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[FM22] The Ruins of Pompey - The Ballad of Benjani - Phase 2 - Put the Wind in Your Sails!


13th Man
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Haha, I like the idea of Benjani being the heir. Spot on with describing the difference between Pep's micro managing style and the creative thinking almost spiritual ideas of Cruyff. How that can be translated in to FM remains to be seen, but a cracking idea :cool:

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10 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Haha, I like the idea of Benjani being the heir. Spot on with describing the difference between Pep's micro managing style and the creative thinking almost spiritual ideas of Cruyff. How that can be translated in to FM remains to be seen, but a cracking idea :cool:

Thanks, yeah - it’ll be a fun challenge and add a new dimension.

Obviously, FM can’t recreate anything truly approaching total football, but what I’m going to try to take from it is the fluid movement, teamwork, and creativity - as well as Cruyff’s stylistic aggression and determined attitude.

Cruyff will be the judge of whether Benjani approaches it or not…

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Tactical, statistical, training Interlude!

BUT FIRST!!!!

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Ooo - Look at the new graphic!  Look at 13th Man’s incredible skill!  He’s almost as good with free image software as he is at writing [read s*%t]!  

 

Why did I suddenly decide to make that?

 

One, I notice all the cool people have graphics at the top of their proper posts, and two I’m going to use it as an organizational tool. The one above will be more about tactics, stats, team building, and all that good stuff that no director would ever put in a movie.  The other one (I’ll probably be adding them to previous posts cause I’m like that) will be for the ‘film’ and be more of the ‘updates’ that go over what happened and focus on the DRAMA!  Tactics and plenty of the rest will appear in the ‘film’ too (that’s my favorite part of the game) but I’ll be a bit more clear in the “Behind the Scenes” posts.

Part 1 - The System

Following up on that last post, this will be a four [edit five!] part post going “behind the scenes” to look at Benjani’s journey towards Total Football. It is not there yet.  Not by a long shot. May never be.  Some of that is that the team isn’t ready, but lots of it is the tactical side too.

 

In game, it says that Benjani’s tactical style is Vertical Tiki-Taka, but with the expectations on the WCBs to support attacks, expectations for the front three to defend, and the very fluid movement throughout the side - bar the covering CB and the holding midfielder - it is more related to Total Football than Benjani had realized. (Special thanks, in many ways, to @sixpointer, who’s posts made me realize how much in common Benjani’s system had with the positional play that Howedes is looking to create at Sparta…)   So...here is Benjani’s total football, or at least his first step towards it.

 

To be clear, it will never truly be Total Football, but when it occurred to me that Benjani’s ideals (as I imagine them) were in many ways headed towards total football, I decided I’d use it as a guiding principle. Benjani’s tactic is already very fluid (see below) with a lot of varied movement and players that take on different roles depending on where the ball and their teammates are.  He was already looking for determined, hard working, very fit players who were good in a team (see more/review in Club DNA post) and at the Championship level, that’s about as close as one could hope for.  Benjani was also looking to build a cohesive team structure, and understanding between players is crucial to pulling off something like Total Football.

 

This is a new journey for me - trying to go with a specific football philosophy rather than just trying to figure out how I can score and defend with the players I have and can get.  I’m also no expert on Total Football, and have only pretty much started researching it in any specific way for this series of posts.  I’d be happy to hear others’ thoughts and insights as we go along!

Total Football - In Brief

Again, I’m no expert on Total Football, but as I understand it, the basis of the philosophy is that all ten outfield players should be able to play any position on the pitch. Players still play a specified position, but move very fluidly roaming in and out of space depending on the ball, the opposition, and their teammates.  This requires high drive, teamwork, footballing intelligence and, crucially, a deep understanding between teammates so that they can anticipate each other’s movements to cover, help or make space - as Cruyff said in an interview he was a player who liked to dribble, so if you wanted to “help” him you needed to move away to create space, whereas helping other players would meen to come to to give a passing option.

 

The philosophy was, in many ways, a reaction against the Italian man marking and defensive system of Catenaccio by making a team nearly impossible to man mark.  The fluid movement, with players switching position constantly, would mean that - if man marking instructions were followed - a centerback could find himself covering a player around the halfway line while the ball was in his own box because the opposition center forward had rotated all the way to the back of the shape.

Benjani’s Total Football

In Benjani’s practice, this level of fluidity isn’t going to be possible.  As a player with a lower middle Championship side, a true attempt to play Total Football would lead to his side dropping back into League One like a lead balloon.  Some concessions would have to be made - Cruyff wouldn’t mind either, as he knew that results were everything.

 

Instead of trying to completely implement the philosophy of Total Football, Benjani will be attempting to set up a system/shape in such a way that players move and fluidly, aggressively attack and defend as a unit, and generally to make it as easy as possible for players to make the right decisions.  As Portsmouth (hopefully) move forward, Benjani will seek to implement more and more of the Total Football philosophy over time, and I’ll go over future plans and other thoughts in later parts of this Tactical Interlude.

The System Overview

Here I’ll go over the main ideas before breaking them down by roles and duties, in possession, in transition, and out of possession with examples and stats and all that fun stuff in later posts. I’ll talk about where it is now (beginning of the 22/23 season), how it worked in League One (21/22 season), and the possible ideas to move it more towards Total Football.

 

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As we will see later, the 5-2-3 is really the defensive shape only, and even then it’s more of a 3-4-3, with the WBs more in line with the midfielders than tha backline.  The tactic itself is designed to attack the channels in possession. The players themselves move in and out of this space, with and without the ball, but that is the area where Benjani is looking to exploit.  On the right, the WCB, CAR, and the IF are all in the channel at different levels while the WB keeps the width, and their instructions lead to very fluid movement that can be a nightmare to defend.  On the left, the holding midfielder means there is one less body here, but often the PF will naturally drift this way and even without that, the WCB and the IF can still overmatch defenses - especially when they’ve been pulled right by the overload.  Without the ball, Benjani wants to shrink the pitch. With a high DL and a standard LOE, Benjani constricts space for the opposition and asks his forward players to prevent short goalkeeper distribution. Someday, he hopes to press more urgently, and probably higher, but for now he has to be satisfied with being aggressive in transition and in the roles his players are assigned, but overall stay compact while defending.

 

I’ll go into more detail on each aspect later but for now, some critical PIs and TIs and how they ‘make’ the tactic.

3 Crucial PI’s

While most of the roles give Benjani the movement and play he’s looking for without further adjustment, the front three did require tweaks.  

 

1  - All - With off the ball movement critical to the system, all three are instructed to roam from position

 

2 - IFs - Benjani wanted the two wide forwards to be wider without the ball, but to tuck in when Portsmouth had possession, and that’s why both are Inside Forwards rather than Inverted Wingers.  Even more, though, he instructs both to sit narrower so that they’re starting positions are in the channels rather than a bit wider.  This both gives the WBs space on the flanks, and allows both to play off the center forward.

 

3 - All - All three in the front press to create a split block.  This puts pressure on the players who tend to be least comfortable on the ball and helps prevent killer balls over the top from deep.

Crucial TI’s

1) fairly narrow width - which encourages quick passing and movement. The shape naturally stays quite wide but the TI keeps players closer together.

 

2) Underlap right/left - which encourages the players to try and pull defenders wide before pulling the ball back for players in the channels.  This opens up space in dangerous areas in and around the box, rather than leading to runs to the byline and crosses into a crowded box with players already set.

 

At the beginning, Benjani had wide width and occasionally toyed with overlap left/right, but found that led to endless crosses.  As mentioned in previous tactical interludes (and inspired the upcoming hit single Makin’ a Tactic) the above crucial TI’s began to create the play Benjani was looking for, leading to better ball movement and better chances.

Shapes

Again, more detail to follow in the following posts, but here’s a quick snapshot of what the side looks like in and out of possession.

 

Shape Out of Possession

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The WBs and IFs form a unit on the flanks, the CMs work together to hold the middle, and the CF presses the backline and/or deep midfielders. The Portsmouth backline moved as a fairly compact three, though the two WCBs do step up to address dangers or cover for others.

 

As you can see, this is definitely not Total Football - it’s too deep, not aggressive enough - but it does shrink the pitch with a high line and a press that starts around the center circle.

 

Shape in Possession

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The compact shape of the first screenshot explodes outward when possession is won. The WBs surge forwards to join the attack, often running beyond the IFs, who quickly tuck infield. Arrows show the common movements, though it all depends on which flank the ball is on.

 

UP NEXT - Tactical Interlude Part 2 - Roles and Duties

Edited by 13th Man
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Love it! And agree that you have to work towards total football it’s definitely not something that can happen over night

it will help when your recruitment and coaching teams all aligns with Benjani’s desire to move forward this way

great insight to your thinking. 

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1 hour ago, SixPointer said:

it will help when your recruitment and coaching teams all aligns with Benjani’s desire to move forward this way

This is exactly it.  It already had an effect on the summer transfers and it's what I'm looking for out of the coaches too, like you said.

Much more to come, I'm going deep at the moment.  Four more parts of this tactical interlude coming soon...

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10 hours ago, DefinitelyTaylor said:

Fantastic post mate. I enjoyed that one - there's a good balance between the gameplay and the 'other' bits and pieces, it's nice to see some focus on the tactical side given the new focus on Total Football. Looking forward to seeing how you learn and develop the system.

Appreciate it! There’s a bunch more tactics coming up, but may intersperse it with the “film” as Im 9 games into the new season. Decisions, decisions…

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18 hours ago, 13th Man said:

This is exactly it.  It already had an effect on the summer transfers and it's what I'm looking for out of the coaches too, like you said.

Much more to come, I'm going deep at the moment.  Four more parts of this tactical interlude coming soon...

Look forward to the next part 

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Tactical Interlude - Part 2 - Roles and Duties

At first the plan was to go straight into out if possession TIs, but I realized that this tactic - and most tactics - are about roles and duties as much as anything else. Going over TIs without touching on roles and duties would be like telling a builder about the light fixtures you want in the house without telling them where you want the walls. There are many guides to roles and duties so I won’t go into crazy detail about what each role does so much as how it fits in with this tactic and how Benjani plans to adjust roles in the future as Portsmouth progresses with the system.

 

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Sweeper Keeper - Defend

With the high DL, the keeper is needed occasionally to mop up through balls and with the emphasis on possession and general playing out of the back (roll it out/distribute to center-backs) he should be decent with the ball at his feet.  He is also frequently needed to recycle possession.  With a limited, young keeper in Stolarczyk, Benjani doesn’t want him to be trying his own Cruyff turns in the box, so he’ll be on defend.

 

Total Football Plans - Benjani will hope to increase that to support or attack in the future so the keeper can be more involved in possession and/or starting quick counters.

Center Back - Cover

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Upon arriving at the club Benjani found several players who were very capable of playing wide center back and one very limited player that was immense in the air in Raggett.  He’s an acceptable passer of the ball, but has no other technical ability.  His role in the side is to be the reserve parachute - to stay home, win everything that comes his way, and then pass it off to a better player when he does win it.  With WCBs on either side, this player also needs to stay home and cover for his more forward minded teammates.

 

Total Football Plans - While there need to be some holding roles, Benjani will hope to give this player more creative freedom in the future, possibly making this role as a BPD(c) or, potentially, a Libero(s) - though the latter is probably too much. He would love to have another passing option from deep though!

Wide Center Backs - Support

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Here we are, the big one! This newly introduced role is the key to this system in many ways. They’re the extra runner that creates the overloads from deep, the one who links between the WBs and IFs, and recycle possession. They are the ones who fill the open spaces and play off the more forward players. The first competitive goal of the save was assisted by a WCB overlapping a WB and crossing into the box. Having willed my outside CBs to go forward and fill the space, offer an option in FM21, seeing them do just that has been wonderful.

 

Defensively, they do a job as well. They’re a bit more aggressive in the space they occupy, but not necessarily in the urgency of their closing down. It’s been fantastic in that they cut off supply to wide forwards on support duty, challenging them higher up the pitch and often physically overmatching them before they can control the ball.

 

Crucially, when one goes forward, the other stays, and while they occasionally leave holes when the lose possession in dangerous areas, the cover CB, far side WCB and the holding center mid are usually able to cover.

 

Total Football Plans - the main thing here is simply personnel.  The role is performing very well already.  Ideally, Benjani is looking for players that can also double as WBs, though passing is more important than crossing for WCBs. I occasionally move one to attack, but haven’t found it very effective from a balance point of view.  

Wing Back - support 

The wingbacks provide the width in the formation, and are a huge part of build up play.  With the wide forwards tucking inside, the WBs pull the opposition apart and create space for the WCBs and the IFs to attack.  They are also one of the few players in the system who have space to dribble and attack their man.

 

PI - Cross less often.  This works in tandem with the look for underlap TI that encourages the WBs to lay balls off to players in more dangerous positions.  Not only does this get the ball into more dangerous central areas, it also discourages them from lumping the ball into a crowded box.  They still cross a lot.

Total Football Plans - Like the WCB, the role performs as desired in terms of Total Football.  Benjani will be, going forward, looking for players who are slightly more offensive minded.  However, he would also love to get players who can double as WCBs.

Carillero - Support

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The engine of the system. The ‘shuttler’ is there to help progress the ball from back to front, and to pop up on the edge of the area to score from distance or maintain possession in dangerous areas.  The baked in stay wider PI means he plays a big in the right sided overload (as will be seen in the in possession section).

 

Tunnicliffe started the year in this role, but Morrell quickly proved himself the better option as a more skillful and creative type. 

 

Total Football Plans - As will be shown in the in possession section, Benjani was starting to wonder if the CAR role wasn’t as effective as he would like.  He liked the spaces he was finding, but there was less central play than he would like.  He was giving strong consideration to changing the role to roaming playmaker so that he could take part in the right side overload, but also participate on the left as well - roaming to wherever there was space and more effectively linking the disparate parts of the team. The option for the more limited players is also box to box midfielder. [This CAR might be a holdover from Verdi's 5-2-1-2 in Livorno (fm21) which needed added width with only WBs wide]

Central Midfielder - Defend

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This is the other ‘holding’ player in the shape.  They’re instructed to stay back and cover for the adventurous WCBs, recycle possession, and (occasionally) make themselves available outside the box.  He needs to be defensively solid and hardworking to cover a lot of space - including for their midfield partner who is given more of a free role - but still comfortable on the ball.  Their deeper role means they only need to be a decent passer and not a creative force.  Tunnicliffe settled into this role when Thompson went out with a broken leg.  An aggressive, determined player with decent pace and physical abilities, he doesn’t let opposition by easily.  While his traits gets into opposition areas make him a bit less suited for the holding role, Benjani doesn’t mind an occasional foray forward.

 

Total Football Plans - Benjani hoped to make this player a deep lying playmaker in time.  To balance the system, this player would still need to stay back and cover for their teammates, but having a good passer from deep would be a great tool to unlock defenses.

Inside Forward (right) - Support

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The right sided wide forward is a bit deeper than the left sided player, both to give varying levels in the passing game and to help more defensively considering the free role given to the right sided CM.  As a slightly deeper player, they should either be a good passer or dribble (or both!) so they can either play killer balls to the attacking IF and CF or use their deeper position as an opportunity to get a head of steam before running at their defender and beating them on the dribble.  Defensively, they should go wide to assist the WB when the ball is on their side, and tuck in to mark a midfielder or central defender when the ball is on the far side.

Harness has played well in this role using his pace and decent dribbling abilities, but he’s strangely inconsistent.

 

PI’s - Sit narrower - while the IF helps out on the flank defensively, he should attack the channels and space allowed by the Pressing Forward’s deeper position. Roam from position - While the channel is the key, Benjani wants this player to go where the space is and get open in the box.

 

Total Football Plans - The role performs as Benjani would like for the most part.  He is hoping to get a very creative or high flair player in this role to add a different element to their attack.

Inside Forward (left) - Attack

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This role became the primary goal threat for Portsmouth in League One. Like the right sided IF, this player helps a bit on the flanks without the ball, but in possession he looks to get in behind the opposition’s defensive line as the Pressing Forward pulls them out of position.  Benjani feels as if his current player’s mentality is lacking a bit (determination 7) but Harrison’s physicality makes him a mismatch for center backs (acceleration 13) and wingbacks (jumping 15) and allowed him to score a lot of goals in a variety of ways.

 

PI’s - Sit narrower - while the IF helps out on the flank defensively, he should attack the channels and space allowed by the Pressing Forward’s deeper position. Roam from position - While the channel is the key, Benjani wants this player to go where the space is and get open in the box.

 

Total Football Plans - The role performs as Benjani would like for the most part.  He would hope to eventually get a player who is a physical mismatch like Harrison is (strong, tall, fast) but who has a better mentality than his current options.

Pressing Forward - Support

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This role evolved from attack to support about halfway through the 21/22 season when Benjani realized that their primary goalscoring threat was the left sided IF.  The switch to a deeper role not only opened up space for Harrison on the left, but made Marquis much more involved in the build up play and his combination with Morrell in midfield and the other two forwards led to a lot of assists and goals for him as well as his runs from deep were often not picked up.  Defensively, he will press the center backs if they come forward, but his role is to harass the deep midfielders and not allow them to recycle possession once the ball is in Portsmouth’s half.

 

Total Football Plans - Benjani is wondering about changing this role to that of DLF(s) or CF(s) to allow him more room to roam.  Currently, having a fixed point to play off of has been effective, but long term Benjani is hoping to have a more rounded role here.

Summary

Overall, Benjani is happy with where his side is going into the Championship.  In League One, they played beautifully fluid football that got better as the players got accustomed to it and as Benjani honed his tactics.  While some roles may evolve over time - SK(d) to SK(s), CM(d) to DLP(d), etc - Benjani feels like the core values of fluid movement and team defending are in place with the current set up.

 

UP NEXT - Out of Possession

Edited by 13th Man
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Great posts there. And I liked the graphics as well :p

I agree that you can go for slightly more nuanced roles as your player quality improves over time. For example an F9 may be worth looking at and definitely some more creative roles in midfield. But anyway as they say, don't fix it if it ain't broke. 

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1 hour ago, karanhsingh said:

Great posts there. And I liked the graphics as well :p

I agree that you can go for slightly more nuanced roles as your player quality improves over time. For example an F9 may be worth looking at and definitely some more creative roles in midfield. But anyway as they say, don't fix it if it ain't broke. 

False 9! Is definitely a total football role for sure but I’ve also now found the complete forward support does a sublime job as well if you have the player. 
I would tempt benjani to try it Marquis just to see how it may effect it 

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1 hour ago, karanhsingh said:

Great posts there. And I liked the graphics as well :p

I agree that you can go for slightly more nuanced roles as your player quality improves over time. For example an F9 may be worth looking at and definitely some more creative roles in midfield. But anyway as they say, don't fix it if it ain't broke. 

Totally agree - I think the F9 might be the end goal.  I've never quite gotten it to work, but this is definitely the right system for it.

 

1 minute ago, SixPointer said:

False 9! Is definitely a total football role for sure but I’ve also now found the complete forward support does a sublime job as well if you have the player. 
I would tempt benjani to try it Marquis just to see how it may effect it 

HA!  Just as I was typing.  I'll definitely have to see about Marquis.  He's not really suited to the role, but worth giving it a go!

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The F9 role for a forward is an interesting role. He is in between a CF-S and DLF-S and drops deeper than Trequarista. He makes passes like a playmaker, but also take chance himself if the opportunity presents itself. 

You want a player with good decisions, passing, Finishing, longshots, and flair.... also, composure.

Lionel Messi is an ideal F9 imho.

but the role works with lesser players as well.

I used the role in FM21 with Grenoble and FC Kosice.

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6 hours ago, SixPointer said:

False 9! Is definitely a total football role for sure but I’ve also now found the complete forward support does a sublime job as well if you have the player. 
I would tempt benjani to try it Marquis just to see how it may effect it 

Yes I loved the false 9 role on FM21 paired up with a lethal SS. Of course CF too but am always hesitant to play an average player as CF. 

6 hours ago, 13th Man said:

Totally agree - I think the F9 might be the end goal.  I've never quite gotten it to work, but this is definitely the right system for it.

HA!  Just as I was typing.  I'll definitely have to see about Marquis.  He's not really suited to the role, but worth giving it a go!

Look forward to see how the tactic continues to develop in this direction

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5 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Yes I loved the false 9 role on FM21 paired up with a lethal SS. Of course CF too but am always hesitant to play an average player as CF. 

Look forward to see how the tactic continues to develop in this direction

My CF’s key passes have went through the roof compared to the DLF as I see him often playing through balls to the runners which is just music to my ears 

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2 hours ago, SixPointer said:

My CF’s key passes have went through the roof compared to the DLF as I see him often playing through balls to the runners which is just music to my ears 

The CF-S role even when it doesn't have a "Perfect" player is much more aggressive than a DLF-S in FM22.

In fact, I have switched to that role at Baltika even though none of my players are suited to it, but have seen the same Key passes rates go up which is what I was looking for.

 

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Yes yes yes. Love all this. I think the F9 might be the end goal, but the CF(s) might be a good one for now. This is the first tactic where I’ve successfully used a lone forward on a support duty, so it’s all a bit new in that sense. Thinking Marquis actually has the ability to play as a CF(s) at the Championship level.

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Tactical Interlude Part 3 - Out of Possession

 

Here we are with part three of our tactical interlude - this time it’s out of possession. Benjani’s tactic is designed to be compact and tough to breakdown while still being aggressive and proactive while defending. Here are the TIs...

 

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One obvious thing I forgot to mention in the system post is that Benjani’s mentality is set on positive - which makes the pressing more urgent and the lines higher automatically. The DL is then put one notch higher, the “standard” LOE is actually a bit high, and the default pressing is actually slightly more often.

 

While the in transition TI is to counter press, and Benjani seeks to prevent short goalkeeper distribution, in the hopes of getting possession back immediately, Portsmouth will then pull back into a compact shape. This is much less proactive than true Total Football, but one of Cruyff’s quotes was “If you have the ball you must make the pitch as big as possible. If you lose the ball you must make the pitch as small as possible” and this compact shape certainly makes the pitch small.

 

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With a high DL and “standard” LOE, the space for the opposition to play through is heavily congested.

 

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The WBs and wide forwards cover the flanks, the WCBs and the CB(c) tuck in and the CMs screen the backline. The opposite side wide forward, though, will tuck in to help prevent a switch of play, and to trap the ball on that side of the pitch, further shrinking the pitch.

 

The PF roves around as almost a “free” role, aggressively closing down anyone who tries to move forward and build up play. This as much as the in possession shift, was why the switch to the PF(s) from PF(a) was so effective. With a PF(a) he tended to push up against the CBs a but more, and it was easy for other teams to pass around him and he’d run in circles. With the shift to a PF(s), he becomes part of the defensive unit and means that the center backs either need to attack space with the ball at their feet (which they’re likely not comfortable doing), pass it into a congested area, or try for low percentage, long range passes.

 

"We must make sure their worst players get the ball the most. You'll get it back in no time."

- Johan Cruyff.

 

In this case, that’s usually the CBs. Letting them have the ball means Portsmouth can expect the opposition to make poor passes, and their better players will receive the ball under pressure and without much space or options.

 

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Looking at the stats, you can see how this worked. Interestingly, Portsmouth didn’t tackle much, and when they did, they were poor. Some of the low number of tackles was that they didn’t need to much, but it isn’t a team that is especially good at tackling. But they don’t need to be. Not only were they far and away the best defensive team in League One…

 

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...but they did not allow good quality chances either, with an opposition conversion rate of only 6%.

 

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What stands out, though, is that while the defensive actions were spread through the Portsmouth half, possession gained was mostly between the halfway line and the edge of their box. This was because the tactic is designed to force the opposition into mistakes. Portsmouth excelled at interceptions and forcing the opponent to kick the ball out of bounds or uselessly into space.

 

Here’s an example of a time when Pompey won the ball a bit higher up the pitch, and shows the power of the PF(s).

 

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This is from the Sheffield Wednesday game late in the season, and Wednesday have just progressed the ball a bit up the flank, but their wide forward Windass (ouch) has just come up against WB Romeo and decided to turn the ball back infield to the left CM. Romeo will follow him, preventing the pass to the CF who is marked by WCB Freeman anyway, with IF Harness coming back to support and cover Windass. 

 

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Their AM moved away from CAR Morrell into a pocket of space, but neither the ball carrier nor that AM see Marquis dropping in, and he swoops in for the interception. This would lead (2 mins, an attack down the right, which we’ll see later, and then a foray down the left) to Pompey’s third goal of this match.

 

Total Football Plans

If Total Football is the goal, Benjani would later hope to move the pressing intensity, the DL, and the LOE up one notch each, as soon as he has players able to execute such an aggressive game. Even then, though, he doesn’t plan 

to go to extremely urgent pressing. He will try to take Cruyff’s quote to heart and shrink the pitch while trying to force the opposition’s worst players to make plays. There may be occasions when he’ll need to press the PF (or forward role) high and or up the LOE, but for now the out of possession TIs balanced well with his players attributes and abilities.

 

UP NEXT - Part 4 - In Possession

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Interesting that you aren't good at tacking and are still defending very well.

My Russian team is defending well by blocking and clearing the box, but then we don't really press...

Aren't you worried about Over-the-top balls against your compact shape?

 

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10 hours ago, leschko said:

This is one of the best FM Stories I've ever read!!!

Thanks!  Considering some of the quality threads on this forum that's really high praise.  Much appreciated.

10 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

You do a great job of explaining your goals and ideas, excellent detail levels as usual :thup:

Many thanks.  Details and the little things are where this game comes alive for me.  Glad I can share it in a way that others enjoy as well!

9 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Aren't you worried about Over-the-top balls against your compact shape?

Sometimes - but again, the system is designed to get their worst players on the ball - the CBs - and their over the top balls are far less accurate and dangerous.  With 3atb there's also ample cover.  With the high line there's also space to recover, plus decent pace in the Portsmouth backline - no one under 10 pace/acceleration and most above.  It's become a bit more of an issue in the Championship, but usually only when the CF gets baited into closing down the CBs and they can play in an unmarked CM who then plays over the top.  Benjani will be prioritizing pace in the backline going forward, with only the Cover CB expected to be really excellent in the air...

3 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Brilliant post, I am a big fan of the compact block. Also dropping some truth bombs from Cruyff there :lol:

This exploration has made me realize that I'm actually a total football person. Cruyff and total football was all before my time - at least before I was paying attention to tactics and such - but as a player I prided myself on being able to play every position (including GK!) and at least be aware of the roles in the team.  So yes, looks like I'll be dropping Cruyff Bombs whenever I can...Quoting is not normally my style either but this save has taken me in many very different directions than I'd planed and I'm absolutely loving it!

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6 hours ago, 13th Man said:

Thanks!  Considering some of the quality threads on this forum that's really high praise.  Much appreciated.

Many thanks.  Details and the little things are where this game comes alive for me.  Glad I can share it in a way that others enjoy as well!

Sometimes - but again, the system is designed to get their worst players on the ball - the CBs - and their over the top balls are far less accurate and dangerous.  With 3atb there's also ample cover.  With the high line there's also space to recover, plus decent pace in the Portsmouth backline - no one under 10 pace/acceleration and most above.  It's become a bit more of an issue in the Championship, but usually only when the CF gets baited into closing down the CBs and they can play in an unmarked CM who then plays over the top.  Benjani will be prioritizing pace in the backline going forward, with only the Cover CB expected to be really excellent in the air...

This exploration has made me realize that I'm actually a total football person. Cruyff and total football was all before my time - at least before I was paying attention to tactics and such - but as a player I prided myself on being able to play every position (including GK!) and at least be aware of the roles in the team.  So yes, looks like I'll be dropping Cruyff Bombs whenever I can...Quoting is not normally my style either but this save has taken me in many very different directions than I'd planed and I'm absolutely loving it!

That's great. It's best when it builds organically like this! 

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Tactical Interlude Part 4 - In Possession

It’s here, the final installment of this Tactical Interlude…In Possession!!!

 

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Benjani did not intend for this to be a possession tactic, and while it has evolved in that direction, it is not a defensive possession tactic. Those that followed my Livorno save might remember that, at least at first, I used possession to keep pressure off my defense and make sure my players didn’t have to work so hard. This is different. This is a positive possession tactic, looking to pull the opposition out of position with movement and quick passing.

 

Be more expressive was added late in the season to give players more freedom to pick how they’d unlock stubborn defenses, but fits very well with the total football philosophy.

 

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The shape has remained consistent even as the TI’s evolved - exploding from a compact 5-2-3 out of possession to a wide 3-4-3 with the ball. With the PF on support duty, he looks to come deep to link up with the midfield, pull the center backs out of position, then play in the WBs or IFs making runs on either side. When the ball moves down one flank, the WCB on that side advances to provide a deeper option for the underlap while the far side WCB stays deep.

 

Benjani, at first, wanted to impose his will with determination and physicality, and while that hasn’t changed, the way he wants to go about it has. Those early months saw endless crosses as the wide overloads created space on the flanks. This was great against high lines…and terrible against deep blocks. Benjani shifted the focus to the channels with the underlaps instruction, which brought the best out of the WCBs and wide forwards.

 

Here’s an example of the right side overload and how it wreaks havoc on the defense. It will also show an issue with the tactic that we’ll get to after.

 

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The WB (red) has gotten to the byline, but instead of crossing he looks inside for an underlapping teammate. The WCB (black) is a bit too far back, the defender is between the ball and the IF (blue), but the CAR (purple) makes a good run to get open to receive the ball. 

 

The CAR receives the ball with two players closing in. The IF has drifted back into a pocket of space but can’t be reached and the WB is recovering from an offside position. The WCB, however, is unmarked as he runs towards the top of the box.

 

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When the WCB receives the ball, he is in a dangerous position, but is being closed down. Unfortunately, he does not see the movement of the IF drifting into space near the penalty spot, or at least sets his body the wrong way and by the time he's controlled the ball the defender has closed him down. 

 

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Instead, he ends up passing to the holding midfielder (rightmost player in red/black), which starts an attack down the left that results in a goal. 

 

Though this example didn’t come to much directly - it did lead to a goal shortly thereafter when the attack down the left did create a goal - two elements are distinctive about Portsmouth’s play here.

 

One - the movement and passing always means someone is open to receive a pass and it has the opposition scrambling. The defenders are running every which way as they struggle to keep up.

 

Two - there is a huge rift between the two sides of the team. When the WCB looks to switch flanks, he has to play the ball 20+ yards to the left sided CM. This makes quick switches of play difficult.

 

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The passing map, taken from the match featured in both examples, is very common - two flanks only loosely connected by the CF, and very far apart. (Passing maps will return in Scene 3 and beyond as the Benjani works the tactic).

Future Plans

Benjani hopes to create more of a cohesive team shape of passes to allow for switches of play. Two elements that might help are role changes - CAR to RPM and PF(s) to DLF(s). The RPM wouldn’t sit so wide and would just drift where space was, always looking to provide an option and (hopefully) link up more with his partner and the left flank in general. The DLF would roam more than the stationary PF and likewise try to find space on a higher level.

 

In terms of TIs, Benjani often liked to play out of defense and, less often, work the ball into the box in situations where his side were being wasteful.

 

An example of a truly fantastic goal actually happened in the second game of the Championship season that made use of players at a variety of levels, and left the opposition unable to cope with the fluid movement and quick passing. The hope is to create this sort of thing more often...

 

 

[Hopefully this can be seen and works ok. It was so beautiful I just had to put it on video, but it might be too low quality?]

 

Harrison [IF]  plays in Brown [LWB], who one touches it to Robertson [WCB] as he powers towards the top of the box.  With the defense retreating, Harrison checks his run, leaving him unmarked.  Harrison turns in space after receiving the ball, and while he might have thought about having a go, he spots Marquis [CF] who’s also checked his run and finds himself in space.  A one-two between Harrison and Marquis puts the IF through on goal and he powers it past the keeper.  In this example, the only player who took more than one touch was Harrison as he tried to find a bit of space in the box.  Otherwise, it was quick incisive one-touch football.

Stats

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The results were very good, of course, if not as stunning as their defensive stats. They scored a lot, but ended up well behind Ipswich and Rotherham.

 

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The exception was passing, where they were massive outliers.

 

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They passed the ball nearly 590 times per game with a 94% completion percentage - massively above all but Doncaster (somewhat covered in the graphic by the Portsmouth logo). Benjani was very happy to see this as quick passing and fluid movement were at the core of what he wanted - and where he was headed with Total Football.

 

YoxTCQnH7WAcJU3Q3x_PIHV0rqZTQZjw78ka8sSeioYsz6krBX4G64Qt6JXYTCg1WuEQF74DysUOT88wK0qK8COf7gRz7ke2AZrLwgQUKxLm4RTA1ZwF8aCsHy-S4MzkH2ObAN4W

 

Where Benjani wanted to improve was in the quality of chances. They were the second most aggressive team in terms of shots, but only decent when it came to their conversion rate. Still too many crosses leading to low percentage headers. He hoped that his role changes might start to lead to more central penetration and, thus, better chances.  He knew that in the Championship the quality of the opposition would mean less chances so the one’s they’d get needed to be converted at a better rate.

 

Thus ends our tactical Interlude. More to come as the tactic evolves, but now it’s time for Benjani to test his system, his side, and himself in the Championship!

UP NEXT - Scene 3 Is That All?

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22 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

What a goal that is! Its like watching Barcelona ;) 

Is Morrell your CAR? Surprised to see him in line with the striker! I always assumed it was a deeper role.

Ooo I see what you did there!!!

But yes, Morrell is the CAR and he’s very adventurous in the role!

20 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Great Stuff. Hope you keep it up, but there will be some teams which will stop it just because of amazing players.  

How did you create the Video file? I saw it was .mov.

Thanks! You’ll soon find out how it’s going in the championship…

For the movie, I just did a screen capture. Not great, but that was a beauty of a goal…

19 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Loving the wide overloads that you can be seen from your pass maps!! 

They’re great, but led to too much useless crossing. Benjani is hoping to find a balance between the wide overload and the ability to switch the field (not just crossing).

Its a great new feature though! Used to have to make my own if I really wanted to study, love that it’s automatically generated now.

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4ytuHIn5UWxUOkifIX5vToV_9FgyJVsvk9pXl6Y255Qu82ts-L2AmJrTDu123aKny1pxl94hxzH0okTDWUVqSj00IMUkqpHPxpoJsdCehkuaz_nJ1RC_4un8toU8Z-RtQkKxD88A

Scene 3 - Is that All?

Fade into a tracking shot of Benjani and his assistant Dunne as they walk together down a hallway adorned with Portsmouth decorations.

 

“…22nd…” Dunne 

 

“What??” Benjani suddenly turns. “The bookies have us coming in 22nd?”

 

“Aye,” Dunne sighs, “we’re expected to go right back down.”

 

Benjani sighs heavily, but then shrugs, “Well, if it’s 22nd it’ll just take a few lucky bounces for us to defy expectations then and get to 21st or 20th then, won’t it?”

 

Dunne laughs, “I guess so, boss.”

 

Benjani slaps him on the shoulder, pausing before the door to the dressing room, “Shall we?”

 

Dunne nods and Benjani opens the door for him. The camera stays behind as the door closes behind Benjani.

 

Fade to black. Text over screen as we hear the roar of a crowd.

 

23 July 2022

Fratton Park

Portsmouth vs Luton Town

 

“Welcome to Fratton park where, after an eleven year absence, Portsmouth return to the Championship with a match against Luton Town. It is normally the time of year when we would be covering friendlies, but with the World Cup in Qatar this winter, the season starts here on a wonderfully mild summer’s afternoon on the south coast…”

 

Cut to the pitch.

 

“…Brown pulls it back for Tunnicliffe, who puts a diagonal ball into the box…well defended by Luton but it falls for Morrell on the edge of the…oooo what a goal from Morrell!!! On the volley!! It only took Portsmouth four minutes to score their first Championship goal since 2011!!! Welcome back to the Championship Pompey!!!”

 

Cut.

 

“…And here’s a chance for Portsmouth after being awarded a free kick a yard inside the corner flag. Morrell to take. He sends it to the far post. TUNNICLIFFE!!! Tunnicliffe rises up to put the ball in the net and double Portsmouth’s lead!!!”

 

Cut to the second half, the game clock reads sixty minutes.

 

“Luton go back to front quickly here, ooo!  Mendes Gomes is through on goal...and FINISHES WITH A LOW DRIVE!!!  You can’t say it hasn’t been coming, either!  Luton Town cut the lead in half as once again Portsmouth can’t mark the attacking midfielder in Luton’s 4-3-1-2. Their defense opened like the Red Sea for Gomes who made no mistake!”

 

Cut to Benjani on the sideline with Dunne next to him furiously shaking his head.

 

“Right,” Benjani says softly, then much louder, “5-2-1-2!  Hey, Brown!”

 

The captain looks over to Benjani who puts up five fingers, two fingers, one finger, and two fingers.  Brown nods and yells to his teammates. The forwards all nod.

 

“Morrell!” Benjani yells again, “stay put!  Make the plays from deeper.”

 

“Take over the center, boss?” Dunne asks.

 

“We’ve still got our advantage, I’m not going to let them use theirs and I’m going to make it ours.”

 

Cut to the eightieth minute.

 

“Once again Luton’s foray into the Portsmouth half comes to nothing - Benjani’s switch to a 5-2-1-2 has completely stifled Luton’s central attack.  And now it’s Pompey’s turn to go quickly forward and...Harness is through here and...HARNESS SCORES!!!  Just like Portsmouth had struggled to deal with an attacking midfielder’s runs from deep, Luton’s defense opens up for Harness, allowing him far too easily to split the centerbacks and run right at the keeper and reclaim Portsmouth’s two goal lead!”

 

“....and Stolarczyk clears it upfield...but wait!  It’s Harness again and he’s clear through on goal to...HARNESS SCORES AGAIN!!! It’s a rout!  A team that many expected to struggle has just made a statement here today at Fratton Park!!”

 

Cut to Benjani celebrating on the sideline.

 

He grabs Dunn’s arms, “Going right back down, yeah?  This Championship thing isn’t so hard!!!”

 

[Montage music kicks in, similar to Makin a Tactic, but a little more in the background]

 

rwigfiLLdC-fDG64ar_rD14px706JyZfh3SHLgLLaF6pqiWx_hUj8TopPyHde2WT0b46S4BV6hvz7iYmhSSEVR0d73ZgwA2Hj9GuV1ZecRnVnTAyN-YywEMu3Wok33m2zKX9nREF

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27 July 2022

Fratton Park

League Cup

Portsmouth 0 - Port Vale 0

 

Cue a slew of goals, with the Portsmouth counter changing to 1-0, then 2-0, then 3-0, 4-0. The shots barely show the goalscorer or the build up, increasing in tempo as they go along [edit so they match the hits in the music]

 

31 July 2022

Cardiff City Stadium

Cardiff 0 - Portsmouth 0

 

The ball hits the back of the goal again, (Cardiff 0 - Portsmouth 1) before we see one beauty of a goal.  Cardiff get one before Portsmouth restores their lead to end the game 3-1.

 

EsRyYhsnwWfVQoaMoUaysdPjKpAJBHTRLXVerOQF8kKUgif8G7dp4hc3WmRIiPBHLTGgibPpcSOQ22Bd8CTwXRYdr3uAXCiEvUpQ17g1LyhFPVIixPIlAfTYW5HbWVEAU0mhGbOG

7nWTx1yF35MFCaDF3NZeqFDIgsFfatY6EiC642DpAo5DAKO7SXhi3Z3vzNFh90RHE6uRZd7wkfMI-RlkxkKm76TPqRmlyw2VuhI5sZ1S07C3T6fqPesRZ_v3gAM23ywd9_0qbl3_

 

“Is that all?” Benjani laughs to Dunne as they go back to the dressing room after the Cardiff game.  “Is that all?  It can’t be this easy can it?”

 

[aside! Benjani bags his continental pro license!]

LFMCeSa62U2Yc3TROIjQlanI7LubPbOsOCQ8Q-d8AK2hB2t-hlaHcrOY1EkoDYuG09fxiPWdVVB8xqtEPhG7qd2m4UUCFjXGS3lAStRSO0MwtRMhTP4B2A13OixINA14hRSYKdxR

 

[Also, Luton went on to beat Stoke 4-0]

eme-gF30gs-IUEg1eMn9LAoUkcpfjt3B2mn_7HdvYXJa3AUNi64WXgDba2ey3Vkzr7GJQ6tN-K2L6RvMR8eSUjaQa7UHxtcbPAaqONh-9u0EQWcBis-mZOPEXplsSpixE-PTfIFw

 

qIITnJVHvV-tBy-l27rwjGC_XrsICpUgAuJBCVsf6P-Febx8LIT_BJJhWzvn7fM55tDNrK0FGycBVb30Y8Hs3B5kG3ToAcOg3Uah-k627cgxgL8zWnwrC9ioHN1Ng3qxUN8cXywb

 

Pundit, “Portsmouth have returned to the Championship with a flying start, scoring seven in only two games and conceding only once! Will their flight continue, or will someone ground them once again?”

 

j1agxM2LCfGVcuU-_4t5_7l5uOjjHp3-NLU8x3leM2l2Dnf3oL4rTpJ41EA3aB1TvFO7E_gCGP0wd10P5SYja_CtzBfcnPTiPMNl6jSHhNad-Oz9dgYzkqSI887aizaPILQbITss

 

6 August 2022

Fratton Park

Portsmouth vs. Barnsley

 

“Harness has the ball on the right and charges towards the Barnley box.  He spots Marquis’ run but...oh!  It is completely overhit and the attack comes to nothing…”

 

[Music slows] Cut.

 

“Morrell with it, turns upfield...surveys his options and...He doesn’t see the defender coming up behind him and the ball is nicked away…”

 

[Music slows down more] Cut.

 

“Free kick for Barnsley...and they leave him completely open!  Goal for Barnsely!!! Portsmouths marking on that free kick was non-existent!

 

[Music stops] Cut.

 

“Portsmouth enjoying a decent spell here.  They’ve controlled the game but the final ball, final touch has been lacking.  They just seem off...disjointed.  The ball comes to Thompson twenty-five yards out and...it’s an ambitious effort and...IT’S IN!!! WHAT A STRIKE BY THOMPSON!!!  ON HIS RETURN FROM A BROKEN LEG, THE MIDFIELDER LEVELS THE SCORE WITH AN ABSOLUTE ROCKET FROM DISTANCE!!!”

 

Cut.

 

Portsmouth 1 - Barnsley 1

 

“...and Thompson’s wondergoal was just about enough to earn Portsmouth a point here in a disappointing performance, if you consider Portsmouth’s start to the season. Is this more what we can expect for the rest of the campaign?  Or was this just an off day?”

 

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11 August 2022

Fratton Park

Portsmouth vs. Brighton Hove and Albion

(League Cup)

 

“In a rematch of last year’s FA Cup Third Round tie from last season, Brighton take on Portsmouth in the League Cup here at Fratton Park.  It was a tight contest last season, with the Premier League side only able to beat Portsmouth off a corner.  Will we see a repeat today, or will the newly promoted Championship side get revenge?  It’s a heavily rotated side for both teams, with six changes to the teams that started at the weekend...”

 

[Music starts again]

NZRfxuwvwkwg81EX-Q5fa2Ihx-DC1DjdRmAbRkSc4HXSwtmEV8Dxq95LftDahJpgnXFux_Kdp5ljsg83rX2pzX1r0pmNjqOv9Rz7SRjnfh0uV3pEg8ke8I8JNYwPPeiIX8eJSYn-

 

[Music is back up to full force now]

 

“...It took some excellent defending by Portsmouth at times, but they were good value for their win!  Brighton’s 5-2-2-1 struggled to cope with Portsmouth’s wide overloads, with a far post cross leading to one goal and one of Portsmouth’s many corners leading to another.  Brighton managed to pull one back after a defensive breakdown, but could not create much in the way of clear chances…”

 

14 August 2022

Ewood Park

Blackburn vs. Portsmouth

 

“…It’s been a rather dull game here at Ewood Park.  Portsmouth have played some beautiful football at times, but Blackburn have been fairly comfortable.  The home side have a chance here in stoppage time to steal a winner and send Portsmouth south with no points...The inswinging corner comes in and...SAM GALLAGHER SCORES WITH A TOWERING HEADER!  He was well marked but times his run just right and powers a header past Stolarczyk.  That has to sting for the Portsmouth support as the Southampton academy graduate surely hands them their first Championship loss of the season…”

 

[Music cuts]

 

We see Benjani on the touchline, eyes closed as the crowd behind him celebrates their victory.

 

24 August 2022

Fratton Park

Portsmouth vs. Watford

 

“...Portsmouth enter this game still seeking an August win in the league.  After scoring seven in their first two, they have only scored once in their last three.  Draws against Barnsley and Ipswich sandwich their loss to Blackburn, and today they host a relegated Watford team that sit top of the Championship table after six games…”

 

caHpU13HRMVk9FjlO5RNuatI6KoRk8zcayEMx63lDuh0un62a_BI_-4XUZ4-uBkA-Rr4ZFNJns_C4TnZOM5KFXFCDgcy-XjiTU6EqphZfyfeKHxifxJUhNlUX07GmAuSl7gERzjC

 

“It was an even game and the draw was probably the right result.  Portsmouth have continued their habit of playing great football without much to show for it, and one incisive Watford attack was enough to get them an away point, even after Portsmouth’s late goal and push for a winner.”

 

27 August 2022

Coventry Building Society Arena

Coventry 0 - Portsmouth 1

 

TPEqRHa2B0p9z9sPN80PBv-yhogZl8QZlSqb-wIUBsB_m_VLDEJBeHVgYNiNtfsyKNljkLyO2D298lwDH7ZRBImClaCaxciCcGO2u_l5qGuU_lJTKx1elnbmr906SN_s05eF0RIz

 

We hear the final whistle and while the players and the coaching staff celebrate around Benjani on the touchline, the man himself simply looks relieved.

 

GS2o1eCSxfiLPsoJHggtJbd948zYc1am9jUyjE6Ud64E59Sf-VlYpLDCnxNEdR1NcqBp09aZKpv1fco5F23U1xf31yja2SWJeC6S5mJ3AOAQ3LBVQhX7yMPpTEDVC9qHFTFHqXZ6

 

“...and so Portsmouth get their first win in August and their first in four league games following their roaring start to the league season.  It was not a convincing win by any means, with Portsmouth barely hanging on at times, but three points are three points.  Questions linger about whether Portsmouth can recapture the magic that they started the season with, or if the side we’ve seen in August is the real Portsmouth that we can expect to see for the rest of the season…”

 

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“...For the moment, Portsmouth remain just outside the playoff spots, but if their form continues as it did in August, we’re likely to see them tumble down the table.  It doesn’t get any easier for them in September, as three of their five league games will be against opposition in the top five…”

 

uqS48pS9aQeBBpuug-FnApHnd7ZTt16jtB_KiQajR0l6QxXZRobEw2Fgrh2RuiiDJIaNOt4wZBYkNfJsc-R-5UFfC1EDMS-dRtfOAJ6s2qo1gFmro3rflExeFuMSmZ1uOBDLCIbK

 

UP NEXT - Benjani Ball

Edited by 13th Man
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27 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Unrealistic to maintain that start, but overall a good position to be in despite the recent form. Benjani was always a hard worker, he can pull through this.

Have to admit, I was a bit surprised in those first two games!  August was more what I expected.

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On 11/12/2021 at 00:07, SixPointer said:

Great start! Have you started to notice in real total football moments? 

As we'll see, they've come in the passing game...not so much in the results department!

5 hours ago, DefinitelyTaylor said:

Certainly a pleasing start. Benjani is keen to prove those bookies wrong!

He's on course to prove the bookies wrong, but not by as much as he'd hoped at first...

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4ytuHIn5UWxUOkifIX5vToV_9FgyJVsvk9pXl6Y255Qu82ts-L2AmJrTDu123aKny1pxl94hxzH0okTDWUVqSj00IMUkqpHPxpoJsdCehkuaz_nJ1RC_4un8toU8Z-RtQkKxD88A

Scene 4 - Benjani-Ball

Z3AfRhj5n7EC51RKAwYegc2wUseEd9P5pCguFcfkv7CsfKEnnFtWqSNJfmznUSSbZ0aDg2TKlDGker6vI0g4ihWYYATT_wis6laU6rk2Ac740j_4irEjG3os_K3il3REVIjw2yHF

 

[Note - I’m annoyed I didn’t set this right when I started the game, but I entered Benjani’s name as Benjani Mwaruwanri and forgot to make his nickname just Benjani.  Let’s all just pretend it says ‘Benjani-Ball’ and we’ll fix it in post…]

 

“Benjani,” Joao Novais of OneFootball begins, “you’ve begun to gain a reputation for playing a distinctive brand of attacking football that has brought Portsmouth back into the Championship as seen some good results so far this season as well.  Some pundits have even gone so far as to label your style Benjani-ball, can you tell us more about your style of play and how you came to set your side up this way?”

 

“Well, Joao,” Benjani began, leaning forward, “I don’t know about ‘Benjani-ball’ but I’ve been studying…”

 

As Benjani speaks time slows down, the ventilation system gets louder and louder, it’s hum turning into a rumble and then there’s a loud clunk of floodlights turning on.

 

aaIngn1s2E1dBqhvuq4qMQaSHZYipZ2e1fpPHOimSHEAoEs-VuHdW8BAGbjAqPutIz6Gxl2nArN2HPO-vwNSl0G5EOiHYQiUZEMzbe3jqw_M_E7Aj5TZqULDPRT8HFKb0-50oXSN

 

“Do not speak of total football,” Cruyff says flatly, his shape emerging from the foggy pitch, “not yet.”

 

Benjani blinks looking around again.  

 

“I…” Benjani starts, stops, pauses to collect himself.

 

“Let them call it Benjani-ball,” Cruyff continues, “for that’s all it is now.  You haven’t earned the right to call it total football, not yet.  Not with the results you’ve been getting…”

 

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Benjani closes his mouth, but Cruyff stands before him, looking him right in the eye, waiting. Benjani cautiously begins to speak.

 

“We’ve played some of the best teams in the Championship this past month,” Benjani says.  “The results haven’t been good, but we’ve played well for the most part!”

 

“That’s true,” Cruyff nods gruffly, “and your League Cup game against West Brom was top class…

 

76y4PH1CyHS6tWMQDSF-vNkOsOyed4LREZenV4fIRX3eoyym0RvBbUqjRbLPG027-FggsEhCgFsFbd0kvYh2x328Vg6zV1Mel2BmMq0k-1zIsdzsG8V1qAeUqGuPKaNSIy8Lvftmbt163MjV_iIhMlfxOzbP90Bei9oEkHtTLavTQmkTiNZy2m78bFmLylDpMWIYsPFPH7lDLqL2Pq1ccCtwKVzr72wWEXbsPa6qw8C5Yq7zXdqufPxE3jvYiEEqhpReLkWAKENLBbD8

 

“…but quality without results is pointless.”

 

And results without quality is boring,” Benjani shoots back.

 

Cruyff lets out one chuckle, “I see you’ve been reading up on me then?  Well, you’d know then that the result is still the more important thing.  So…Benjani.  What are you doing wrong?”

 

Benjani recoils slightly, as if he has been nudged, “Well,” he chuckles, “I’d kind of hoped you’d tell me.”

 

“That’s not why I’m here,” Cruyff says.

 

“Then why are you here?”

 

Cruyff shoots him a look, “I told you last time.  I’m hoping you have what it takes to be my heir!”

 

“Yes, yes,” Benjani nods, “but why now?”

 

“Oh,” Cruyff nods, “I came to stop you from talking some nonsense about how you’re trying to play total football with a bunch of average, third division players.”

 

“That’s all?”

 

“Is it?” Cruyff looks at Benjani, a twinkle in his eye.

 

Benjani looks right back at Cruyff, opens his mouth as if to speak, but then the fog swirls around them, Cruyff is consumed in the swirling must, and floodlights turn off with a loud thunk.

 

Benjani is back in the press room.  He blinks, clears his throat, and tries to continue on his train of thought.

 

“...I’ve been studying a lot of different styles and approaches while trying to be true to myself,” He manages.  “I don’t know if this is a distinctive enough style to have my name attached to it, but I think it produces some great football.  It’s been a bit tougher here in the Championship of course, but I think the results will come.”

“The board seem to agree with you,” Luke Cherry of TalkSport stood up next, “as you’ve just signed a three year contract extension.  Can you tell us about your relationship with Eisner and the rest of the board?”

 

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“Of course,” Benjani leans back a bit, “they share a similar vision for the club.  We’re all working towards the same goals and want to go about it in the same way.  I couldn’t hope for a better relationship and I hope that I can continue to be a part of the work we’ve started here in this past year.  When Eisner sent me the contract extension I barely looked at it - I was just happy to know that he has faith in me.”

 

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BONUS BEHIND THE SCENES

20wsHJQgMjYeihyfYi1Lu85HAeygQc0dAtnaPu2y4Hzgyt3bHUslyqtmBZtLA5CMMGS-VfYAdRSY-CFsZ9ZQHJhoiqe6GircpLWALeYo8X4-OL9DkZZHb1uCkUwEyhzoW8snL5r9FNjXDOtjEdeIEld_PvrYwJK6DMUzmlINV68CNi6XN53a0zpHzdeGFWnuVnIMANygptma6NbI2Keajh0BK-q--OBWC7nonzMAxTIvTKqjeF376Y1Qq8MwostTou1Ulw4H1NopYoTB

 

Ugly!  The Swansea's 5-2-2-1 cut Portsmouth's 5-2-3 in half and isolated the two sides, and then dominated possession up the middle. It was ugly.

 

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Completely crazy game.  All seven goals in the first half! Up 2-0 by 20 mins, 2-2 by 30, Pompey ahead on 37 mins, concede from the kick off…before a Harness header finally finishes out the scoring in first half stoppage!  Seven goals from a combined xG of 2.69!

 

UP NEXT - Ain’t No Way

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16 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

Mwaruwari ball doesn't quite have the same ring to it :lol:

Agreed!  Again, we'll fix it in post...

 

17 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

Also play defensively solid, possession and entertaining football? Seems a bit much!

Not when you're ambitious!  That is the idea behind total football though - the defensive 'solidity" comes from taking care of the ball and being proactive in defense, not sitting back and absorbing pressure.  September wasn't a good month for any of the above though...

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10 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

The 5-2-2-1 WB can be a terror to a team with only two in Midfield. Especially if the Wingbacks are both good on the ball and defensively.

I find myself using a version from time to time.

Pompey beat Brighton (who run a similar system) in the cup, but it just didn’t work out against Swansea. They were both able to neutralize the wide overloads and make their central advantage count. Was rough.

 

9 hours ago, SixPointer said:

That Pass Map against WBA is magical my friend........Magical!

Wasn’t it! Perfection. It’s been getting there at times, but it’s frustratingly inconsistent.

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3 hours ago, 13th Man said:

Pompey beat Brighton (who run a similar system) in the cup, but it just didn’t work out against Swansea. They were both able to neutralize the wide overloads and make their central advantage count. Was rough.

 

Wasn’t it! Perfection. It’s been getting there at times, but it’s frustratingly inconsistent.

I’m very similar. But you have to remember the opponent will be putting in a plans to stop it as well. 

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4ytuHIn5UWxUOkifIX5vToV_9FgyJVsvk9pXl6Y255Qu82ts-L2AmJrTDu123aKny1pxl94hxzH0okTDWUVqSj00IMUkqpHPxpoJsdCehkuaz_nJ1RC_4un8toU8Z-RtQkKxD88A

Scene 5 - Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

4 October 2022

Fratton Park

Portsmouth v Manchester City

League Cup

 

“Welcome to Fratton Park where Championship side Portsmouth face a mighty challenge in the shape of a Manchester City team that seems to be taking this cup tie seriously.  Portsmouth managed to beat Brighton here in August, but this City side are a different challenge entirely…”

 

Cut to Benjani and (assistant manager) Dunne outside the locker room.

 

“Of course,” Benjani shrugs, “I mean, City’s second team would challenge for Europe in the Premier League.”

 

“No boss,” Dunne almost laughs, “I mean they’re fielding a strong team…”

 

Dunne hands Benjani his phone.

 

“Oh,” Benjani’s shoulders drop.

 

“Haaland, Sterling, Foden, Dias, Cancelo…” Dunne sighs.

 

“And I’d been kind of hoping we’d go up against Bazunu, for old times sake” Benjani shakes his head.

 

“You can probably chat with him,” Dunne shrugs, “he will be on the bench.”

 

“Well…Now I wish I’d rotated more.”

 

“Why boss?”

 

“If we’re going to get humiliated, I would have liked to have more of an excuse.”

 

Dunne shakes his head as well.

 

“Well,” Benjani sighs deeply, “I guess Guardiola wasn’t lying when he said he was going to take us seriously…”

 

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“So…” Dunne began, “...we going to go a bit more defensive then?”

 

“We can’t absorb pressure Joe,” Benjani replies. “We’ll play our game.  If we…when we lose, we’ll at least said we lost playing our game.”

 

9bGkRI4mUNUzTvlxgV3pjoBSljbG0tJ-w5ym7t_7lKkyU0fYYJXLb2HWE_QXn2BtM4o5eeH_-2J2CUwqvsXxLWqyNInZPRWio2QD3_9YQnyOwGpW-vOuzhuZ4m8BK47FZYJdjmyu

 

“Alright boss,” Dunne nods.

 

Cut to the field.

 

“And Haaland sets Sterling lose into the box…Raggett over to cover…But he hacks away at Sterling and the England international goes down.  PENALTY!!! It was a clumsy challenge by Raggett, it has to be said.  Even if Sterling certainly made the most of it, it’s a clear penalty…Haaland starts his run up and…makes no mistake from the spot.  Portsmouth have fought well this opening twenty-five minutes, but are undone by a moment of recklessness from their center back…”

 

Cut to the 39th minute.

 

“Pedro Porro steps up to take the free-kick.  It’s a good range.  The kick is hit well and OOOO what a goal!  Pedro Porro puts it into the top corner from twenty-five yards to double City’s advantage!”

 

Cut to the 45th minute.

 

“The corner comes in…Harwood-Bellis with the header and GOAL!!!  Robertson was beaten far too easily as the young City center back adds another!”

 

Third minute of first half stoppage time.

 

“Haaland receives the throw in, turns and lays it off to Foden on the outside corner of the box.  Foden looks up…surely he won’t…he does and he SCORES!!! HOW HAS HE SCORED FROM THERE!! The angle was impossible, but somehow he beats Solarczyk and it’s 4-0 to City!  The rout is on and it’s not even halftime yet!”

 

Cut to the 68th minute.

 

“GOAL!  Dias meets the corner with a thumping header and it’s 5-0!”

 

Cut to the 80th minute.

 

“Stones at the top of the box.  He’s given too much time and…it’s another for City.  6-0.  This is just brutal to watch for these home fans!”

 

Cut to the 82nd minute.

 

“Freeman [WB] throws the ball in…and gets it back, he's driving for the byline.  His cross is up and…Fiabema [IF] meets it at the six yard box and…powers it home!  Pompey have been soundly beaten but the young forward gets a moment to remember as he scores against Manchester City.  Portsmouth 1, Manchester City 6…”

 

TSL0TyqtSFCwWfLCV9Ci2mVlASOaYqpeY8QgoulkjYJ46LWd_p3slG1UMqomw7x254fSko56PKDqGymPq4wM2zWIg2wknkzOh0vmonya0_QTBE0LBWwfoFIax_w_v0sJ9drRBB3J

 

Cut to a dejected locker room.

 

“Alright boys,” Benjani begins.  “That was a tough game.  No one thought we’d win, and I thought we did okay.  Better then the scoreline suggests.  A penalty, a perfect free kick, an absolute wonder goal, and two from corners?  The only one that was a good chance from open play was their sixth.  And yes it’s hard to say sixth when it comes to goals conceded.  But the game’s done.  Let’s move on.  We got a bit of time before the Wolves game in ten days time, and we want to make up for the disappointing draw against Blackpool this past weekend….

 

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…Take your time tonight, wallow in it a bit, then come back ready to work tomorrow, yeah?”

 

Nods all around.

 

Twangy/folksy/vaguely country eclectic guitar fades in - the opening notes of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows this is Nowhere.” [NOTE - I’d originally titled this post “Ain’t No Way” but the music editors said the Aretha Franklin song isn’t quite right for this scene and upon consideration I have to agree…]

 

15 October 2022

Molineux

Wolverhampton v Portsmouth

 

“...Portsmouth will be without last years’ leading scorer Harrison as he misses this game with a sprained ankle he suffered last week in training.  It’s safe to say we havent’ seen the form from him that helped last season’s promotion champaign, but he will still be missed as Portsmouth seek to find their finishing touch again this season…Also on the injury table is wide center back Ogilvie…”

 

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Wolverhampton 1 - Portsmouth 1

89th Minute

 

“Neto is taken down on the edge of the area…advantage given by the referee…its Elneny to Novias, he’s at the top of the box…and he SCORES OFF THE POST!!!  A SCORCHER FROM DISTANCE TO SURELY WIN THE GAME FOR WOLVES!!!  It is certainly deserved, but that Portsmouth must have thought they’d earned a point…”

 

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Neil Young (+ folksy guitar and all that) “I think I’d like to go…back home…and take it easy…”

 

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18 October 2022

Fratton Park

Portsmouth 2 - Hull 1

 

“Portsmouth come away with some much needed points in this fairly even affair.  All the scoring was done in the first twenty minutes, but the game ended with an injury to another of Portsmouth’s forward line, this time with the eventual game winner Curtis going down with a sprained knee after a nasty tackle…”

 

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[Harness would follow a few days later…if only a minor one, keeps him out of the next game though]

 

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Neil Young - “There’s a woman that I’d like to know…back there…”

 

18 October 2022

Fratton Park

Preston v Portsmouth

 

Pundit - “A good chance for Portsmouth to win a second in a row for the first time since the opening of the season as they face a Preston team sitting in 20th place.  The home side are suffering from several injuries and have seemingly been forced into a bit of a formation chance, with three midfield players named in the starting lineup.  We expect to see the 5-2-1-2 that has largely been put to the side since early last season…”

 

Cut to the pitch.

 

“...Morrell [CM] chips it up and…MARQUIS [CF] SCORES!”

 

Cut.

 

“Earl has it down the left for Preston…he’s under no real pressure…to the byline and…it’s a cutback for Barkhuizen who side foots it into the net, easy as you like!  Preston level the score just before the half!”

 

Cut

 

“Marquis from the spot…GOAL!  Portsmouth are back on topafter Marquis cooly dispatches the penalty kick!”

 

Cut

 

“Hanley has been allowed to take this ball far too deep into Portsmouth’s half without being challenged…what are they doing right now?  McCan makes a run and Hanley spots it, Portsmouth…OOOO it’s too easy once again.  A simple finish after a good pass from Hanely and Preston have leveled it again, this time just before time!”

 

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\Neil Young - Everybody seems to wonder what it's like down here…”

 

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Neil Young - “I gotta get away from this day-to-day running around…

 

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[It’s a good thing I play on a desktop.  A desktop that is hard to throw out the window.  A laptop may not have survived…Two times off the woodwork!  I feel like the 3 half chances and one clear cut was underselling it too! It was especially distressing because the quality of passing was glorious!]

 

Neil Young - “Everybody knows, this is NOWHERE”

 

Backing vocals - “La la la la, la la la laaaaaa!!!”

 

Neil Young - “Everybody knoooows!”

 

Backing vocals - “La la la la, la la la laaaaaa!!!”

 

Cut to the dressing room, everyone in their training kits.

 

“Alright boys,” Benjani sighs deeply, “this form has not been good. We all share some part of that blame, most of all me.  But what can we do to start winning the games we deserve to win?  We’re playing well in the center, it’s wonderful at times, but we’re giving up easy goals and we’re not scoring on the other end.  What can I do to help you?  What can you all do to help yourselves?”

 

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Benjani closes his eyes and nods.

 

“Let’s fix it against Lincoln,” Morrell continues.

 

“Let’s fix it against Lincoln,” Benjani echoes.

 

Isolated backing vocals with lots of reverb - “La la la la, la la la laaaaaa!!!”

 

Isolated Neil Young - “Everybody knoooows…”
 

Cut as the words echo…

Behind the Scenes

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Portsmouth are falling down the table. Buffer is down to four points between them and the relegation places...

 

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After moving more towards total football roles - RPM in midfield and DLF(s) - he’s returned to basics.  Feeling like Morrell was getting marked out of games but still being passed to and with Marquis roaming they lacked a focal point, he returned to basics.  The results?

 

Well, Benjani reverted after the Wolves game…

 

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So almost no change and maybe worse.  Questions remain as to whether it’s best to stick with the process and continue working towards total football or keep things a bit simpler for limited players.

 

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On a good note, a player that was growing in stature agreed a two year extension to his contract for only a slight raise.  The addition of the release clauses was actually something Benjani didn’t mind at all - £4.1m would be a massive boost for Portsmouth's coffers…as would £2.6m if Portsmouth continued their downward trend and fell back into League 1…

 

UP NEXT - Lucky

Edited by 13th Man
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This is when the Benjani becomes a "Relegation Fight" Expert.

It isn't hard, beat your closest competitors (cellar dwellers) like a drum and nick points when you can against top teams. Most importantly keep the points gained higher than games/matches played!

I believe in Benjani.

Also, it wouldn't be a Disney Movie without some form of obstacle to overcome.

 

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4 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

This is when the Benjani becomes a "Relegation Fight" Expert.

It isn't hard, beat your closest competitors (cellar dwellers) like a drum and nick points when you can against top teams. Most importantly keep the points gained higher than games/matches played!

I believe in Benjani.

Also, it wouldn't be a Disney Movie without some form of obstacle to overcome.

 

Indeed... Is this where I say Hakuna Matata :lol:

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13 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

I have a feeling you may need a better striker at this level than Marquis.

He’s actually been the only of the forwards that’s performing. His goals have dropped off a bit with the step up, and he had a bit of a drought for a bit, but his passing, hard work, and the way he linked the team have all been good. The other forwards though…post upcoming about all that…

11 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

It isn't hard, beat your closest competitors (cellar dwellers) like a drum and nick points when you can against top teams

Funny thing - Pompey haven’t been able to do either. They play best against midtable sides. They can’t cope with sides that attack with quality, and can’t make good enough chances (or finish them) against deep blocks.

Hakuna Mattata indeed.

Edited by 13th Man
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