who are commonly known. However, it is not the star players that wins a team promotion over a challenging 46-game season, it is the grafters. The most successful teams will have one or two prima donnas, and a team of hard workers around them doing the necessary leg work.

Portsmouth’s problem is that they have too many prima donnas, and that is why they will be nowhere near the automatic promotion places this season.

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1 Comment

  1. I tend to agree with you and the fact they were 16th last season makes the price look an absolute farce but I think the least they’ll achieve is a play-off spot. At the end of the day most of those players are better than the average League Two player and the cream does usually rise to the top even in teams that lack balance. Just look at the likes of Man Utd who can play awful football like last season and still make top 4! Still, I wouldn’t be backing them for Top 7 either!

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