The Opposition View: Walsall
By Jim Bonner
Updated Thursday, 13th September 2012
Saddlers fan Dan McCarthy answers some questions ahead of Saturday's game.
Considering your team seemed to be everyone's favourites for relegation this season, you must be pretty pleased with how you've started this season?
I couldn’t be happier. To date, we are the only side to take points from early pace setters Notts County (and not many teams will win there this season!). We also held their fellow promotion hopefuls Brentford, despite throwing away a two-goal lead in the final minutes and most recently we beat MK Dons on home soil.
A hard-fought draw away at Oldham and a defeat at home to Doncaster, on opening day, completes the set.
What do you think of the situation at Pompey and the squad currently at Michael Appleton's disposal?
It’s all just one big mess, really and it seems to change from one day to the next. I genuinely feared for Portsmouth’s very existence. I hope that the club can recover from this and return to where they belong, which would be The Championship at the very least.
I was pretty shocked with the player calibre coming into the club, as many are established dare I say household names. It grates slightly when we cannot compete financially with a club which was reportedly on the brink.
It seems that many teams in this division play unattractive football. What style of football has Dean Smith got the Saddlers playing this season?
We try to play football the right way, as is the norm these days though most teams would have you believe that they play like Barcelona or the British equivalent in Swansea.
We pack the midfield, which certainly helps with regards to ball and shape retention. We also pride ourselves on being difficult to beat. Generally, we are sound defensively and this is often prevalent in Walsall teams, particularly in the past under Richard Money and Ray Graydon amongst others.
Who are the key players in the current Walsall squad?
Andy Butler and Flo Cuvelier, though George Bowerman should also be closely watched. Butler is ‘Captain Fantastic’; he can do no wrong. He has formed a strong partnership at the heart of the defence with summer signing Dean Holden and is ever a threat from set-pieces, as evident from our smash-and-grab at Meadow Lane. Cuvelier pulls the strings, pretty much everything goes through him. With Ledesma’s departure, Flo is undoubtedly our main man.
What are the biggest weaknesses in your team that Pompey could exploit on Saturday?
We are a small and largely inexperienced side, perhaps deceptively so. Despite the fluid passing philosophy that Smith is desperately trying to instill, we are so clearly lacking a target-man.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pleasure to watch but we are often lacking in the final third. All summer long we have been crying out for a presence up front, a focal point. As soon as we launch it forward to Bowerman/Grigg, the ball is lost.
Predict the outcome of the game.
I did not see Portsmouth’s game at the weekend, but the game would have naturally been turned on its proverbial head once Crawley was reduced to nine.
That said winning breeds confidence and also winning. Walsall also won at the weekend, though, and I feel Portsmouth is there for the taking and we should not approach the game expecting anything other than a positive result; Walsall to win, with the odd goal in three. Many teams underestimate Walsall, I feel, but do so at your own peril.