Portsmouth’s 1-0 defeat against Fleetwood was a familiar display of how bad the Blues can play at their worst. Uncreative. One-dimensional. Disappointing.
With Ellis Harrison injured in the warm-up, John Marquis played as an attacking midfielder (CAM) behind target-man Oli Hawkins.
What followed was a sputtering offensive performance, with the Blues first half display being one of the worst of the season.
Hawkins was isolated and Marquis could not provide the link between the midfield and the wingers, which Cannon has done brilliantly whenever he’s played.
Fleetwood consequentially dominated the midfield and Curtis and Harness were limited to simply hitting aimless crosses into the penalty area.
Due to the lack of control in midfield, Pompey failed to have a shot until the 55th minute. Fleetwood goalkeeper Alex Cairns might as well have been sitting in a deck chair.Scoring chances were only created when Marquis played as a striker, with Marcus Harness playing at CAM behind him.
The attacking midfield role simply does not suit Marquis’ skillset. Many fans have been disappointed with his goal return since his summer move, considering a transfer fee believed to be in the region of £1.5 million, scoring only 12 times in 40 appearances in all competitions.
He has not performed as expected for two reasons. Firstly, Kenny Jackett failed to adapt his tactics for much of the season.
As I previously outlined in the summer, the former Doncaster star scores goals from high paced crosses and counter attacks with through balls.
Too often, the Blues only get it half right. Marquis is not getting enough clear goalscoring opportunities and that is partially due to him playing as an attacking midfielder, playing over a third of his games in midfield.
There are no qualms over his work ethic, but it is clear he is uncomfortable in a deeper role and does not know how to drive play.
More importantly, he does not have the tools to help the midfield employ a high press, which has been integral to Pompey’s historic winning streak at Fratton Park.
In an ideal world without the injuries, Cannon would start, as he makes more successful forward passes, links up both wings with the midfield and makes enough duels to disrupt the oppositions midfield.
Gareth Evans makes an interesting offensive alternative with his dribbling and his ability to win the ball high up the pitch. But he does not have the same defensive acumen as Cannon, which is exactly what Kenny Jackett wants from his CAM.
Pompey’s CAM has never been a traditional playmaker, more like a more aggressive box-to-box midfielder, creating space for both the wingers and strikers when counter attacking or in possession.
For a player to be successful there, they need to press high and win back possession. Out of these four players, Marquis is obviously the weakest at that skillset.
Statistically, Pompey lose the ball more often and recover it less with Marquis in midfield. This lack of control over possession is what causes the Blues midfield to get overrun and the infamous #Jackettball long passes to happen.
The Blues lose so much by forcing a goalscoring striker to play as a midfield with the task of controlling possession and driving play. McGeehan and Evans provide suitable replacements for Cannon if his injury persists.
Quite simply, place round pegs in round holes and Marquis in midfield is definitely not a round peg for the CAM position.
Photo: Joe Pepler