Opposition Report – Portsmouth

Portsmouth will be heading to Bloomfield Road off the back of four games unbeaten in League One sitting 5th in the table. The Fratton Park side are under the stewardship of Kenny Jackett who has taken some criticism from Pompey fans in recent months in a season where they believe promotion is a must. They sit as the League’s top scorers this season with 26 goals and they will be hoping to rely on that against an ever-improving Blackpool side.

Here, I take a look at what we can expect from the visitors and what we’ll need to do in order to come away with three points.

How they set up

Pompey set up in a 4-4-2 which has seen them go back to basics under Jackett since scrutiny surrounding his play-off losses. They look to get the ball to their attacking outlets as quickly as possible with a direct approach, feeding the ball through to the middle into the final third wherever possible. Their game revolves around John Marquis, Ronan Curtis and Marcus Harness who have all chipped in with a number of goals this season. This was highlighted in our recent podcast with Portsmouth fan Hugh Bunce.

They are good at attacking set pieces and see this as a real bow in their arsenal with the likes of Sean Raggett dominating aerially. This also gives them an advantage when defending set pieces so our ability to break them down in open play will be key if we are to pick up a victory. They look to control the game in the opposition half, playing through the lines with purpose and letting off a lot of shots in order to keep up that momentum. They struggle more against sides who are aggressive against them so we need to be at it from the off and really go toe to toe with them.

It is very much a case of a big side relying on the individual quality of their players to pull them through games. There is not a clear identity or style in terms of what Jackett is trying to implement other than, get the ball into the forward areas. They concede a lot of chances in most games as I will allude to later in the analysis and pretty much every game in recent times has seen both teams score when involving Portsmouth. So in this sense, their defence is not the most solid, although they tend to dominate the game aerially. However, their goal conversion rate is immense and if you concede even a few chances to them, they are likely to take them in their current form.

What are the stats saying?

Stats via xG_Data

Across the whole of the League One season, Pompey have been underperforming their expected goals. Despite being the top scorers in the league already, they have tended to concede a fair bit as well and that has levelled out their actual league position to 5th. As you can see above, had results played out as expected in terms of chance creation, they would find themselves in the automatic promotion places.

Having said that, as you can see above, their last six games have told a different story. They are conceding more chances than they have across the rest of the season so far, however their clinical touch in front of goal has seen them amass a four game unbeaten run. They are outperforming their xG by five league positions in recent times so the underlying data suggests they haven’t performed as well as results are showing.

That overreliance on the clinical touch of the likes of Marquis, Curtis and Harness can be seen in a negative and positive light in Portsmouth’s case. On the positive side you can see how they are getting the most out of their key assets and that is what big clubs are supposed to do. On the other hand, the side I am looking at it from, they can carry the side to a certain extent but when there’s an overreliance on players over an actual fluid system, once one or two of them miss out through suspension or injury, that form is bound to drop significantly. It is already unsustainable as it is because those players are bound to have a blip at some point, as Ronan Curtis showed failing to score in his first few games of the season.

Last four League games

As you can see from the xG stats of the last four games, Portsmouth have outperformed their opponent only once – in the 3-1 victory at Lincoln. Their chance creation stats are very high on average and it’s clear that they are going to score against us on Tuesday. What the key is though is how many chances they are allowing their opponents to have. Pompey have been clinical as I previously mentioned in taking their chances and they have been fortunate that their opponents haven’t been. Plymouth and Oxford should both have won their games against them, both of those sides are aggressive in their play and look to match opposition sides where possible, we like to do the same and we need to do the same.

What I expect

I expect Portsmouth to be on the front foot and in our faces from the off. They will score and it’s vital we try and combat Harness and Curtis in the wide areas, pinning them back where possible in order to limit their ability to take chances. Having said that, if we pick our moments well, stick to what we know in the 4-4-2 system and counter with pace and fluidity, we will have a number of chances in the game. The game will be end to end I imagine and will come down to who is the most clinical on the day.

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Image: The Irish Times

Stats provided by: xG_Data & Who Scored

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