Portsmouth Season Preview 2017/2018

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 03 August 2017

Three months from winning League Two in dramatic circumstances, all focus will now be on how Kenny Jackett's Portsmouth team will fare in the third tier of English football.

Despite the departures of key men, Pompey fans have every reason to be optimistic when the curtain raises on the 2017/2018 campaign.

Whilst Paul Cook departed for Wigan, the majority of Pompey fans believe that Jackett is an upgrade on him. The former's greatest achievement in football management so far is taking Chesterfield to the League One play-offs whilst the current incumbant at Fratton Park has two third tier promotions to his name as well as an F.A. Cup semi-final appearance.

Losing Enda Stevens was admittedly a blow but Tareiq Holmes-Dennis looks to be at least an adequate replacement for him and fans of Huddersfield and Charlton have sung his praises in the past.

Michael Doyle is yet to be replaced and unless Ben Close finally makes the step up this season, the centre of midfield lacks some steel and the best defence in League Two is likely to lack the protection it had last season.

Having said that, it will be good to have a quality recognised right back in the team once Nathan Thompson is fit, whilst Luke McGee is a shrewd replacement for David Forde if Peterborough fans' opinions are anything to go by. Losing Matt Clarke for the start of the season is a blow as he will be a key figure alongside Christian Burgess once September arrives.

Whilst Doyle's presence on the pitch will be missed, Jackett opted to bring a different kind of captain to the club in Brett Pitman. At 14/1, he may well be a good shout to be League One's top scorer as he has proven pedigree at this level.

This season may also be the season where Conor Chaplin's full potential may be realised. Pompey fans know he is an outstanding finisher but Cook never really knew how to utilise him properly. Pitman may be the perfect foil for Chaplin and that strike partnership has so much potential.

They will also have an excellent supply line behind them. Kyle Bennett, Carl Baker and Kal Naismith are all capable of creating goals for the front two as well as finding the back of the net themselves. Their backup in Milan Lalkovic, Gareth Evans and Jamal Lowe give the squad plenty of strength in depth in attacking midfield players.

Given the state of the current squad, it seems like we may see some more goals scored at Fratton Park than last season due to a more attacking formation and the fact that there won't be so many teams who come to play for a draw.

However, the increased quality of the division and the current lack of protection in midfield is likely to see more goals conceded, too. There also has to be questions asked about just how deep Pompey's squad really is.

Tom Davies didn't look up to it at League Two level so could he really fill in for Burgess or Clarke? Jack Whatmough is also unproven at League One level as is Brandan Haunstrup if Holmes-Dennis gets injured or suspended. And as admirable a job Evans did at right back, he struggled against the better League Two wingers and would likely find it tough against the likes of Ricky Holmes and Peter Whttingham, whilst Drew Talbot surely doesn't have a long-term future at the club.

There also has to be a question of who can replace either Pitman or Chaplin up front if either of them don't play for whatever reason. Michael Smith will be shown the door, Nicke Kabamba is still raw and Curtis Main doesn't seem to be able to score regularly when he's not warming the bench.

There are bound to be at least one or two more additions made to the squad, especially when Tornante complete their takeover of the club tomorrow. At least with Eisner's money, Pompey would have no need to sell star players should the vultures circle and that is something which worked wonders for Bournemouth when they were taken over themselves.

So, with a strong looking squad which will probably get stronger before the month is out, just how far can Pompey go this season? League One looks very competitive this season and if Kenny Jackett's men are to be in the promotion race, they'll have some stiff competition.

Blackburn Rovers are unsurprisingly the favourites for the title having just been relegated from the Championship. In Danny Graham and Bradley Dack they have two outstanding talents in a squad which were relegated on goal difference last season. Everyone expects Blackburn to challenge but Tony Mowbray hasn't tasted any real managerial success since his West Brom days, so there is a question mark there.

The bookies make Wigan the second-favourites for the title and they arguably have the strongest squad in the division when it comes to sheer firepower. However, Pompey fans will know that Paul Cook struggles to deal with expectation and his stubborn tactics will ultimately see his side succumb to the odd awful defeat to the likes of Oldham and Shrewsbury.

Expect Fleetwood to go well again as Uwe Rosler is a meticulous manager who has recruited well for the Cod Army. If Southend's tiny squad can stay free of injuries, then Phil Brown should be able to lead them to the play-offs at least. Losing play-off finalists Bradford have lost a few key players but expect them to recruit a couple of key men before August is over.

Charlton and MK Dons are another two clubs who can be expected to challenge for promotion. The Addicks have a manager in Karl Robinson who has done it before and has a talented squad at his disposal although off-field issues could hamper their chances. Milton Keynes performed well when Robbie Neilson took over and, like other teams in the division, have loaned some decent players from bigger clubs.

Even the likes of Bristol Rovers and Bury could be in the promotion picture this season. The former are well backed and have a great manager in Darrell Clarke whilst the latter have gone on a signing spree which includes Jermaine Beckford, Nicky Ajose and Jay O'Shea.

These are just the teams who are expected to have good seasons and there's always at least one club who defies expectations. Pompey may be arriving into League One as League Two champions and on the crest of a wave despite some setbacks, but this division is tough and finishing in the top six will not be easy.

However, I am going to stick my neck out and say Portsmouth will finish in the top six this season. Kenny Jackett is an excellent replacement for Paul Cook, he has made some shrewd additions to a good squad and there'll be resources to strengthen it further as the season progresses.

It's going to be an exciting season and if it ends in the same way as the last campaign then it'll be another memorable one.

Portsmouth Match Reports

Sky Bet League One Sat 18th November 15:00

Portsmouth 1 - 0 Southend United

Last game - Match Centre


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