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Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Focus: Portsmouth writer Freddie is “intrigued’ by their links with Sunderland’s Denver Hume!

Ahead of Sunderland’s match today, Matty spoke to writer Freddie Webb of Portsmouth News & PompeyNewsNow to get the lowdown on Danny Cowley’s side!

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Danny Cowley, formerly linked with Sunderland, replaced Kenny Jacket as Portsmouth manager last season, how would you describe his tenure so far?

Freddie Webb: His tenure has been one many expected.

The fans love Danny and Nicky Cowley as personalities, because they’re honest, speak a lot of sense, and focus on an attractive style of football that supporters have wanted for a long time.

It’s a massive rebuilding project here. The player turnover has been huge, performances have been very up and down, and the squad hasn’t finished being built yet. Overall though, his tenure is going well to start with.

MC: Portsmouth are currently 9th in League One, five points away from the playoffs - do you still have optimism that you can make a late promotion charge?

FW: Pompey will be in and around the playoffs for the rest of the season.

There are sparks of quality in the squad, and the style of play is aggressive and forward-thinking enough where the team can go on a major run.

Pompey went ten matches in the league unbeaten after an awful 4-0 home loss to Ipswich, and any team that has 13 clean sheets already in the league is a good side.

There are glaring holes in the side at present. A prolific striker was needed desperately, and hopefully Tyler Walker can be that now. The side is still quite far off being a definite promotion contender though.

MC: Cowley’s side have one of the best defences in League One, but they’re also the lowest scorers in the top 15, is that purely down to your style of play?

FW: In the first few matches, when Portsmouth used a back-four, the side was more defensive. The style of play isn’t restrictive though with the 3-5-2.

Pompey are one of the most aggressive pressing teams in the league and can attack with pace and flair at times. Defenders like Sean Raggett, Conor Ogilvie and Mahlon Romeo have been excellent this season, and Gavin Bazunu looks to be a world-class goalkeeper in the making, I don’t know what he’s doing playing in League One.

Pompey’s woes going forward are twofold. In some games, the service to the attackers has been poor, not from a stylistic point of view, but individual passes and crosses have been bad.

And secondly, Pompey’s attackers haven’t been taking enough chances – 34.45xG according to Wyscout compared to 29 goals. Players like Harness, Curtis and Hurst can produce some excellent build-up play, crisp defence splitting passes along the floor, but then fail to convert at the end.

It can be rough at times, but is still a major improvement from the previous direct style of football under Kenny Jackett.

Gillingham v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One
Danny Cowley finished 8th in League One during his first season as manager of Portsmouth.
Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images

MC: Sunderland left-back Denver Hume has been strongly linked with joining Portsmouth this month - would you welcome that addition to your squad?

FW: I’ve seen mixed reactions to Hume. Some Sunderland fans like him, and others would probably drive him all the way down to the south coast to see the back of him.

He’s had troubles with injuries and Covid this season, which worries me. Although, from what I’ve seen of him, and his stats from last season, he’s a good crossing of the ball, can be an aggressive forward-thinking wing-back and can link up play well.

I’m intrigued by Pompey’s links with him.

MC: Portsmouth big money signing John Marquis left the club to join Lincoln earlier this week, would you say that he was worth the £2m?

FW: I liked Marquis and thought he was a good player at times, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out, and the move didn’t fit his price tag.

His tenacity, hard work, and movement off the ball in certain games was excellent, especially playing in a 4-4-2 last season, 18 goals in all competitions wasn’t a bad return.

However, he underperformed his xG every season at Fratton Park, meaning he couldn’t take as much of his goalscoring chances as he could have.

His link-up play was also poor, and haven’t seen a player with a worse first-touch in a long time. He gave a lot to Pompey and I’m grateful for it, but a lot of fans will think his time here was disappointing.

MC: In terms of reinforcements, Cowley has recruited both Tyler Walker and Hayden Carter from Championship clubs on loan - were you pleased with those two signings?

FW: Pompey desperately needed a right-footed centre-back and a striker, both those spots are filled.

Carter played nine games for Premier league chasing Blackburn this season, and looks very accomplished on the ball and when defending. This is exactly the steadying presence we need.

I’ve liked Tyler Walker for a while, he’s a proper penalty-box striker with excellent movement off the ball. Although his passing stats aren’t the best and considering how the 3-4-1-2 relies on attackers building up play, I’m worried he might run in the same problems as Marquis did.

Hopefully, Cowley can get similar form out of Walker like he did at Lincoln City.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
New Portsmouth striker Tyler Walker scored a brace against Sunderland during a 2-0 win for Lincoln back in 2019.
Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

MC: Heading into the match, which Pompey players will Sunderland have to be wary of during the match?

FW: Gavin Bazunu is arguably Pompey’s best player. His aggressive style of sweeper keeping has kept the Blues in a lot of games.

Joe Morrell is a cultured midfielder who makes everything tick, but has struggled since coming back from a virus.

Harness is the best attacking threat Pompey has, as he can skin opposition players, make killer passes and has an eye for goal himself.

MC: Which eleven players do you think Cowley will select and what style of play can Lee Johnson’s men expect to encounter?

FW: (3-4-1-2) Gavin Bazunu, Hayden Carter, Sean Raggett, Connor Ogilvie, Mahlon Romeo, Joe Morrell, Louis Thompson, Reeco Hackett, Marcus Harness, George Hurst, Tyler Walker.

Pompey will play with an aggressive high press and hope to capitalize on winning the ball high up the pitch and attacking with pace.

They don’t sit deep defensively and are comfortable in possession, mainly trying to make killer passes through the middle of the pitch, and stretching the play by switching the ball to the wide areas frequently.

MC: Portsmouth thrashed Sunderland 4-0 at Fratton Park earlier this season, what is your prediction for the final score?

FW: 2-1 Portsmouth – Walker with a brace.


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