Matt Clarke has completed his long-anticipated move away from Fratton Park. After spending four years at the club, the centre-back has joined Brighton for an undisclosed fee.
With the frozen playing budget at the club and the 20% sell on clause owed to Ipswich, the fee is integral for Pompey to have a successful transfer window.
Although, my focus is on the player himself and why Clarke deserves his big money move.
Brighton are getting the best centre-back in League 1, who has the potential to go far beyond the division.
Clarke is the archetypal ball-playing centre-back; having the ability to pass the ball out from the back and be a dominant force in the air.
When playing next to Jack Whatmough, Clarke was part of the best centre-back partnership I have seen at Fratton Park since Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin.
Defensively, Clarke is dominant in all facets of the game. He’s strong in the air with a high aerial duel win % and is rarely outmuscled when man-marking a target-man striker.
The Ipswich Town academy product is above the average League 1 centre-back in every defensive metric, including winning nearly all of his aerial and defensive duels.
Figure 1 Clarke’s defensive metrics compared to the average League 1 centre-back:
Clarke is defensively dominant but it is his offensive contributions which make him a special player. Even as a centre-back, he has the ability to pick out multiple types of passes.
He is comfortable making short passes to his goalkeeper and defensive teammates, or more direct passes to a central playmaker or forwards.
His dribbling is also second to none in the division for defenders, often going on long forward runs and contributing in the final third. These long forward runs helped Pompey break down opposition midfields many times this season.
To conclude, Clarke is a centre-back which any team should want in their starting XI. At the age of 22, he’s already made 175 total appearances for Portsmouth. He has the prime of his career ahead of him and can only get better. Brighton fans might scoff at the fact that the club have gone out of their way to sign a defender from League 1 but Clarke is a hidden gem.
With time, trust and being given the freedom to play to his strengths, Clarke can be a potential premier-league star. Brighton fans should be excited.
I’ll miss Clarke at Fratton Park but he deserves to play at a much higher level of football and I wish him luck taking the step up to the Premier League.
Photo: Andrew Hurdle