‘Things haven’t quite clicked for Marquis’ - The inside view on Doncaster Rovers’ opponents Portsmouth
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Pompey have enjoyed an inconsistent start to the season but how are they shaping up for the campaign ahead?
We spoke to the Portsmouth News’ Will Rooney to get the lowdown on Kenny Jackett’s side.
Q: It's been a mixed start to the season for Pompey. How would you assess things so far and where has it not quite clicked just yet?
WR: A mixed start is a very fair summary. Although Pompey have only lost two games out of nine, there has been some frustrations among supporters.
The Blues' start to the League One season looked favourable. In truth, maximum points against Shrewsbury, Rochdale and Wigan - three sides expected to finish in the bottom half of the table - were expected. Instead, they collected two points and put in an abject performance against Wigan.
The performance in the 4-2 win over Burton was far better. There was plenty of gusto and verve going forward, while they displayed defensive grit in the 2-1 defeat of MK Dons.
Kenny Jackett's pinpointed his side haven't quite got quite the right combinations going forward in games and Pompey have lacked cohesion in attack.
Q: Is Kenny Jackett under pressure?
WR: Against the backdrop of meek back-to-back play-off failures, there were calls from sections of supporters for Jackett to be sacked in the summer.
Pompey stuck with him, though, as he met the targets he was set at the beginning of the campaign.
It was widely accepted that a fast start was required after a stuttering opening last season, which ultimately cost Pompey automatic promotion when the campaign was curtailed.
But after the loss to Wigan, calls for his head ramped up significantly. Again, Pompey stuck with him but were wary of the frustrations among fans and knew recent results were not good enough
Should things not pick up tangibly after eight games in October, his situation may be reviewed again.
It's not just results that fans have bemoaned, but the style of football on offer.
After three wins on the spin, clamours for him to be axed have quelled for now. However, you always feel Jackett is just one defeat from the hysteria starting again.
Q: How would you sum up John Marquis' time at Fratton Park so far, both in his contribution on the pitch and how he's been received?
WR: On the pitch, it'd be fair to say he hasn't hit the heights many expected having arrived for a big fee.
When he first joined, there was scarcely a supporter who could criticise given his prolific goalscoring at Rovers.
But things just haven't quite clicked for Marquis. No Pompey player made more appearances than him last season (48) but only eight of his 14 goals were in League One.
This season, both of his efforts have arrived in cup competitions.
Marquis never lacks effort or endeavour, which fans very much appreciate, and Pompey don't perhaps play to his strengths as well as Doncaster did.
Jackett's tactics revolve around his wingers thriving and Ellis Harrison offers a better focal point.
Q: What system and style of play does Jackett favour?
WR: For his first three seasons in the hot seat, Jackett staunchly stuck to his favoured 4-2-3-1 system that delivered promotion at Millwall and Wolves.
It wasn't pretty at times, but was effective. The best Pompey have looked under Jackett was during the first half of 2018-19 when they were quite direct, with target-man Oli Hawkins leading the line and Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis thriving off him.
In fairness, the Blues have tried to play more football this season, while there have been more systems used.
In the EFL Trophy win at Southend, they played a 3-4-3 with wing-backs. They reverted to that formation in the second half against MK Dons on Saturday but it didn't work due.
At Burton, assistant-boss Joe Gallen also revealed it was a 4-4-2, although the two centre-midfielders were quite deep and Marcus Harness was just off Harrison.
Jackett feels his side are at their peak when they get the ball wide and whip crosses into the box, while he also puts plenty of emphasis on set-pieces.
Q: Who are the players to watch?
WR: The aforementioned Harness is widely recognised as the most naturally gifted in the squad by his team-mates. His hat-trick at Burton was sublime for this level.
But to fulfil his burgeoning potential, he needs to start being more consistent.
Harrison's always a handful for any defence, while Ronan Curtis can hurt any back four on his day, but hasn't had the best of starts.
In defence, Jack Whatmough has been magnificent. He's come back from a third serious knee injury aged only 23. However, he's been performing like he's never been away.