3 Tactical Considerations as Cowleys Reshape Pompey for 2021/22 Season

By Max Bradley

After a turbulent campaign at Fratton Park last season, starting with one manager and ending with another, this summer gives an opportunity for new manager Danny Cowley, along with his assistant and brother Nick, to construct a team that can achieve results under their philosophy, their tactical regime.

For the 2021/22 season, here are three focal points of Pompey’s play to keep an eye on;

Ronan Curtis as Centre-Forward

We saw this a few times last season, most noticeable in the win against Rochdale in April as Ellis Harrison was injured, and John Marquis suspended.

However, with Harrison returning from injury and Marquis being ever present, it looks unlikely we’ll see Ronan lead the line too often next season, despite ex-manager Kenney Jackett’s claims. 

“While he can do that from the left, I think he does have the physicality to go up front.”

Somewhere along the line I think he will go up front.” – Kenny Jackett, via Portsmouth.co.uk

Additionally, the loss of Ryan Williams to Oxford United equates to even less depth at the wide positions, now leaving those duties to almost solely Harness and Curtis.

It looks more likely with this loss, that the manager will look for Curtis’ moments of brilliance from the wing, not as a number 9.

Passing the ball out from the back

With key parts to Pompey’s spine having left the club; MacGillivray, Whatmough and Naylor, the Cowleys’ may look for their replacements to side away from long goal kicks. 

Gavin Bazunu, the loanee replacement Goalkeeper was quoted as having great “speed around the box” and “outstanding distribution”. These attributes are key to keeping the pace of the game high and maintaining positive-thinking possession.

Moving the ball out quickly from the defence is something that I predict to be a focus of this coming season, along with the utilization of the wide areas.

It’s no doubt that Portsmouth are lacking depth in the squad in numerous positions, therefore the rest of the transfer window will really show how the manager truly looks to shape this team. 

Overlapping Full-Backs

Continuing with the positive, attacking ethos, forward thinking full-backs’ seem to be the final piece of the puzzle. 

The loss of James Bolton, who was part time right-back, part time central defender under Kenny Jackett, may look to be replaced by a player who is more capable of pushing forward and overlapping Harness on the right-hand side. 

Furthermore, Tom Naylor’s replacement, Shaun Williams, who enjoys slotting into a “false full-back position”, according to the manager, will provide cover for a forward flying full-back when such an opportunity arrives.

With pre-season beginning imminently, we’ll see how Portsmouth will prefer to set up after a significant overhaul at PO4 this summer. And with the transfer window yet to close, there’s opportunity for further activity, whether that be arrivals to or departures from the current squad.

Nevertheless, tactically speaking, we are very much on the edge of experiencing our first true taste of Cowleys’ Portsmouth.

Photo: James Baylis – AMA/Getty Images

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