Portsmouth signing ex-Gillingham stalwart Connor Ogilvie is a major coup for defensive success

By Freddie Webb

The PO4cast approved signing of Connor Ogilvie offers much-needed utility, solidity, and depth to Danny Cowley’s back-four.

Signing on a two-year deal, with a club option of a third, the former Gillingham defender was one of the best free-agent defensive fullbacks available within Pompey’s budget.

Capable of playing left-back or centre-back, Ogilvie is a flexible option for locking down a defensive line and making it more reliable.

His defensive analytics have been among the best for fullbacks in League One across several seasons and he can contribute going forward in certain situations.

Under Steve Evans, the 25-year-old was used for near-post flick-ons from long-throws, man-marking creative wingers and marshalling a defensive line in a counter-attacking system.

The fourth goal is set up by Ogilvie’s flick-on header.

Ogilvie’s experience – 171 appearances for the Gills across four seasons – is a major asset for Pompey’s new-look defence as he’s been there and done it at this level.

The quicker a back-four stabilises, the more reliable they are.

Even though he’s a more defensive orientated player, he can support Pompey’s attack.

Compared to Lee Brown, Ogilvie gets himself into higher quality scoring positions, understandable given that he’s six foot tall and was often tasked to create chances from set-pieces.

More impressively, the Essex born defender is strong at regaining possession in multiple ways.

Out of every fullback who played 900 or more minutes in League One, Ogilvie’s 66.04% success rate in all competitions ranks him as 11th highest and fourth-best for left-backs.

His aerial duel success rate is average but his offensive duel success rate – a challenge where the player’s in possession – was the highest for fullbacks in League One.

Cowley’s system relies on a high press and expansive fullbacks, so having someone who can effectively maintain possession and recycle play is crucial, as Pompey could easily get counter-attacked if they lose the ball high up the pitch.

Ogilvie is also positionally aware due to his high number of interceptions, covering space for his teammates and getting stuck in to alleviate chances.

The Blues manager has mentioned numerous times about wanting to play fast, attacking football, so having defenders who are tenacious and obsessed with winning the ball back are essential.

Brown and Ogilvie offer that quality, and Pompey has finally sorted out their depth issues on the left side.

But despite the many defensive qualities the Blues’ new signing offers, some of his attacking analytics are underwhelming.

Even when you bare in mind the defensive style of play at Gillingham and his appearances at centre-back – 15 out of 51 according to Transfermarkt – some of his passing stats are poor.

Passing accuracy does rely on numerous factors out of the player’s control, but Ogilvie will have to improve his crossing and shorter-range passing to fit in at Fratton Park.

Brown offers a more reliable and greater range of passing according to the analytics and makes more offensive passes.

Fans have been crying out for a more attack-minded left-back for many seasons after Steve Seddon impressed in his loan spell in 2020.

Ronan Curtis needs cover when he cuts inside onto his right foot, but also an outlet high up the pitch for through balls.

Brown has been criticised for his mobility, and Ogilvie seems even more defensive when looking at certain stats. He also rarely dribbles, averaging only 1.01 per 90.

One area where he’s effective though is deep completed passes, and Pompey have had success in breaking down opposition defences and creating chances from them before.

A deep completed pass is a ground ball that’s made 22 yards from goal.

This covers most of the penalty area and these passes are usually through balls between the gaps in defence.

Marcus Harness’ goal against Shrewsbury Town last campaign involves multiple deep completed passes to allow the winger to have a clear shot on goal.

Ogilvie is average when compared to other League One fullbacks for deep completed passes per 90 at 0.65. His low number of deep completed crosses is down to how little he crosses the ball in general.

With this in mind, Ogilvie can be relied upon to play the ball around the penalty area when pushed up but will have to work on his crossing to create more chances.

Overall, the defender is a great signing for Pompey and solves a lot more problems than he creates. Signing one of the division’s best defensive players on a free is a coup considering Pompey’s transfer struggles.

His utility makes up for the depth problems at centre-back – even though another one is necessary in my opinion – and his strong capability to win possession and maintain it suits Pompey’s style of play.

Even though Brown and Ogilvie are more defensively orientated compared to the Blues’ options at right-back, the squad is still well balanced enough at both ends of the pitch.

Both flanks can be used to create chances, considering Ogilvie’s deep completed passes and Cowley’s preference for his sides to switch play quickly.

I’d rather have a defensively reliable fullback and build from there rather than having a defensive liability who creates a lot.

Work needs to be done for Ogilvie to be a complete fullback, but he is certainly a great addition to Pompey’s squad.

Photo: Portsmouth FC

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