Saturday, 29 August 2009

Portsmouth preview

I wrote before the Blackburn game that our season would be defined by our ability to neutralise or to conquer the battlefields of the bottom half. Last season we took six points from a possible thirty in those games. If we are to do anything this year, we need to be pushing eighteen or even twenty. We got this particular campaign off to a good start, and have a points ratio - 3 from a possible 3 - which I don't imagine will be maintained. Nevertheless, the momentum must be continued tomorrow.

The problem is that we are up against a quite familiar force. Just under one year ago, we smashed Portsmouth at home while buoyed by 'Arab takeover bounce'. The Portsmouth team we face tomorrow, limited as they are, will be riding the very same Arab takeover bounce that was their downfall last September. The fortune of last autumn has come full circle. Since their takeover, Portsmouth have embarked on an acquisition spree which is reminiscent more of the early days of the Shinawatra era than the ADUG one. Just this week they've signed Aruna Dindane, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Tommy Smith, Jamie O'Hara and of course Michael Brown - the young star of the Alan Ball, Steve Coppell and Frank Clark eras.

So I'm not feeling very confident about this. Let's not forget either our terrible record at Fratton Park. We've taken one point from our last four visits there: a drab 0-0 under Eriksson which followed two 2-1 defeats under Pearce (the first more dramatic than the second), but neither of which were as bad as the disgraceful 2-0 defeat there.

And there's one other, better, reason for caution this evening. I have this feeling that our three results thus far this season: 2-0, 1-0 and 2-0 have painted a quite inaccurate portrait of how those three games have gone. In all three matches we have both created and conceded many more goal-scoring opportunities than the results suggest. With our new 4-2-4 formation games always remain open and it is only profligate finishing and the brilliance of Shay Given that have kept them so scarce in goals. I'm not saying that we haven't deserved our wins. We are, in fact, due to beat someone heavily. That could well be Portsmouth. But we are also due to concede a few, and could well have a draw or defeat meet us soon.

It's for this reason that I'd advocate a slight change in the system: dropping one of the front four and adding an extra man into midfield. The replacement is obvious - Nigel de Jong - but the replaced is a bit harder. But with consideration it can only be the one forward who has contributed the least in the three games thus far: Robinho. This should give us more control in midfield while maintaining pace and incision up front. I would also bring Zabaleta in at right-back. My best guess, though, is that Hughes will stick with the team that won at Selhurst Park. Prediction? 2-1 to Portsmouth.


Daniel said...

I think you've got this one wrong. Portsmouth don't have the firepower to threaten us and their defending has been atrocious. Michael Brown adds some dirty tackles but little else. We've got to take all 3 points at Fratton Park. 2-0 City.

newsoftheblues said...

robinho has been better than ireland.