Jordy Hiwula’s attacking talents and improved performances could be the missing link to Pompey’s play-off success. The ex-Coventry City striker’s two goal haul in the Blues’ 3-0 win against Cheltenham Town in the Papa John’s Trophy was a reminder to the Fratton faithful of his offensive capabilities.
Despite missing nearly a full year of first team football after last season’s promotion accolade with the Sky Blues, Hiwula is now making a case to get his six-month contract extended to at least the end of the season.
Kenny Jackett has said that he is ‘edging’ towards keeping Hiwula beyond January.
Capable of playing on the left-wing or up front, the Manchester born attacker increases the forward options available to Kenny Jackett.
Style of play
Even playing in a reduced role under Mark Robins last year – playing only 1432 minutes in all competitions in the 2019-2020 season compared to 3500 the year before – Hiwula managed to use those performances to get a short-term contract at Pompey.
He primarily played on the left-wing in a 4-3-3 system which focused on counter-attacking football; creating chances through outnumbering opposition defensive lines when winning possession.
His role was an inside forward, hanging onto the last defender and chasing onto through balls when out of possession or cutting inside onto his right foot when on the ball.
The ex-England U19 international’s four goals in all competitions last season are a case in point.
His goals against Pompey and AFC Wimbledon last season were both on the counter attack and show a great deal of composure and confidence on the ball.
Although he was used less frequently, Hiwula’s analytics showed little regression, expecting to be on pace or to surpass his xG from when he started more games.
Analysing these 2019-2020 Wyscout stats* alongside Pompey’s current crop of wingers is a viable exercise, as Hiwula in 2019-2020, Ronan Curtis, Marcus Harness and Ryan Williams all had similar numbers of minutes.
Hiwula’s 5.1 expected goals rate is the second highest behind Ronan Curtis, meaning he scores only slightly below what he is expected to consider the quality of chances he created.
There are some question marks over his creativity in the underlying numbers.
For a player who seems comfortable in possession, his dribbling stats per 90 minutes and progressive runs – carrying the ball a lot closer to the opposition goal – lag behind his teammates.
He does however succeed in receiving possession in the opposition penalty area, averaging 4.09 penalty area touches per 90, further emphasising his role as an inside forward rather than a traditional winger.
Another weakness is Hiwula’s ability to keep the ball when dribbling and his lower passing rate compared to his teammates.
To succeed in Jackett’s 4-4-2, all the forwards need to have a range of passing from several places in order to capitalise on the mistakes of the opposition and attack them with pace.
The manager may question Hiwula’s passing acumen when choosing between all his options.
Either due to being used in a different role under Mark Robins or a technical limitation, Hiwula’s rarely passes to dangerous areas of the pitch or crosses the ball.
His passing rates are much lower comparatively, which you might expect given Portsmouth’s lack of focus on possession at times, but analysing each players passing accuracy paints a different picture.
For example, Hiwula’s passes to the final third are successful 73.1% of the time compared to Curtis’ 55.6%.
Although, Kenny Jackett may prefer the greater quantity of passes to dangerous areas which Curtis provides, 4.57 passes to the final third and 4.01 passes to the penalty area per 90 – alongside his 6.67 xG*, 2.53 xA and sheer impact he often has in games – but Hiwula is an effective alternative given his reasonably high accuracy stats.
Another sticking point could be Hiwula’s tackling and aptitude in duels.
As the Blues often focus on pressing and winning the ball high up the pitch, an unwillingness to compete will lead to Pompey creating few chances.
It is clear Hiwula does not get involved as much with contesting for the ball.
Ronan Curtis, who commits the highest number of duels with 29.85 duels per 90, has all the qualities which Hiwula has and more, with the defensive capabilities on top.
Despite often winning the ball high up the pitch, Hiwula’s incapability to win back possession consistently does not suit Pompey’s pressing style.
The most worrying stat is Hiwula’s offensive duels, challenges in possession and beating a defender.
A low rate of 5.91 offensive duels per 90 with a 34% chance of keeping the ball is concerning, as Pompey’s wingers need to hold onto possession high up the pitch to create chances.
Harness’ and Williams’ offensive duels – 12.93 per 90 with a 38.3% success rate and 11.04 per 90 with a 47.4% success rate – highlight their importance, as both players are staples in the Pompey starting XI.
But even with these deficiencies, Hiwula has the offensive and passing qualities to be an effective inside-forward or striker.
Jordy Hiwula’s future at Portsmouth
Overall, Hiwula is a useful piece of Kenny Jackett’s promotion puzzle and should have his contract extended until the end of the season.
He is by no means a perfect fit but would be an excellent option to bring off the bench when Pompey are chasing the game or are sitting deep and need a clinical left-sided player who can take his chances and can link-up well with strikers.
His off-the-ball analytics are concerning but no judgements should be made of his character and lack of effort.
The road back into first team football has been long for Hiwula.
Not having a club until October, missing preseason and lockdowns stunted his development, but he has consistently improved in every appearance he’s made in a blue shirt.
He’s determined to earn a permanent place on the south-coast, and he’s definitely making big steps forward towards that goal.
Photo: Nigel Keene