Tactics and formations are the flavour of the moment among the Fratton faithful.
Is it 4-3-3, 4-5-1 or 4-4-2? A pressing game or sitting deep? Which players are playing where?
Pompey’s shift in shape at West Ham last weekend has prompted much talk among fans over the past few days about what’s best for their team. The pubs, clubs, messageboards and forums have been abuzz with Alan Hansen and Andy Gray wannabes giving their opinions on the way forward.
Steve Cotterill isn’t getting carried away with all the emphasis on shapes and systems.
The Pompey boss’ move to a 4-3-3 cum 4-5-1 formation at Upton Park saw Erik Huseklepp used in the attacking right-sided role he operates in for his Norwegian national side.
Likewise, David Norris benefitted from the freedom which having three men in the middle of the park offers him.
Cotterill is looking for versatility between formations from his men – but most of all, he is looking for performances.
He said: ‘There will be certain games you can play a lot more football in than others.
‘We thought it would be a good game of football last week – and we more than played our part in that game.
‘I was pleased with how they did but I was just as pleased with them against Reading, and we played different that night.
‘A lot gets made of the change in shape. I don’t quite know why.
‘You have to be able to change. You can’t play the same all the time.
‘People think tactics are 4-3-3 and 4-4-2. That’s not a tactic, that’s a formation.
‘A tactic is how you are going to stop and beat your opponent.
‘The formation helped David (Norris) a bit more last week. The week before we spoke about it.
‘Chuck got a bit muddled up against Cardiff.
‘He had to play a different game and sit in there a little bit as opposed to bombing on and getting in the box.
‘That’s why we had two wide men for when we played against a diamond.
‘Quite often it left Hayden (Mullins) against three lads. But once we got it across to Chuck, we were better as a team second half.
‘We told him to stay in there but he’s so enthusiastic, he feels he’s not playing his game if he isn’t busting a gut to get in the opponents’ box.
‘Even at 30, he may still need to be told, but there’s no problem there.
‘Erik had his first game as centre forward and his next one out wide, where he did okay. Who’s to say he won’t play well as a centre forward tomorrow if he plays there?
‘It’s going to take the lad time. We have to be patient with him wherever he plays.
‘We’re still trying to find out what is going to be our best and most consistent XI.
‘Results dictate people’s thoughts. We try to work on performances.
‘We can’t affect results but can affect performance. You only have to have a bad decision and there’s not a lot you can do about that.’
Cotterill believes it will be the work on the training ground that will have as big an impact on what takes place on the pitch in the coming weeks.
That was the case against West Ham – and the Pompey boss feels points will soon follow displays like the one against the Hammers.
Cotterill said: ‘Probably, as time goes on, I’ll be finding out more about our lads. Especially the new ones who’ve come in.
‘There’s been a lot of work done on the training ground. What is demoralising is working and working with them and then it not happening on a Saturday.
‘Last week it showed the hard work we put in going up to Cardiff.
‘We have to look for good performances and the results will follow.
‘We can’t carry on playing like we did last week and not get a result.
‘We’ve been beaten in two games and we didn’t deserve to lose either.
‘We deserve more than the one win we have on the board.’