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[FM22] The Ballad of Benjani - Phase 4 - The emotional high point has been reached - How far long will he keep this up?


13th Man
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2 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Great, I've waited all year for a topic that talks in Kiswahili - and it ends up being in Portsmouth :lol:

Hakuna matata, nzuri sana :cool:

Ha! Love it! It had to be Portsmouth…

Not, you know, a language Benjani speaks but until recently “Africa” was basically one country to Disney/America. They’ve been better lately (Disney anyway) so we’ll have to see if they do it right for the actual film…(when I sell them the rights and all that)

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2 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

Ha! Love it! It had to be Portsmouth…

Not, you know, a language Benjani speaks but until recently “Africa” was basically one country to Disney/America. They’ve been better lately (Disney anyway) so we’ll have to see if they do it right for the actual film…(when I sell them the rights and all that)

Indeed, Zimbabwe is very far from the Swahili-speaking lands of East Africa. But it's Benjani, his (your) movie can be in whatever language he wants :cool:

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Scene 6 - Luck

2 November 2022

Fratton Park

Portsmouth v Lincoln Town

 

Pundit - “A very strange few months with begin here at Fratton Park as Portsmouth host Lincoln in a clash of last year’s League One winners against last year’s League One playoff winners.  Last year, Portsmouth finished twenty-three points ahead of Lincoln, but now they lie only four points apart.  After this, the Championship will have another round of games at the weekend, before the World Cup in Qatar does its damage to the fixture list…”

 

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[I won't actually be covering the last two games in this update, but look how weird this schedule is!  Anyone else get anything like this?  Two weeks off, one game, two weeks off, another game, three weeks off...]

 

“...it will be challenging for any team to get into any sort of rhythm, but it might do well for a team like Portsmouth who started the season so brightly and seem to have lost their way in recent months…”

 

Cut to the 87th minute.

 

Portsmouth 1 v Lincoln Town 1

 

“...it has been a game dominated by Portsmouth, but in a theme that has run throughout the season, Portsmouth have looked amazing between the boxes, and suspect in their own box and in the final third.  They’ve managed to pull one back through Harrison, but time is running out for the home side to bag all three points as they look to arrest their slide down the table.  Morrell [CM] is there to intercept in midfield.  Johnson [WB] to his right…Johnson carries down the right flank, looking to cross…no, he pulls it back to Fiabema [IF] just outside the box.  Fiabema drives into the box, beats his man for pace but he’s too wide…NO, he lays a ball across the six yard box for…WILLIAMS SCORES!!! The left wingback playing at left winger due to all the injuries SCORES FOR PORTSMOUTH IN THE DYING MINUTES!!!”

 

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5 November 2022

Hawthorns

89th Minute

West Brom 1 - Portsmouth 1

 

“...Wisdom [WCB] plays it to Harness [IF]…into Morrell [RPM].  Morrell turns at the halfway line…sends a wonderful diagonal to Fiabema who’s making a great run in from the left. Pinto’s right with him but Fiabema manages to get there first, he takes a touch and…he has a go!!! OOO AND IT’S IN!!! ONE TOUCH TO CONTROL AND ANOTHER TO HIT AN UNSTOPPABLE SHOT FROM 25 YARDS!!! The nineteen year old has just scored one of the goals of the season here at the Hawthorns!”

 

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“Portsmouth have played some wonderful football but it must be said that they’ve stolen this one based on the chances West Brom have created.  The away support couldn’t care less though, it’s bedlam in the stands!”

 

22 November 2022

Fratton Park

Portsmouth v Stoke City

 

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“...As lucky as Portsmouth were against West Brom a few weeks back, they are just as unlucky here against Stoke City.  They completely controlled the game but were undone by one Stoke corner and were never able to take advantage of their many chances….”

 

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Cut to a studio review.

 

Pundit one - “Portsmouth are just a confounding side this season. They’ve become a second team to a lot of people watching the Championship - they play glorious football at times, and whenever you watch them, you know it’ll be an interesting game. The results simply haven’t followed, however, but lately it also seems like a coin is flipped before the game which decides whether they will be tremendously fortunate, or tremendously unlucky.”

 

Pundit two - “I have to agree, I mean, look at their last two games! They hit the post twice, create all kids of chances against Stoke and lose. Against Redding, they are under pressure all game long, Redding miss a handful of sitters, and Portsmouth score on their only decent chance!”

 

Pundit one - “When you look at the stats, they’re one of the most proficient passing sides in the league, with only Norwich, Watford, Swansea and Cardiff ahead of them in passes per game and passing percentage…”

 

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“...Cardiff are in the relegation zone, but the other sides are some of the teams with the most quality in the Championship.  However, it seems like the problem comes in the final third, where they’ve generally been underwhelming.  They’re one of the worst teams in the league at creating chances and that’s probably why they find themselves in the lower parts of the table…"

 

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Pundit three - “You know, I’m just going to come out and say it, I think it's a problem of quality - Portsmouth simply don’t have much of it.  When they were promoted I think a lot of people expected them to make a few moves, maybe clear out some of the underperforming players, but instead Benjani just kept with the same exact squad.  They were a good League One side, a great one really, but there’s only a handful of players in that team that can really compete at this level.  Benjani deserves credit for making a system that is getting enough results to keep them up, but the blame for not improving the squad also rests on his shoulders.”

 

Pundit one - “Interesting thoughts, and maybe it's just that simple. Sometimes it is just a matter of quality.  Now, as the season approaches the midway point, Portsmouth will hope to secure their survival in the Championship.  Right now they’re in decent shape, but it would only take a few poor results for them to drop down towards the relegation zone.  Reports also say that they have little to no money to spend in January, and will have to make do with the squad they have.  Now, we turn our attention to another recently promoted side in Ipswich who, unlike Portsmouth, have taken the step up in stride and are competing near the top of the Championship and are challenging for back-to-back promotions…”

 

UP NEXT - Principals

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1 minute ago, karanhsingh said:

Seems like your team is lacking some cutting edge though...

You can say that again.  Was true in League One, but Portsmouth got enough chances and were dominant enough that it all worked out.  With the step up it hasn't worked the same anymore...

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  • 2 weeks later...

For anyone waiting with baited breath for updates - I had a bit of a hiatus with crazy work, family fun time for the holidays, and getting sick (Christmas with sick children is the best!).  Actually had a marathon session a few weeks back so I'm actually close to the end of the season but the writing has been slow due to all the above.  I should have an update in the next day or two, and I'll be trying to make my way through what I've missed in other threads as well...though maybe slowly.

Edited by 13th Man
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I know how it is to not have the time.... but I took a different route played so much I never had time to write! I got so far ahead that I decided to stop.

 

Hope you had a Happy Holidays!  

I will be waiting with baited breath, until next year!

 

 

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On 31/12/2021 at 10:54, 13th Man said:

For anyone waiting with baited breath for updates - I had a bit of a hiatus with crazy work, family fun time for the holidays, and getting sick (Christmas with sick children is the best!).  Actually had a marathon session a few weeks back so I'm actually close to the end of the season but the writing has been slow due to all the above.  I should have an update in the next day or two, and I'll be trying to make my way through what I've missed in other threads as well...though maybe slowly.

Happy new year mate! Hope things have settled down now and your kids are alright. I'm in a similar boat too. Look forward to your next update 

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Apologies for all the delays.  There were some production issues with the actor playing winger Marcus Harness arguing about the amenities in his trailer.  The issues have been resolved now (with prejudice) and shooting is back on schedule.

[I'm actually nearly done with the season in game, but it'll take me a bit to get caught up]

Without further ado...

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Scene 7 - Principals

Fade in to Benjani’s office, where the man himself is leaning back in a large office chair rubbing his temples.  A picture of his family can be seen behind him, along with the Portsmouth crest painted on the wall.

 

“Okay,” he leans forward, “tell me, Joe, is it my tactics?  Am I trying to do too much here?"

 

Dunne shrugs, “I mean, you know I think we should be a bit more cautious in general, but the players just aren’t doing the simple things right either.”

 

Benjani sighs with a nod, “We’re not set up to absorb pressure, and I don’t want to completely change the way we’re set up unless we have to.”

 

“And we are on course to stay up!”

 

“True,” Benjani leans forward,  “but that’s not enough. Not when I know we can do better.”

 

It’s Dunne’s turn to nod.

 

“I hate to blame any players,” Benjani continues, “and I told myself I would stick with them as long as possible, but as we’re about halfway through the season I think I’ve given everyone more than enough of a chance.  It’s been the same all year, we look fantastic in the middle of the pitch, but in the attacking and defending third we’re just…poor.”

 

“I think the front three, whoever’s playing, has been disappointing.”

 

Benjani nods, “But so has the service. And we make silly defensive errors game after game. So where do we improve? Which is the issue? And the other question is, do we keep going with the players that got us here, or start giving the youngsters more chances?” He pauses, hands together. “We got no transfer funds, no real interest from elsewhere for our players, so we’re going to have to make do with the squad we have. So how can we make improvements? We have to look at the players we have, see who’s been disappointing and who could use more playing time. Let’s break it down, player by player…”

 

“Oh!” Dunne says excitedly, “I’m so ready for this!”

 

Benjani raises an eyebrow with a bemused smile. Dunne looks at him with a smile as he types on his laptop and spins the screen around so that Benjani can see it. The camera cuts to over Benjani's shoulder and we see a ton of stats and data on various players.

 

“Who should we talk about first?” Dunne asks, drumming the table.

 

Benjani leans forward again and the camera starts a slow surround shot [think Michael Bay but on less caffeine…or maybe other substances] as the two discuss the team. 

“Let’s start with the right forward. Is it Marcus underperforming? Or is it the role?”

 

Marcus Harness

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Cut to Harness [right IF] dribbling into cul-de-sacs, mishitting passes, and blasting shots over the top of the net.

 

Cut back to the office.

 

“No one’s looked good there,” Dunne sighs, “but Marcus has been consistently…inconsistent.”

 

“He was unstoppable those first few games of the year - four goals in three games! - but I think that’s blinded me to his lack of form since.”

 

Dunne nods, “Ronan [Curtis]hasn’t been any better playing there, but he’s had some good games on the left and through the middle. And just some good games period. When he’s not injured of course. Can’t say that with Marcus.”

 

Ronan Curtis

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Cut to Curtis drifting about the pitch, ball watching, giving a poor pass after seeming surprised that the ball had come to him. Cut to him again, in an away kit, walking near the edge of the penalty area. Close up of his face, which suddenly seems to switch on. He sprints into an open space in the box, the ball comes in and he leaps up to drive a powerful header past the keeper.

 

Cut back to Dunne and Benjani.

 

“I like that he can play across the front three,” Benjani mused, “and he’s never terrible, but he drifts in and out of games. The lad does just seem to score, just not consistently.”

“Speaking of inconsistent,” Dunne says, “Ellis is a fascinating player…”

 

Ellis Harrison

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Cut to Harrison dominating a fullback to score at the far post with a header, then him scoring from the edge of the area with a powerful shot, then him pouncing on a rebound…then him sending a free header over the bar, him blasting the ball into a defender, and him not even trying for a ball that would have been a tap in.

 

Cut to the office.

 

“He’s frustrating,” Benjani sighs. “On his day he’s great, but whether he scores seems dependent on the scoreline. He’s won us games, but I don’t think he’s ever saved us a point or turned a game around.”

 

“Yeah,” Dunne agrees, “score once and he’s unstoppable, they score and his head goes down and he just mopes around. He’s just the opposite of John [Marquis - CF].”

 

“Oh John,” Benjani chuckles, “I definitely have a soft spot for the lad…”

 

John Marquis

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Cut to a quick succession of Marquis running to a spot, receiving a pass and moving it along with one or two touches, then him relentlessly harassing defenders and intercepting the ball.

 

Cut to the office.

 

“He does suffer from goal droughts…” Dunne muttered.

 

“I’ll admit,” Benjani continues, “he reminds me a bit of myself as a player…but I think even when he’s not scoring he’s vital to how we play.”

 

“We’re not the same when he’s not playing,” Dunne nods, “Last, we have young Bryan…”

 

Bryan Fiabema

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Cut to the pitch, where we see a young man, full of pace causing trouble for defenses. He then hits the post, shots into the keeper, and loses the ball on the dribble…but each time he doesn’t wallow. Then we see his wonder goal against West Brom - a one touch control before unleashing an unstoppable shot from 30 yards.

 

Cut to the office.

 

Benjani nods, “Yeah. My mind is made up. He might not always make the right choice, and he’s still raw, but he’s been performing as well as anyone and he has the right mentality. Better to give a young man the chances to develop then stick with underperforming players that aren’t any better. So…now we have two players I can rely on to at least keep going, keep trying, even when we're struggling, but three starting positions to fill.”

 

“And that’s not counting the need to rotate…If only…if we had a two striker system…Ellis [Harrison] and Ronan [Curtis] to rotate in would be perfect.”

Benjani’s eyes go wide. “Two up front! You’re brilliant!”

 

“Boss,” Dunne chocks his head, “the 5-2-1-2 hasn’t been effective at all and it puts Marcus [Harness] right back in the starting line up…”

 

“No, not the 5-2-1-2…a 5-3-2. Two mezzalas and a deep, holding playmaker…”

 

“That would totally change…” Dunne pauses and his eyes go wide, “…would not change the way we attack! And it’d mean more chances for Alessandro.”

 

Allessandro Mallamo

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Cut to Mallamo dribbling through the center, getting in and around the box…and scoring with a rocket from distance.

 

Back to the office.

 

“We brought him in for nothing,” Benjani nods, “but he’s been playing well every chance we give him.  I didn’t think he’d be great for the roaming playmaker or box-to-box roles we normally play, but he’s been fantastic.  Thing is, Joe [Morrell] has just simply been solid. One of our few consistent players, so we don’t want to push him out.  The 5-3-2 gives both of them the opportunity to be on the pitch at the same time.”

 

Joe Morrell

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Cut to metronomic passing from the midfielder, passing and moving, popping up all around the area and always available for a pass.

 

“So” Dunne asks, “you’re thinking Allessandro as an attacking mezzala, Morrell as the support mezzala, and Tunnicliffe as the holding midfielder? He’s been solid enough in that role, but his aggression might be useful higher up the pitch.”

 

Ryan Tunnicliffe

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Cut to Tunnicliffe throwing himself about, some crunching tackles, and some runs from deep.

 

“Yeah,” Benjani said, “but I’d like o have Allessandro and Joe as the two Mezzalas.  I don’t want to leave Morrell back deep…but I do want a good passer back there…”

 

The two of them look at each other and say in unison “Dylan Levitt!”

 

Transfer Alert

 

Cut to a local pundit - “...and Portsmouth have made a move today, signing former Manchester United academy player Dylan Levitt on a free for a reported £3.4K per week.  Portsmouth tried to sign him over the summer, but he failed his medical due to the severe achilles injury he suffered last year while on loan at Dundee United.  The twenty-two year old is a bit of a surprising move for a side already packed with midfielders and with Benjani usually only playing a two man midfield, but Levitt is considered a quality passer and a great technician who will slot right into Portsmouth’s possession based style.  He won’t be able to play until the New Year when the transfer window opens, but Portsmouth fans will still get the chance to see the new man in action as they play out a few friendlies during the World Cup break…”

 

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Cut to Benjani on the tactic board with the squad gathered around.

 

“Alright boys,” Benjani began, “we’ll be using these long breaks between games to train up a new shape.  We’ll play no different, we’ll attack no different, but the emphasis and movement will be a bit different.  We’ll still be focusing on the channels, on creating overloads in the halfspaces.  But rather than having runners come in from the wings and going out to in, we’ll be attacking from deep and going from in to out…"

 

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“It’s a 5-3-2," Benjani continues, "but with the two outer midfielders focusing on linking with the wingbacks and the forwards in the channels with only the deep playmaker staying put.”

 

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“John [Marquis], your role will be much the same, but the attacking mezzala - Allessandro [Mallamo] - you’ll be looking to push into the space he creates in the right channel.  Alright, let’s get to shadow play.  We’re looking to try this out in our two Belgian friendlies…”

 

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[Note - some sharp eyed people may notice that the personnel don’t quite match the story, but as directors we must make some creative liberties in service of the plot.]

 

UP NEXT - Everything’s the same but something is different 

 

Also there will be some tactic explorations to come on this new 5-3-2 / 3-5-2…

 

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Interesting Tactical change. 

The fact that you sort of think of it as 3-5-2 intrigues me!

I still have a hard time wrapping my head around where the players end up due to their roles as to where they are placed on the tactics screen.

I played a flat 3-5-2 for a while with Grenoble in a Career on this site. I thought of it as a 4-3-3 killer! and I did it because I saw Premier League sides IRL using it according to the pundits.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

I still have a hard time wrapping my head around where the players end up due to their roles as to where they are placed on the tactics screen.

I’ll get into it more in future posts, but the 3-5-2/5-3-2 actually looks a lot like the 3-4-3 in possession and, if anything, is actually more attacking. The two mez really get forward and attack those channels, and having two forwards adds a lot of penetration with the AF while the DLF creates overloads and nightmares for CBs as it drops deep. It’s also definitely a 3-5-2 in the sense that the wingbacks are often in line with the AF in attack, nevermind the midfield.

2 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Nice, i like the new shape. Have you tried a WCB on attack yet?

I sometimes use the right sided WCB on attack but haven’t seen much success…or failure really. The 3-5-2 does give him space to attack and my young CB Hamilton is a fantastic passer and dribbler, but a poor crosser. I’m still curious to really give that one a proper try though!

Edited by 13th Man
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3 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

I’ll get into it more in future posts, but the 3-5-2/5-3-2 actually looks a lot like the 3-4-3 in possession and, if anything, is actually more attacking. The two mez really get forward and attack those channels, and having two forwards adds a lot of penetration with the AF while the DLF creates overloads and nightmares for CBs as it drops deep. It’s also definitely a 3-5-2 in the sense that the wingbacks are often in line with the AF in attack, nevermind the midfield.

I sometimes use the right sided WCB on attack but haven’t seen much success…or failure really. The 3-5-2 does give him space to attack and my young CB Hamilton is a fantastic passer and dribbler, but a poor crosser. I’m still curious to really give that one a proper try though!

Yes me too - unfortunately I think my back 3 experiments will need to be held until my next save... 

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Time for a kind of messy update.  I just finished the season so and need to start catching up.  Should I have just done a quick update where I just say what happened, do the tactics a bit and go from there?  Absolutely. Did I do that?  No.  I kept up with the movie thing for better or for worse [probably worse] but I'm in it deep now and there seems no going back....

NOW ON WITH THE SHOW!

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Scene 8 - Everything’s the same but something is different

31 December 2022

Fratton Park

Portsmouth v West Brom

 

“Welcome to Fratton Park, where a strange League schedule pits Portsmouth against West Brom for the second time in six games. Portsmouth won an even game at the Hawthorns through a Bryan Fiabema wonder goal, and the Baggies will be looking for revenge. With Portsmouth still waiting for 2023 to be able to play their new signing Dylan Levitt, it appears that Benjani is sticking with his 3-4-3 shape based on the team sheet, rather than playing the new 3-5-2 shape he’d used in a few friendlies earlier this month…”

 

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“Portsmouth finish out the year on a high as they, for the third time in under Benjani beat West Brom in a battle of two 3-4-3s through an early goal from Bryan Fiabema and a brace for Ellis Harrison. While Portsmouth’s win at the Hawthorns could be put down to luck, on this occasion, Portsmouth put on a passing masterclass with a total of 753 passes.  The post did come to the rescue for the home side on two occasions, but on the balance this was a well deserved win.  The only sour point in the game was the injury to young Bryan Fiabema, a player who just seemed to be earning his manager’s trust…”

 

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January

2 January 2023

Fratton Park

Portsmouth v Nottingham Forest

 

Announcer - “Welcome back to Fratton Park for our first game of 2023.  Beyond simply hoping for a good game, there’s a bit of extra excitement around the ground as the fans look set to see not only the debut of a new signing, the twenty-two year old midfielder Dylan Levitt, but also the competitive debut of a new shape for Benjani’s Portsmouth.  While Benjani has nearly exclusively played a 3-4-3 in his first year and a half at the helm, the teamsheet suggests that he will be playing a 3-5-2 that was seen in some December friendlies…”

 

Cut to the fiftieth minute.

 

“...and Marquis’ pass is far too soft and is intercepted by McKenna.  He pushes it forward to Mighten on the wing.  Mighten is in acres of space, no blue shirt within ten yards!  He’s got plenty of time to pick his pass and OHHH, he’s seen Raba’s run past Raggett in the heart of Portsmouth’s defense!  He’s clean through on goal!  It’s a chip over the onrushing Stolarczyk…  IT’S 1-1 HERE AT FRATTON PARK! A simple through ball beats all of the Portsmouth backline and Stolarczyk can do nothing one-on-one with Raba…”

 

Cut to the seventy second minute…

 

“...Mighten here up against Robertson.  The wide center back should have him no…wait, he’s turned Robertson inside out and left him for…he’s through on…GOAL NOTTINGHAM FOREST!  They’ve come from behind to lead in the seventy-second minute!  It was far too easy for him to get past an exhausted looking Robertson. It really looks like their win over West Brom has taken a lot out of this Portsmouth side…”

 

Cut to the ninetieth minute.

 

“Time is running out for Portsmouth to salvage a point here, but this throw in deep in Nottingham Forest territory gives them a chance…It’s a simple ball in from Oglivie to the back post…OH MY!!! Mbe Soh has just shoved Marquis in the back!  It was entirely unnecessary but it’s a penalty in stoppage time here…”

 

Cut to Marquis on the spot.

 

“Marquis runs up…and tucks it away as cool as you like!  It’s 2-2 here at Fratton Park as some late drama unfolds!”

 

Cut to the ninety-fifth minute.

 

“...Levitt [DLP] picks it up at the halfway line and quickly distributes it wide to Johnson [WB].  A quick one-two between Johnson and Mallamo.  Mallamo to the byline…he crosses it back towards the top of the six yard box…CURTIS COMES CHARGING IN FOR THE TAP IN!  IT’S PANDEMONIUM IN THE STANDS HERE AT FRATTON PARK!!  TWO STOPPAGE TIME GOALS SEE THE HOME SIDE TAKE THE LEAD!!!  Will you look at that, what a game!  These are the kind of results that can see a team go off on a run of wins…”

 

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14 January 2023

St Andrew’s Stadium

Birmingham City 3 - Portsmouth 2

 

Pundit 1 - Benjani will be bitterly disappointed with this loss here in Birmingham.  After a run of three games in which Portsmouth have looked excellent, they fall here after poor defending led to three early goals for the home side.”

 

Pundit 2 - “I actually think Pompey played very well today.  They looked good and created a decent number of chances.  In fact, they dominated the game in almost every way except the scoreboard.  I just wonder if Benjani should have started with the 3-5-2 which has been doing very well for them in recent games instead of with the 3-4-3.  The switch to the new formation at the half changed the game, and if their strikers had brought their shooting boots, this should have been three points for Portsmouth.  The fact that they made a game of it after going 3-1 down…”

 

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No-which way to go for Pompey - They look lost at sea!

21 January 2023

Norwich showed just how far Portsmouth have still to go before they can begin to dream about reaching the Premier League last night, and it’s a wonder that the home side managed to only lose 1-0.  Such was the gap in quality between the two sides…

 

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Pundit - “...another disappointing result for Pompey against Blackpool, with Benjani’s side outplaying their opponents for the vast majority of the match, only to be undone by two diagonals behind the right side of their defense, where young Hamilton [WCB] looked a bit lost on occasion, good as he is going forward.  Much like the last few games, Benjani seemed to second guess his new formation, going with his usual 3-4-3 only to switch back to the 3-5-2 after conceding those two goals in five minutes.  Yet even though they probably deserved more, Portsmouth could only do enough to get one back and earn a point…”

 

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Pundit 2 - “I mean, it has to be said that Portsmouth are a below average, Championship side, it’s simple as that.  Yes, they may play some pretty football at times, but when they come up against anyone who can play, they get crushed.  Fulham are only the latest side to completely beat them at their own game, and neither Benjani nor his players seem to have any answers for it…”

 

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February

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7 February 2023

Riverside Stadium

Middlesbrough v Portsmouth

 

Cut to Benjani holding his temples in the technical area as a sea of out of focus red in the stand behind him jumps up and down.

“...and Portsmouth’s habit of giving up soft goals continues, this time a mix up between Wisdom and Stolarczyk sees neither claim the ball, Wisdom’s backpass goes right into the path of the MIddlesbrough striker to tap home into an empty net…”

Cut to Ogilvie [LB] running down the left flank.

 

“Ogilvie crosses…Mallamo’s late run at the far post…PORTSMOUTH RESPOND INSTANTLY WITH A THUMPING HEADER FROM MIDFIELDER MALLAMO!  It’s one of the distinctive parts of this new 3-5-2, with Mallamo allowed to attack from deep!”

 

Cut to Marquis running back to receive the ball.

 

“Marquis retreats deep into midfield to receive the ball, pulling his defender with him.  Mallamo surges into the space!  Marquis turns and plays the ball in behind with Mallamo at full pace.  He’s one-on-one…it’s a chip…GOAL!!!  2-1 Portsmouth as Mallamo is putting on a show here tonight!  With how well this young man has been playing, many will wonder why Benjani hasn’t used him more this season!”

 

Cut to Benjani celebrating on the touchline with the staff and subs…

 

Crossfade with Benjani looking up at the heavens as the same staff and subs groan and shake their heads as the sea of red behind them again explodes to life.

 

“...it barely took Middlesbrough a minute before restoring parity.  A simple throw in and a simply ball in sees Portsmouth undone at the far post…”

 

Cut to the fifty-fifth minute.

 

“It’s fair to say that after equalizing, Middlesbrough have been the far more dangerous side, especially down the flanks where their wing backs and wingers have overwhelmed Portsmouth’s narrow formation…”

 

Cut to Benjani on the sideline.

 

“Hey, Bryan [Fiabema], you ready?” Benjani calls.

 

“Yes boss,” the young man jogs up.

 

“You’re going in on the right, we’re switching to the 3-4-3.  I need you to help [WB] Johnson out a bit more than we’ve been able to so far, okay?”

 

“You got it boss.”

 

The whistle blows, and the sub is waved on.  Fiabema on for Levitt.  Fiabema points to Harrison to go wide left and shows everyone three fingers, four fingers, and three fingers. 

 

The players nod.

 

Announcer, “...Johnson is in acres of space on the right and has plenty of time to deliver a cross into the box.  Harrison!  He’s lost his markers and is all alone in the six yard box with only the keeper to beat…BUT HE CAN’T!!! LUMLEY GETS A HAND…but wait…MALLAMO IS FIRST TO THE BALL AND COMPLETES HIS HATTRICK WITH A SIMPLE TAP IN!!!  Portsmouth have taken the lead!”

 

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11 February 2023

Fratton Park

Portsmouth v Blackburn 

 

“Marquis steps up to take the penalty, looking to send Portsmouth on with an early lead only…GILLESPIE GETS A STRONG HAND TO IT!!! SAVED!!!”

 

“...Fiabema is through on goal here, HE SLOTS IT HOME…wait! It won’t stand, the flag is up!  No goal!”

 

Cut to the half.

 

“Benjani has looked a bit more anxious than we’re used to seeing him, and it’s not hard to see why.  His side has been taking the game to Blackburn but, as of yet, have nothing to show for it!”

 

Cut to the sixty-sixth minute.

 

“Morrell [CM] to Harrison [AF], who plays it out left to Williams [WB].  Marquis is making a great run into the box…Williams spots him…it’s a nicely weighted low cross…GOAL FOR PORTSMOUTH!  Marquis’ run was perfect and the young wingback Williams looked much older than his nineteen years with that perfectly weighted ball!  Portsmouth finally have the breakthrough!”

 

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“It ends three-one here at Fratton Park.  It took Portsmouth sixty-six minute to find the breakthrough, but once they did they scored another two in just over ten minutes, with Blackburn’s stoppage time goal serving merely as a consolation.  What a performance in the end by Marquis and a game which showed the league just how dangerous this side can be when their 3-5-2 is clicking and Levitt’s wonderful passing is on full display…”

 

Cut to the studio…

 

Pundit 1 - “I honestly still can’t quite figure Portsmouth out.  One week they play brilliantly, and put three past a side, and the next, they look completely devoid of ideas, wide open at the back and useless in attack.  They seem to swing wildly between excellent runs and very poor runs, each time it seems someone hit a switch and totally changed the team.  They win two great games against Middlesbrough and Blackburn, then get rolled over by also promoted Ipswich and Watford.  Six goals against and none for across those two games!...”

 

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“But then what do they do?  They close out the month with an absolutely excellent demolition of Coventry City with Mallamo running rampant again, though it was young Fiabema who took the glory…”

 

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[Just look at Mallamo, #24 in the passing map above right.  He's the mezzala, yet he's usually recieving passes in line with DLF Marquis!]

 

“It just seems like they insist on playing brilliantly and winning by two or more, or they are absolute rubbish and lose by two or more.  They’ve certainly earned the right to play in this league, but it must be hell on the supporters! It does seem, however, that Benjani has begun to favor the 3-5-2...for better or for worse...”

 

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[Forgot to get the league table screenshot at the end of February, but Portsmouth sat in 16th at the time...]

 

UP NEXT - Scene 9 - Taking Root

Edited by 13th Man
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Looking at your pass maps it’s nice spread. Have you used a IWB with WCB combo. I think it could make a nice sort of box for build up play. Am toying with it a little in pre season. But am using just a flat back 4. Looking at this made me wonder about it in a 3 at the back 

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Pompey certainly entertains.....

A 3-5-2 can be a great play. I had some success with a flat 3-5-2 with Grenoble.

But yours looks like 3-1-6 when it attacks, whereas mine mostly kept shape.  

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On 10/01/2022 at 04:42, SixPointer said:

Looking at your pass maps it’s nice spread. Have you used a IWB with WCB combo. I think it could make a nice sort of box for build up play. Am toying with it a little in pre season. But am using just a flat back 4. Looking at this made me wonder about it in a 3 at the back 

I played around with the IWB/WCB combo but found players got in each other's ways, which would especially be true in the 3-5-2.  I think, with the right players, it could be great in the 3-4-3, but the team just lacked width with the two IFs cutting in already.  Something to think on in the future though.

On 10/01/2022 at 06:52, karanhsingh said:

Looks like your Pompey side is definitely good fun for the neutrals!

Definitely great for the neutrals.  I'm definitely thinking they're the 'second team' for a lot of those watching the Championship in the (imaginary) 22/23 season.

 

18 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

But yours looks like 3-1-6 when it attacks, whereas mine mostly kept shape.

Craziest thing is that it's not even really a 3-1-6, but a wonderfully amorphous blob with the WCBs charging forward with underlaps at times, the DLP getting in and around the box on occasion, and the DLF Marquis dropping all the way until he's next to Levitt (DLP) while Mallamo (MEZ(a)) charges forward.  It's really wonderful to watch at times.  I'll definitely be doing a proper tactical breakdown later, but the football has been excellent.  It's not getting hit on the break either, surprisingly enough, but the weakness (as with all 'narrow' formations) can sometimes be the flanks.  The two MEZs usually have that covered though.

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Scene 9 - Taking Root

 

Fade into the u18 training ground, with Benjani walking out to meet the u18 manager.

 

“Boss,” Benjani says.

 

“Boss!” the u18 manager laughs.

 

“How they looking this year?” Benjani asks, turning to look at the pitch.

 

“See for yourself,” the manager shrugs, “current players are in blue, the candidates in white.”

 

[Note - I totally did not attend the u18 vs youth candidates match in game…]

 

Cut to a young player with a blue shirt carrying the ball, he makes a good turn to beat one player, and plays it towards the opposition box.  Suddenly, a player with a white jersey that looks all of thirteen (but is already six foot) comes hustling across to muscle the opponent out the way and head the ball to safety.  He’s already yelling to a teammate by the time he’s back on his feet.

 

See Youssef!” he calls out.

 

The player on the ball looks up, and sees the run of a white shirted winger from out to in. The pass is a bit weak, but the young man apparently named Youssef weathers a strong challenge and drives towards the box.  With a centre back rushing towards him, the young man does a Cryuff turn to get past him, then makes the keeper commit before squaring the ball to a teammate for a tap in.

 

“Liam,” Benjani turns to the u18 manager, “am I seeing things or do we have a few good players in this group?”

 

Liam nods with a proud grin, “That lad who won the ball with his head, that’s Tom Mills, and the other one - with the assist, that’s Youssef Salam.  Tom is as good as any player we got down here already, and Youssef could really turn into something special.  I don’t know, boss - we might have a golden generation on our hands!”

 

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“We’ll see, boss,” Benjani nods with a chuckle. “How are the rest? I like how no one in blue is putting their head down.”

 

“Oh yeah, it’s a good group of lads,” he leans in to say quietly, “I mean, a lot of them will never see the first team here or…maybe anywhere, but I see why you signed them. Good lads all of ‘em. Lots a fight in ‘em.”

 

Benjani nods, “Keep up the good work, boss.”

 

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[Here’s the best from last year’s intake, a player who Benjani isn’t sure about long term, but who has the type of mentality that he wants at Portsmouth.]

 

Cut to the first team training pitch.  Alessandro Mallamo, Bryan Fiabema and John Marquis are by themselves, practicing a crossing and shooting drill as Benjani and assistant manager Dunne talk on the touchline.

 

“Since when does Alessandro stay after training to keep…training?” Benjani laughs.

 

“More and more in the last couple weeks,” Dunne smiles.  “I’m not sure if it’s him getting more playing time or Marquis’ influence on him, but the lad’s been focused in training and putting in some extra work as well.”

 

Alessandro Mallamo

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“Still can’t believe we got him for nothing and signed him on £500 a week!”

 

“He’ll definitely be asking for a better contract if he keeps playing like he has.”

 

“He’ll deserve it too,” Benjani muses.  “You know Joe, it’s been a rocky season, but I think we’re building something special here.”

 

“We are boss,” Dunne nods, “but there are a few rumblings in the squad.  Kieron [Freeman WB] seems to think he deserves more playing time and Harry wants some chances.”

 

“Harry Clarke?” Benjani’s face scrunches.

 

Dunne nods.

“We’ll get to Kieron in a minute, but Harry?  He’s not ready.  Not close.”

 

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“He thinks he is,” Dunne shrugs, “been putting in some decent performances in the u23s.”

 

Decent,” Benjani sighs, “not great.  Not good enough to displace anyone in the first team. I’ll talk to him.”

 

“And Kieron?”

 

“I play him plenty.  Johnson [WB] is ahead of him, but he gets plenty of games.  I’ll…I’ll deal with it when the time comes.”

 

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UP NEXT - Coming Together

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22 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

16 bravery and 1 jumping :lol: love it 

Cable and Mills look like they could be decent though, but will need time 

Definitely need time.  No one's ready for the first team yet. Hilarious the 1 jumping though!  I was looking at other attributes and just kind of noticed the grey hole and figured it was 5-6 or something.  1 though!  Never seen that before in a reasonably decent player.

19 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Cable’s mental qualities are good. If he can get his technical game together could prove to be a real asset. 

Mental qualities are great.  Not sure he'll ever be up for starting but he's a leader for the u23s already and a great personality to have at the club, especially in the youth ranks were Benjani wants to instill a certain mentality...

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19 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

Definitely need time.  No one's ready for the first team yet. Hilarious the 1 jumping though!  I was looking at other attributes and just kind of noticed the grey hole and figured it was 5-6 or something.  1 though!  Never seen that before in a reasonably decent player.

I can just picture him trying to get in amongst it with the towering center halves he's up against and jumping for headers :lol: probably reach their midriff! 

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Okay.  So just a few more posts before I’m caught up and I get back to being a bit more organized…Probably…Maybe…Hopefully…

 

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Scene 10 - Coming Together

1 March 2023

Fratton Park

FA Cup

Portsmouth 0 - Aston Villa 3

Halftime

 

Benjani enters a dejected looking locker room.  There is no anger between teammates, just a general sense of hopelessness.  Benjani stands before his squad, thoughtfully looking at the floor a few yards in front of him with his hand to his chin.

 

“I’m not going to sugar coat this, boys,” Benjani says after a deep breath, now looking around at the team, “they are tearing us apart.  3-0 at the half is never a good thing.  Ings especially is causing us all kinds of problems.  We can’t even say it’s all the set pieces like it was last year against Man City.  We’ve just been second best.”

 

Benjani paused to let that all sink in.

 

“No one expects us to win.  They didn’t before the game and especially not now.  But let’s play with pride.  Let’s get out there in the second half and play the kind of football we know how to play.  Let’s forget they’re a Premier League side and that we’ve just been promoted to the Championship.  In the second half we’re going to play our game, come what may.  If they put a few more past us…what’s the difference?

 

“First things, though, we’re changing the shape.  They’re really hurting us down the flanks with their 4-2-3-1 so we’re going to switch to the 3-4-3.  Marcus [Harness IF] get warmed up, you’ll be on for Joe [Morrell, CM].  Joe, you’ve been fine, but I’m going to keep you fresh for Wolves at the weekend, yeah?”

 

Harness and Morrell both nod, though Morrell shakes his head a little and begins to remove his boots.

 

“So yeah,” Benjani continues, “when I say the 3-4-3, I mean our 3-4-3.  Play positive, get after them, and let’s stop respecting them so much. Let’s pass the ball quickly, keep the ball, put them under pressure. Let’s come out hot at the start of the half and see what we can do.  If we can get a goal…who knows what will come after that? If not…well, let’s come back into the locker room at the end of the game proud of this half.  Let’s put the first half behind us, yeah?”

 

Nods all around, a few scattered claps, and certainly the atmosphere has changed.

 

Cut to the fiftieth minute.

 

“Levitt [DLP] here making a foray forward…Portsmouth have been much more progressive these first few minutes of the second half…he pulls it back from the byline and drops it back for Williams [LB].  Williams takes a touch and sends one in to the backpost…Harrison [IF] goes up for it…GOAL! Harrison outjumps his marker and puts Portsmouth on the scoresheet.  After being outplayed for the entire first half, Pompey come out of the gates and score just five minutes into the second…”

 

“...and here come Portsmouth again!  They escape an overeager press from Aston Villa’s midfield and Johnson [WB] is loose down the right.  His lofted cross should be dealt with easily…BUT BALERDI MISSES THE HEADER AND FIABEMA [IF] IS THERE FOR THE TAP IN!!! PORTSMOUTH ARE BACK IN THIS MATCH WITH TWO GOALS IN AS MANY MINUTES!!! Aston Villa’s right back showed all the signs of complacency in that move, not only was his pass easily picked out by Levitt around midfield to start the move, he only had to clear with a simple header but instead misses it completely!  The Aston Villa manager needs to get his players calmed down and focused here!”

 

Cut to Dean Smith on the sidelines, shaking his head but then calls out to his players to calm down, giving the downward hands gesture.  The Villa players all call to each other, clearly taking stock.

 

“Kill out the game!  Keep the ball!” Smith yells.

 

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Cut to the locker room after the game.  The players are lightly shaking their heads and there isn’t a lot of energy but the slumped shoulders are gone.

 

“Well,” Benjani nods, “we gave them a bit of a scare then, yeah?”

 

The players laugh.

 

“Look,” he continues, “they’re a quality side and they were able to keep the ball better than us, but 3-2 is not a scoreline to feel embarrassed by.  Yes, they were the better side, but we showed them what we could do in those first minutes of the half.  Let’s use that to remind ourselves that we are a good side and that we can play like that when we really focus.  Hold your heads high, and let’s move on.  Alright boys, we’ll be back in the morning to prepare for Wolves, yeah?”

 

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“That’s just it, isn’t it?” Benjani sighs, “We just can’t have Marcus [Harness] or Ronan [Curtis] starting anymore can we?”

 

“Ronan can be good from the bench,” Dunne replies, “but Marcus? I can’t remember his last good game.”

 

“I just thought those two veterans could help against a solid team but they were just as poor as they’ve been all season.  I didn’t like letting their wingers own the flanks with their 3-4-3, but it just seems like our own 3-4-3 is off the table until we can find someone who can play decently on the right…”

 

“Maybe the 3-4-3 is like Ronan,” Dunne agreed, “we start with the 3-5-2, and if we need we have Ronan and Ellis [Harrison] on the bench so we can move to a 3-4-3 to protect the flanks.”

 

Benjani closes his eyes, “Marcus is done though, yeah.”

 

“Yeah boss, we’ve given him more than enough chances.”

 

Benjani nods. “Alright, let’s focus on the 3-5-2 as the main formation…”

 

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“Okay,” Benjani sighs, “not perfect, but the play is good. We shouldn’t change things up due to individual mistakes. We were a bit too passive in defense and that led to both goals, but that Alessandro [Mallamo] goal?”

 

“Fantastic that,” Dunne agreed, “the way John [Marquis] dropped deep, pulled his man with him! We drew cause of that PK when we were still celebrating the second…”

 

“Disappointing, but the 5-3-2 gets our best players on the pitch, gets us chances and just generally looks…beautiful.”

 

sj0bqJI0UCJQ8QVARGp4PlcDtVPBJohLpiE024z9jHPBZF7Loo2Rn0TgOWOMJlD6_OAbVFsRncCcyKBfreZv1PcU0x7nsxU-uCYqI0jp1mOpSn6kV1b7rQaDr-Cu7WHQDPV6OzRndrxxAxeORg-fAaYavGUvHcvY46XVbQtQHj_Ydf___y1GcC6dw2Rcp2W6WZdN10gv0xG4fWskMWod3RqjMqbIbwFaU8apFa6GPgGHh0uZ5aGaIJggrFi5M9Laj7safPGqtzcfjsq_

 

Announcer 1 - “…this new look 3-5-2 that Benjani is running is beginning to look quite promising. Mallamo again showcased his ability with a beauty of a cross field diagonal to Fiabema to open the scoring. A horrible error by Raggett [cover CB] allowed Preston back in it, but the big man made up for his error with a thumping header from a corner.”

Announcer 2 - “It must be said, though, that Benjani’s switch to the 3-4-3 helped secure the flanks in the second half and helped allow Harrison to score the insurance goal…”

 

sj0bqJI0UCJQ8QVARGp4PlcDtVPBJohLpiE024z9jHPBZF7Loo2Rn0TgOWOMJlD6_OAbVFsRncCcyKBfreZv1PcU0x7nsxU-uCYqI0jp1mOpSn6kV1b7rQaDr-Cu7WHQDPV6OzRndrxxAxeORg-fAaYavGUvHcvY46XVbQtQHj_Ydf___y1GcC6dw2Rcp2W6WZdN10gv0xG4fWskMWod3RqjMqbIbwFaU8apFa6GPgGHh0uZ5aGaIJggrFi5M9Laj7safPGqtzcfjsq_

 

Pundit - “…and elsewhere in the Championship, Portsmouth get revenge against Millwall after being robbed at the Den. This was a comprehensive win for Benjani’s side…”

 

GXKMF5pile7D3xQteQpJ-itfsmOn86QBu4wTKXCkBZM4-J47iG4Rk1BNcKGIm6TwCMI3Re3ZzS7H2mtq2-uru07l258Hqq348RQBGQKrewdHQ_uBhEKLbIGqQ_rdPhi2eFpX7-3d

08OvieR1_0ZEIiItOXMf6te9TWzHucGE3_lNJ-xNy_U7f2LfPLE7EEsQFhSvHwh8PB1sNCBQGJZrybpxR5i48_c-zEZxqK8dmHG80lFmuh6Kvrr84bbdsevngqvkAM3YOw9iAjPH

 

UP NEXT - Total Football at its Finest

Edited by 13th Man
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1 minute ago, karanhsingh said:

I can just picture him trying to get in amongst it with the towering center halves he's up against and jumping for headers :lol: probably reach their midriff! 

Yeah well, he could cause some damage in a different way going up for headers like that.  Might still be useful!  Brave lad throwing his head around midriffs.  Would make defenders think twice when he was around.

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3-5-2!3-5-2!3-5-2! Thats what we want!  the fans sing.....as you pummel your adversaries.

It is hard to drop a player that has helped you in the past and got you to the place you are, but Harness and Curtis just aren't cut out for the Championship! Sell, Sell, Sell while you can!

 

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On 13/01/2022 at 08:49, SixPointer said:

Finished the month strong!

That he did. 3 3-1s in a row!

22 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

3-5-2!3-5-2!3-5-2! Thats what we want!  the fans sing.....as you pummel your adversaries.

It is hard to drop a player that has helped you in the past and got you to the place you are, but Harness and Curtis just aren't cut out for the Championship! Sell, Sell, Sell while you can!

 

Got to agree. This save has loyalty to players as a save goal - Benjani doesn’t want to just force players out - but Harness is done. Curtis? He contributes from the bench pretty well, and can start ok, but he’s also got decent value and doesn’t really fit in. Benjani’s got a tough choice…

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6 hours ago, 13th Man said:

That he did. 3 3-1s in a row!

Got to agree. This save has loyalty to players as a save goal - Benjani doesn’t want to just force players out - but Harness is done. Curtis? He contributes from the bench pretty well, and can start ok, but he’s also got decent value and doesn’t really fit in. Benjani’s got a tough choice…

You could always keep them around as squad players? Move them on only if they ask for it?

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12 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

You could always keep them around as squad players? Move them on only if they ask for it?

In the transfer season now in save (one more update to catch up) and one is gone, the other will likely stay on as a squad player. We’ll see how happy he ends up about it….

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4ytuHIn5UWxUOkifIX5vToV_9FgyJVsvk9pXl6Y255Qu82ts-L2AmJrTDu123aKny1pxl94hxzH0okTDWUVqSj00IMUkqpHPxpoJsdCehkuaz_nJ1RC_4un8toU8Z-RtQkKxD88A

Scene 11 -  Total Football at its finest

2FeAGl8EDamRj9g_hwxXlshubp_Wldr9j1iwKNKqSuD52tiEQYCyWGbOxOckohcgt3jOYJmgfwuE9MHr5iVPsq8kFW-JgbYO00p9FznajVFcMbmtYCTRMgnT0nnNhHHd6rgAejV1

 

Fade in on Benjani with a subtle fist pump as the final whistle blows, relief all over his face. Out of focus players in blue come together in front the camera to celebrate and we hear the crowd sing - 

 

Benjani whoa!

Benjani whoa!

He comes from Zimbabwe

He got us a win today!”

 

The camera moves through the players to show Benjani walking over to shake the Cardiff manager’s hand.

 

“Well played,” Benjani says, “that was some good football. We got lucky.”

 

The Cardiff manager shrugs and walks away with a shake of his head.  Benjani heads towards the tunnel.

 

Cut to inside the tunnel as Benjani walks in. The thumping and cheering of the crowd becomes muffled. He closes his eyes, taking a moment to try and release the tension of a tough match. The crowd fades, there’s a loud thunk of floodlights turning on, and Benjani opens his eyes to the foggy pitch.

 

aaIngn1s2E1dBqhvuq4qMQaSHZYipZ2e1fpPHOimSHEAoEs-VuHdW8BAGbjAqPutIz6Gxl2nArN2HPO-vwNSl0G5EOiHYQiUZEMzbe3jqw_M_E7Aj5TZqULDPRT8HFKb0-50oXSN

 

This time he only blinks once before looking around for Cruyff. He turns around, only to have the voice come from the direction he’d been looking first.

 

“Total Football at its finest!” Cruyff says dryly as Benjani turns back to see him emerge from the fog. “Concede a goal because you didn’t put enough pressure on the ball, and you then win with two goals from set pieces.”

 

“We won though at least,” Benjani replies.

 

“Yes, you did,” Cruyff inclines his head ever so slightly. “But Cardiff played the football today…”

 

[Note- this is the Cardiff passing map]

36grLhYD5GtN3KnvTm2Kpj0NjTFJjy8xvPjiqm5w3OyK8ZJQYaHZOIjN2TrmJa0EAV1IEa8iIdZVoqyFCeo5W9SNGj5yXOiabc1uWrGifaN1GDGjr7BoDumnlznK6MFNp7pwwLxw

 

“…your side…?” Cruyff trailed off.

 

4ZWoGA8aq_43ZALIFuImHN__E95WZEphfAaA48HQrxBjhsdpv7lskecGYUrpV3d2vWPL6-Q4xEOJxxt976_S8v8PVOp_FeobJWqzDiNZr4vt3dEf0HYIm--fIonuvA2IJkcBDT_j

 

“It was ugly,” Benjani agrees, “I’ll admit. But we were overall the better side…”

 

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Cruyff counters, “You had no attempts on goal with feet! Not one!”

 

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“And they had by far the better chances…”

 

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“You’re absolutely right…” Benjani nods.

 

“Of course I am!” Cruyff says with a little smirk. “So what are you going to do about it?”

 

“About what?” Benjani cocks his head.

 

Cruyff just looks at him.

 

“It was an off game,” Benjani squints.

 

“You’re just going to abandon the 3-4-3?”

 

“The 3-5-2 has just been consistently better.”

 

“I’ll admit that, in general. Actually, I’m quite impressed with the shape and movement you’ve gotten out of these….players you have. The in-to-out movement of the mezzalas is fantastic.  The channel overload on the right with the forward dropping in and the midfielder overtaking him.  The Italian, you know.” He pauses, “But Cardiff, a team below you in the league, played far better than you today using their 3-4-3.  You only got three points from luck. At home.  You didn’t play football, certainly not Total Football.”

 

“We just don’t have anyone at the club who can play that right inside forward position well. We need someone who can dribble and pass and make good decisions, and help out defensively. We just don’t have that player at the club.”

 

“You don’t?” Cruyff raises an eyebrow.

 

“No…?” Benjani starts. “Bryan might be in time, but Marcus [Harness]  has been consistently poor and Ronan [Curtis]…”

 

Cruyff begins to walk away, even as Benjani speaks.

 

“Wait!” Benjani calls out with a hint of restrained frustration, “where are you going? Do you just come to criticize me? Even after a win?”

 

“No Mpe,” Cruyff stops and turns, surprising Benjani with the nickname his close friends and family use, “I did tell you I liked your 3-5-2, didn’t I?”

 

He turns and walks into the fog again.

 

“But then you…”

 

We hear a loud thunk and suddenly Benjani is back in the tunnel, the players streaming by.

 

“Eh, boss?” Mallamo pauses to ask, “you…okay?”

 

Benjani’s eyes go wide, “Alessandro! Yes! I’m good. Tell me, how do you feel about playing some inside forward?”

 

Mallamo visibly weighs the thought before nodding, “Ah…okay! Sure boss. Sounds…ah, sounds fun!”

 

Cut to the players streaming out of the dressing room in street clothes.  Assistant manager Dunne watches them leave before turning to Benjani.

 

“Got away with one there,” he chuckles as he turns to leave. “See you in training.”

 

“Wait,” Benjani says, “You know how I’ve been wishing we could play the 3-4-3 against Luton’s narrow 4-3-1-2 next weekend, yeah?”

 

“No one to play the right flank though…”

 

“What about Alessandro?”

 

“Alessandro…” Dunne squints, then his eyes go wide. “…Alessandro! He’s got decent pace, great dribbling, good passing, and a good shot from distance! Has he ever played there?”

 

“I don’t think so, not at the top levels, but he’ll be playing the same role as he normally does, just with a different starting position.”

 

“And we can easily shift back to the 3-5-2 without a sub if he starts…”

 

“I like it boss!”

 

pPf5nN-Oby0z_1qg7L5VmMqIE-unpBrSGgQ_KBpObWMQPTzO8CriZwHo1qSeEwfaQJTUWGQeWiNPhW20aQPoX8E8vZribvI5p1wX1i_4mjrgbCQ1aftJxqyQWp_j72vyGhP0Pzp3

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Benjani’s phone rings.

 

“It’s the big boss,” Benjani waves to Dunne, letting him know he can leave.

 

“Benjii!” Michael Eisner begins. “Congratulations!  I knew you could do it!”

 

“Thank you, sir,” Benjani chuckles, “wasn’t pretty but it was a win…”

 

“Benji, don’t you know, do you?  With that win we’re officially safe from relegation!”

 

6_ozGPwSct4rG7LgJPl8WXSGM71WO1BWZFB4GUY25d3nhko2sRXRqZpGUUWkgHf3Zoxk5xn0IJZi_Hy7yiwq-cpP7G2P37sbSc9geBYbOKSzIk78pPJVoN3Y2_I0QPNFfpQonQTF

 

“Yes, yes!  I knew we were close, but not quite how close!”

 

“It was a little rocky there at times, wasn’t it?” Eisner pauses to laugh.  “But you pulled through, with plenty still left to play.  Congratulations!  Oh, and call me Michael, I keep telling you, Benji!”

 

Thanks boss.  I appreciate it.”

 

“Of course!  I always support my employees.  Loyalty is a big thing for me, you know.  So Benji, now that we’re solidly in the Championship, it’s time to start looking up rather than down, right?”

 

“Always have been,” Benjani replies.

 

“That’s my boy!” Eisner chuckles.  “Enjoy the win, enjoy the milestone.  Then it’s back to work!”

 

‘Exactly,” Benjani rolls his eyes a bit.

 

7 April 2023

Kenilworth Road

Luton v Portsmouth

 

VPiWJLu5n9wq8UdSj7-m06IzaVyOP-Bu_YOhhMdYkm_Hqhz_3aevtKbKyDAu_5A3bIgW5QrjoLfrWcP1FCuJLVqf00IHl3D7wAQD2YWolyBzSwJ1U9G7bewr3WmNS2Uij7_fBUVu

 

Cut to the pitch.

 

 

Announcer 1 - “And we’re ready for kick off here at Kenilworth Road.  Benjani has beaten Luton twice, last year in the cup and in the opening game of the year.  Only both those times he was running a 3-4-3 system that took advantage of the flanks, while looking at the team sheet would suggest that he’s sticking with the 3-5-2 that has been behind a good run of form recently.”

 

Announcer 2 - “Yeah, I think it’s a case of ‘if it’s not broke don’t fix it’, but I wonder if they will miss that presence down the flanks against Luton’s narrow formation.”

 

Announcer 1 - “Marquis gets us started here, passing back to Levitt, who goes back to Ogilvie…”

 

Announcer 2 - “You know, the position that Mallamo is taking up right now is in line with Harrison on the left, who’s also much wider than he should be in the 3-5-2.  Did Benjani just throw a new wrinkle here?  Is he playing the 3-4-3 with Mallamo, normally a central midfielder, on the wing?”

Cut to the tenth minute.

 

“Portsmouth with a throw in deep in Luton’s half. Williams [LB] drops it for Levitt [DLP]...Levitt with time, looks up…he puts in an inswinging cross…MARQUIS [CF] IS THERE TO DIRECT THE BALL IN!  What a ball by Levitt and Marquis was simply quicker to react!  1-0 Portsmouth!”

 

Cut to the fifteenth minute.

 

“Williams beats his man down the left.  He goes to the byline…cross to the far post…Mallamo’s there…GOAL!!! Naismith doesn’t get his head up in time and Mallamo, looks every part the wide forward as he Has rises for the far post header with Shea unable to scramble across his goal fast enough.  It’s 2-0 here at Kenilworth Road!  Portsmouth’s wide attack is causing Luton all kinds of problems!”

 

hw1O4W9M3OzY4hoOvE1BoDaGVm1K73mUjjlD0TMv8Pi4EB7s-PmPrStdSRdA15KU4FPCKf4jj0QxdhuzQ_JmoWHbG2iH_YuwtjimD_eZcP-qIfHzyQWCSorWVv84mbTRMvJ0AqUyrZlESJlP-D0LEB-l62bznXw9gPyjWAsb79DQgnqppOtaFTrUYzAw9pPwk_RwLqqq4hMzPlmxDt0PgOrmT9JXChX4G-5n6-mctQKrx9ys4a0FcQnTpuzWpW-7bBaouMYRfb0k3VN8JxdK0K4ZdtG1DiSHYkz1eAPLGl5YcLxR9hR259tql1rOvAlDgnofoR-c-KIxPEY9NqbqgfM877dvUE1X9ECx9tCCL9HcInRJ55zHl_xcMuOM10pGu6nFg5DyiO-JbXVkmWdt4pM7CKg_knOu6ZHSC3yxGlQ4dOjyp2qbcvx9XrHoqYe7oF0kyA5vdGIsiqz4ai7EeSFNksuiHw6Y4N2Bblzp45GEJWXi5H9D5m50cClXs258ocl7g0jmXlINo3Efw3IlekqIrsEtxcww

 

Cut to Benjani pointing to the away stand with a glimmer in his eye as the final whistle blows.

Announcer - “Once again, Portsmouth defeat favored Luton by attacking their flanks.  Luton were able to put together a few decent attacks in the second half, but Portsmouth’s dominant first half sees them rewarded with all three points…”

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Announcer - “A brace from Fiabema helps Portsmouth celebrate Benjani’s 100th game in charge of the club with a solid 2-0 victory over a good Swansea side that are challenging for promotion. Unlike at Liberty Stadium, Swansea found no joy through the middle as Benjani’s new look 3-5-2 stifled their 5-2-2-1. Swansea’s high line was twice beaten by the pace of Bryan Fiabema. First Mallamo sent him through with a wonderfully weighted diagonal. Then Tunnicliffe sent a long, hopeful ball into Swansea’s half, and the young Norwegian was again first to it, coolly rounding the onrushing keeper for his second.”

 

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“Portsmouth have now won five straight and are climbing the table, moving up five places since their loss to Wolves in March…”

 

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[See how the 3-5-2 cut their 4-4-2 basically in half!]

 

“And now for our Championship goal of the week, from Portsmouth’s 2-0 win over Barnsley…”

“The interplay here is just excellent. First between all three midfielders who are move on and off the ball and create space, and then between Marquis and Mallamo before the midfielder smashes the ball into the upper right corner.”

[Further Breakdown to come in a future post]

usgTad2z-XGC7WX65wcDTA62n5O_nggwqV2K9Gv4eMJZjJAf3ncGeaM3QoVuH8V74ohLxBLaP6uEnwZza1QN9J3TZOrqb5TWfytk4N9-ByUf0US6Q9L-mjTosuXJDqMRerCiQBcv

 

The camera zooms out and we see Benjani watching on a large screen at the Portsmouth training grounds, and his mobile rings.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Mr. Mwaruwari,” comes a voice over the phone, “we at Sheffield United have been very impressed with your work at Portsmouth and we’re hoping to set up a time to meet to discuss the possibility of becoming the next manager of our club…”

 

[Note - Sheffield United are back in the Premier League in 22/23]

 

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Cut to a close up of Benjani’s face as he takes a sharp breath in, then fade to black.

 

UP NEXT - Behind the Scenes - the 3-5-2.

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4 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Superb form!

 

8 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Wow! Building up a real head of steam there. Great stuff. The tactical tweaks seem to be doing wonders. 

Are you attending the interview?

Things really started to click towards the end of the season. The football wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a ‘more than the sum of its parts’. I was going to leave things at a cliffhanger, but no. That, along with the general save themes, is why Benjani turned down the interview.
He also has (in real life) talked about his love for Portsmouth on several occasions, so I wouldn’t realistically see him making that move. This is probably a one club save, and, if nothing else Sheffield United also barely avoided the drop.

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42 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

 

Things really started to click towards the end of the season. The football wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a ‘more than the sum of its parts’. I was going to leave things at a cliffhanger, but no. That, along with the general save themes, is why Benjani turned down the interview.
He also has (in real life) talked about his love for Portsmouth on several occasions, so I wouldn’t realistically see him making that move. This is probably a one club save, and, if nothing else Sheffield United also barely avoided the drop.

Totally fair. There is still a lot of work left to be done at Pompey! 

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46 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

Totally fair. There is still a lot of work left to be done at Pompey! 

Forgot to mention - In a parallel universe, Benjani did take the interview and was offered the job. Before he could take it, however, the TVA showed up and pruned the Benjani variant.

Sheffied United Benjani Variant will return in Loki Series/Season 2

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Momentum can be a fine thing in football. A slight tweak in role or personnel and suddenly you’re flying too! A fine end to the season it appears and rightfully so, Benjani is attracting some interest. Glad to hear that the project at Pompey will be continuing, however.

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Cutting Room Floor - the rest of the season 

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A very early goal from a Stoke corner is enough to spoil a perfect month for Benjani despite Portsmouth being the better side.

 

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Portsmouth soundly beat a Reading side that had previously looked much better than them. The 3-5-2 continues to do the job. While the focus was very much down the flanks, Levitt still served as a link between the two otherwise split units - something which has been missing in the 3-4-3.

 

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Benjani picks up the Manager of the Month Award.

 

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With nothing left to play for, and Lincoln propping up the table in 24th place, Benjani gives starts to some players that have been out of the team. One of those players, Tunnicliffe tries a totally rash and unnecessary two-footed challenge and earns a straight red card in the 20th minute. Lincoln take advantage scoring two as Portsmouth begin to tire. Ten man Portsmouth get one back and almost salvage a draw but can’t quite finish.

 

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Crazy game! 4-0 down after a brilliant 30 mins from Portsmouth, Bristol City nearly manage a draw that would have seen them qualify for the playoffs. Portsmouth just about hold on and finish off the season with a good win.

 

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Portsmouth finish a solid 10th place after spending most of the season in 15/16 place.  They ended the season six points off the playoff spots (with a far worse goal difference though), which Benjani considered a very successful season…

 

UP NEXT - (Actually) Season Review - Tactic Breakdown to come later...

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8 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Excellent season. I look forward to the tactical interlude as there are some very interesting passing maps there!

 

6 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Great end to the season. Interesting pass maps. I love the spread and options against Bristol city 

I'm also looking forward to the tactical breakdown!  Just need a solid bit of time to put the 'graphics' and such together.  Preview - the double MEZs have been fantastic.  Other interesting bit is that it seems like it's either the DLF (right sided forward) or the right sided MEZ who is super involved, but not both.  Usually ends up being the MEZ, with the DLF serving as a decoy/runner.  It is really difficult for CBs to deal with both when the MEZ runs past the DLF.

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So, you are going back to the 3-4-3. The 3-5-2 served you well and did its job, assured survival. It will take some "smart" business to find players that will play "Total Football" at Portsmouth. 

Glad to see you keeping the 3 at the Back Experiment alive...

I have reverted to 4-2-3-1 Wide Trogolytism, but it did its job in my save of winning the Irish Premier League with the Top Team. Since that was what the board expected.

I am sure your board is much more understanding and will give you the time. Invest in Youth. If it is a choice of upgrades between Youth Coaching and Facilities. Always upgrade coaching first to upgrade your prospects before you start training them. You might even get lucky and get one that can start almost immediately in your intake!

Now back to being the "Irish Bayern"..... eventually on my way to greater glory!

 

 

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On 20/01/2022 at 14:12, Hootieleece said:

So, you are going back to the 3-4-3.

The 3-4-3 will still be trained, and regularly used, but for now the 3-5-2 is the primary shape.  The TIs, set up, etc are all identical so switching between them is more about starting positions than the way Portsmouth play.  I do have a tactics post coming up...be dropping shortly after some end of season business that I'm dropping below here...

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Behind the Scenes- Season Review

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Team Overview/Stats 

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A solid season that showed that Portsmouth belonged in the Championship. Their defense wasn’t great, but they were able to start scoring a lot more, especially in the second half of the season.

 

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The attacking stats were about as expected. Portsmouth were excellent passers of the ball, and converted their chances at a fairly high rate - though the xG per shot was still low. That probably came from their continued reliance on headed goals (which I’d argue are undervalued by xG because they don’t take into account things like physical mismatches for example). The fact that they ended the season with a better than average attacking efficiency showed just how much they’d improved - this stat was well inside the “aggressive/wasteful” quadrant in mid season.

 

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Portsmouth were a bit disappointing defensively. Their game was built on interceptions and blocks, but their inability to tackle well led to a higher goals conceded stat than xG would predict. Benjani hoped to improve in this regard, but if their attack continued at the pace it had at the end of the season, he wouldn’t be too bothered.

 

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Overall, the end of the season saw Portsmouth truly “get the wind in their sails”. After their 1-0 defeat at Wolves, Portsmouth scored at least one in all of their last twelve games, and failed to score two or more only twice, and one of those was when they were reduced to ten men. Over that run they outscored their opponents 24-10.

 

In fact, if the season had started at the halfway point, they  would have gotten a shot at the playoffs!

 

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A combination of the 3-5-2 shape, and the way it got the best out of players like Mallamo and Fiabema, along with mid-season signing Levitt, seemed to really get Portsmouth moving and pulled them to within touching distance of the playoff spots.

Player Overview/Progression 

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Fan Player of the Year, Sean Raggett continues to be the towering rock at the center of Portsmouth’s defense.  Wisdom was capable and Robertson could do a job, but Raggett’s ability to win the vast majority of aerial duels was invaluable for a possession side as it made it very hard for other teams to play direct…usually.

 

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It was not hard to see Benjani’s transfer strategy. With a personal [save goal] emphasis on loyalty and developing players, Benjani looked to sign younger players who would likely start as squad players and depth options until they naturally progressed to the point where they would, hopefully, take over as starters. GK Storalyzck was an exception, signed to start on day one as the side needed a replacement for loanee Bazunu, with the other being mid season signing Dylan Levitt, who came in and slotted right into the lineup as a starter. By the end of the season, though, all six signings were at least first team regulars, with Fiabema and Mallamo beating out veterans for starting roles and only Williams disappointing. The one issue was that most of the signings insisted on 2 year deals when they signed, meaning Benjani would have to renew contracts if he wanted to keep hold of them all.

 

Jamie Hamilton

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WCB Jamie Hamilton was recognized as one of the top five signings of the year.

 

On arrival

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End of 22/23 season

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Progress - Bravery, Concentration and Vision.

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Wide center back Hamilton was the surprise of the season, boasting the best average rating in the squad. Benjani originally thought it was only because veteran Wisdom was usua hi lly called upon in the tougher games, but when he gave Hamilton more chances as the season progressed he continued to perform at a high level. His decision making was still a bit suspect, but he tended to have the pace to recover and he was excellent going forward from his deep WCB role.

 

Still below WCB Wisdom in the pecking order…but for how long? Definitely deserving of a new contract.

 

Bryan Fiabema

On arrival

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End of 22/23 season

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Fiabema flipped the script by being consistent when the veterans were mercurial, he was mentally strong where veterans buckled under pressure. He was still learning the mental side of the game, but had made major improvements there as well as on the technical side.  Still only 20, Benjani hoped he could continue to improve, polishing his skills and understanding of the game.  If his progress continued at anything like the pace he’d set down, he could end up a force for Portsmouth…or bring a huge financial windfall if someone triggered his £12.5m release clause. Whether he stayed long term or was bought, he was the one player coming along in leaps and bounds and could very well solidify the future of the club.

 

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Jakob Stolarczyk

On arrival

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End of 22/23

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Progress - minor progress in many areas. Overall a significant improvement

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Keeper Stolarczyk was solid enough in goal from day one, but went from strength to strength as the season went along. He had some rocky games, as Benjani had expected, but by the end of the season had turned into an excellent keeper for this level. Hopefully, he’ll keep progressing at this rate.

 

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As it was, he earned himself a contract extension and a raise.

 

Dylan Williams

On arrival

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End of 22/23 season

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Left wingback Williams’ form was mixed, and he hadn’t progressed much, if at all, but he was still only 19 and Benjani continues to have high hopes for him.

 

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Benjani kind of wishes he’d waited and driven a harder bargain, but he does expect Williams to be the first choice on the left in 23/24 and hopefully to start to progress more.

 

After the younger players, Benjani also brought in two older but still under 25 year olds with something to prove in Levitt and Mallamo.

 

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The fact that they’re already both fan favorites shows how big of an impact Levitt and Mallamo had in the back half of the season. 

 

Dylan Levitt

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Alessandro Mallamo

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Frustrations

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Benjani could not help but be annoyed at this.  His Portsmouth side had won League 1 in 21/22, with Ipswich their closest challengers.  While Portsmouth struggled to find their feet in the Championship, however, Ipswich went from strength to strength and gained back-to-back Promotions.  They finished third in the league and came from behind in the playoff semi final, before going on to win via a stoppage time goal in the final itself.

 

Benjani wasn’t sure if his side or even the club itself were ready to challenge for the Premier League in 23/24, but the competitive side of him was frustrated with being passed so completely by a team.  Even if Ipswich may come tumbling right back down, and even if Portsmouth had no business being in the Premier League themselves, it was hard not to think of what could have been if…if he’d gone with the 3-5-2 earlier…if he’d given Fiabema and Mallamo more time over mediocre veterans like Curtis and Harness.

 

Even as Benjani felt the pangs of jealousy in his heart, he knew that it was not Portsmouth’s time yet.  They needed more time to build the foundations of the club, more time for him to create a culture that would carry them upwards.  It would take time, but Benjani would remember the feeling of watching Ipswich pass him by, keep it with him, and use it to drive himself and his club forward…

Edited by 13th Man
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