How do you solve a problem like the Viking?

114115-505_WATFORD_POMPEY_SR_19/11/11'Action from Watford vs Pompey at Vicarage Road.'Erik Huseklepp.''Picture:Steve Reid 114115-505
114115-505_WATFORD_POMPEY_SR_19/11/11'Action from Watford vs Pompey at Vicarage Road.'Erik Huseklepp.''Picture:Steve Reid 114115-505
Pompey midfielder Carl Baker Picture: Joe Pepler

What we learnt from Pompey’s draw with Walsall

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First came the Robert Prosinecki riddle.

Then there was the Eyal Berkovic conundrum.

Now, it’s a case of how do you solve a problem like the Viking?

Fitting gifted talents within the framework of a team is always a challenge for any manager.

It’s a problem many Pompey bosses have had to deal with in years gone by.

Marrying the ability of enigmatic players on the front foot, with not leaving your team hopelessly exposed defensively is the task.

And that is exactly what Michael Appleton is trying to do with his use of Erik Huseklepp.

Attacker Huseklepp’s quality has been evident in fits and starts since arriving from Bari in August.

The 27-year-old Norwegian international was first used as a forward, before being switched to wide left under former Blues boss Steve Cotterill.

He has three goals in his brief time at the club but it is already evident how exposed he leaves his team down the left flank.

Club captain Liam Lawrence was restored to the starting line-up against Southampton on Sunday, with Appleton aware of that fact.

Lawrence is clearly still finding his feet after recovering from an ankle injury which had ruled him out since the start of November.

Appleton views Huseklepp as a potential game-changer, with his ability not in question.

But he feels it may well prove to be a juggling act getting the best out his quality over the rest of the season.

Appleton said: ‘Erik’s a match-winner.

‘All he needs to do is stay concentrated for 90 minutes.

‘Sometimes he switches off out of possession.

‘I don’t know how many demands he’s had at previous clubs off the ball.

‘I think he’s had a free role at a lot of his clubs to play with the ball at his feet.

‘That’s fine, but I don’t know many clubs who are successful doing that.

‘The most successful clubs, including Manchester United, have players who can play that role, but the rest of the team don’t allow them to be like that.

‘That’s the position we want to find ourselves in.

‘Liam gives us a bit more discipline when we’re out of possession.

‘He was alright against Southampton.

‘He had heavy legs before I brought him off, but he was steady.

I told him “run yourself into the ground and give me everything you’ve got”.

‘I didn’t expect him to last much more than an hour and that was the case.

‘I’m just delighted that he’s fit and he got through with no reactions to the injury.

‘Hopefully, we get an opportunity to see the best from him over the next couple of months.

‘I spoke to Erik before the game and after the Burnley game.

‘When he comes on, he gives us more of a threat attacking-wise, but they (Burnley) got in three or four times down our left-hand side because he switched off and didn’t go with the runner.

‘It’s a balancing act with Erik.

‘We know what he can give us from an attacking point of view but, defensively, he causes us more problems than the opposition do at times.

‘It’s a matter of getting it right and picking the right games to play him.’

Huseklepp isn’t the only player who has got Appleton’s football brain working overtime since he arrived at Pompey.

The Blues manager has admitted he is still considering how to get the best out of Joel Ward.

He insisted he is going to take his time to give those questions proper consideration.

Appleton said: ‘There’s a couple of players who we are working out their best positions.

‘It’s a good one to have because it stimulates my mind and gets me thinking.

‘I have to eventually get to a point where I know everyone’s best positions.

‘I honestly don’t think that is going to happen until the end of the season.

‘Depending on what happens in January, depending on if Joe (Mattock) and George (Thorne) get recalled by West Brom – these are all scenarios going on in my head at the moment.

‘I’m just going game by game and planning the best way to do it.

‘I can pre-plan what may or may not happen in January.

‘I have done and will continue to do, but it’s game by game for me at the minute.

‘It’s about having the right balance.’