Two Plus Two Equals?

Last updated : 06 September 2007 By Jim Bonner

Two plus two equals ?

Neville Dalton is a journalist with the BBC News website and a Portsmouth fan of 40 years. His expressed views are his and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Transfer deadline days normally excite me - especially in recent years, when Harry has brought in an exotic array of talent, each time of slightly improving quality to match our rising expectations and ambition.

But this time I found myself crossing my fingers, hoping that now we had several marketable assets - and largely younger ones at that - they would not be snapped up, leaving us actually weaker than we began the season.

Only if Pompey signed a big-name striker would I have been happy. But even then, I was worried we would trade in one of those talents to finance the deal.

Instead, it was two out and two in - balancing the books mathematically.

But in terms of talent?

Johnson for Stefanovic

OK, they're not direct swaps, but one defender for another keeps things even.

Dejan has been a great servant for the club, bringing a quality and maturity to the team just when they needed it.

His role was key in helping establish us in the Premiership, and although he had a dip in form, combined with injuries, during the 2005/6 season, I thought he performed well whenever he was called upon last year, not least at left-back.

I'm not sure Traore and Pamarot are necessarily better than Stefanovic - but they're younger.

Johnson was part of Pompey's miserly defence during their brilliant beginning to last season.

I thought he was arguably Pompey's best player in the first half of the season, but his form took an alarming dip in the second, when his apparent lapses in concentration betrayed his lax, casual style.

But he remains an excellent, intelligent, attack-minded footballer, with the confidence and ability to take people on - and with that precious asset - speed.

He was a surprise signing, and I'm not sure we needed him. But if he performs anything like he did in the early part of last term, he could prove a magnificent asset.

Personally, I've always viewed him more as a potential right-winger, and after the Arsenal game, my view has been reinforced.

Diop for O'Neil

Gary O'Neil's departure has staggered me. He was Pompey through and through, and I never thought he'd go - at least, not until Manchester United or Chelsea finally cottoned on to what a magnificent player he is. I certainly rate him more highly than Sidwell.

While his injury-best last season was by no means his best for Pompey, he has been one of the club's most consistent performers, and I reckon if we'd seen him playing so well for someone else, he'd be the sort of player we would covet.

But because he's come through the ranks at Fratton, I suspect some people haven't appreciated quite what an excellent footballer he is.

Having joined a struggling team at a tender age, Gary has evolved with the team - in fact, it has evolved around him - and become an established Premier League player who I think may well play for England.

He is difficult to pin a label to. He's neither just a defensive midfielder nor an attacking one.

Admittedly, his goalscoring record is poor for someone with such spark, skill and energy.

Yet not only is he so versatile; he is also invaluable. Admittedly against lesser opposition, his final performance for Pompey - as a substitute against Leeds last week - summed up his value.

He brought new zest and authority to their play and helped ensure they killed off a spirited Leeds side.

I'm astonished that Harry has signed Diop, though even more astonished to learn that he was in for Amdy Faye (according to quotes attributed to Faye himself) before he jetted up to Scotland to join Rangers on loan.

Certainly Diop had an impressive first season at Fulham, but for various reasons, he has not been a regular ever since.

He has missed a number of games through injury and suspension, and was not valuable enough to London's version of Northern Ireland to prevent Lawrie Sanchez offloading him to a team he once had the chance to join - but didn't.

I sincerely hope he rediscovers the sort of form he first showed at Fulham, and that he proves an asset to Pompey.

But I remain to be convinced.

Who would he get into our midfield ahead of?

Certainly not Mendes, Muntari, Taylor, Kranjcar or Utaka on usual form. At least, not in my opinion.

At best, he is a squad player, vying alongside Davis and Hughes for the role of chief midfield stand-in.

But in Gary O'Neil's class? I don't think so. Time will tell.

None the less, I'm sure all Pompey fans (many of whom gave Johnson a hard time during his unimpressive middle few months with us last year) will give all our signings a fair chance, as only Pompey fans seem to be able to do.

Oh, and where's that star striker it was suggested we would be sacrificing one of the fans' favourites for?

I really hope we don't come to rue our failure to grab one.

Nevertheless, if we look beyond the dreaded last day of the transfer window to the summer as a whole, who can fail to be impressed and inspired by our dealings?

They may not all work, but we really do have quality cover in most positions, though I do fear that an injury, suspension or dip in form will leave us desperately short in January, during the African Cup of Nations.

It's all very well saying we can revert to one up front (assuming neither Nugent or Benjani fall into any of the above categories by then), but in an ideal world, I'd prefer us to be able to dictate our own tactics rather than be governed by what we've got left.

But for all the reservations, what a squad!

I've been a critic of Harry Redknapp's timidity and negativity when playing the Premier League's so-called big four in recent seasons, especially away from home.

I've always felt Harry's teams have been better going forward, and are more likely to pull off a shock success by taking the game to apparently more illustrious opposition.

So full marks to Harry for adopting such a positive approach to the match at Chelsea, where but for a bit of bad luck and the odd deflection, we could well have come away with our first Premier League point - or even points - from Stamford Bridge.

Some of the football we played, particularly in the first half, was exhilarating. It was a pleasure - indeed a privilege - to be watching my side perform with such distinction at the home of the most expensive, and one of the most talented, clubs in England.

Muntari showed what an asset he could be to the club (if he can avoid those impetuous, unnecessary challenges), more than matching his Ghanaian counterpart, Michael Essien, and driving Pompey forward with verve and skill.

His run from his own penalty area to the opposition's, never afraid to take on top-quality opponents en route, will live long in my memory.

But the biggest stars on the day, I thought, were Sol Campbell, whose performance was probably as good as any I've seen him make for Pompey, and Kanu, who never ceases to amaze me - but who on this occasion, really excelled himself with a performance full of skill, strength and perception.

Quite often against the likes of Chelsea we have been brave in defeat. Last week we were magnificent.

Thanks, Harry.

Unfortunately, that exhilaration was tempered somewhat at The Emirates last weekend, when we were not only outplayed but committed an abundance of worrying errors.

I believe it's no disgrace to be beaten by a very impressive Arsenal side, but the first half nightmare performance must never be repeated.

While some of our displays so far this season reassure me that all will come good, my nagging concern is that one of the fundamental problems at The Emirates - the respective roles of Lauren and Johnson - will be repeated.

Harry seems to be the only one who believes Lauren should play on the right wing, whereas even his most loyal supporters must concede that his lack of pace and inability to get past players are proving a real Achilles heel.

Attacks slow down or peter out when he receives the ball on the wing, the ball being held up and then either passed backwards or sideways - not necessarily to a blue shirt.

It was actually his mistake that led to Arsenal's penalty, although admittedly Johnson had given the ball away earlier in the move.

Ironically, I thought he had given his best performance for Pompey only a week earlier - at right-back.

As for Johnson, while he may be no Utaka, he's always looked more threatening going forwards for Pompey.

He can beat players, both for skill and pace, and he can cross the ball. He's not the finished article, but now that we've bought him, I believe his Fratton Park future should lie in more advanced positions.

Not least because his still-too-frequent lapses should be less devastating up there!