Verdict: Here’s what’s gone wrong with Portsmouth in 2019

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It’s the question that has caused the debate to rage across pubs in the PO postcode – just what has gone wrong with Pompey this year?

After looking like they’d storm their way to the League One title in the opening half of the season, Kenny Jackett’s side now find themselves five points outside the automatic promotion places.

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

The Blues are winless in their past six league games and the fears of finishing in the play-offs are a growing concern.

But why has Pompey’s form jettisoned in 2019?

Here are five reasons behind the recent blip...

DEPARTURE OF BEN THOMPSON

It’s an obvious starting point and one Pompey may never fully recover from this term.

Since Ben Thompson was recalled to Millwall, Jackett’s men have failed to deliver a league victory.

The midfielder’s performances dazzled the Fratton faithful on a weekly basis during the first half of the season.

Robust in the tackle, a rapid burst of speed, superb vision and the ability to contribute in front of goal – Thompson had it all.

In fact, there was, arguably, not a single midfielder in the division who could rival his attributes.

Since Thompson has returned to the Lions, though, Pompey haven’t had someone of the same ilk has him.

Moreover, with injuries and suspensions, Jackett has been unable to find balance in the engine room.

A DIP IN KEY MEN’S FORM

In the first half of the season, Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe ran amok against most defences that stepped in their path.

The wing wizards were in devastating form, scoring and creating goals on a weekly basis.

After the 2-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon on New Year’s Day, the duo had accumulated a combined 20 goals and 19 assists.

However, in the Blues’ subsequent six league games, they’ve netted just once and set up three.

Curtis and Lowe were Pompey’s two key players in the first half of the season and integral to Jackett’s 4-2-3-1 system.

Both have hit a dip at the same time, though, which has impacted the Blues’ creativity.

CLEAN SHEET TROUBLES

When flying high at the summit of the table, ‘average Pompey’ was the nickname given to Jackett’s side by opposition fans.

The Blues rarely put teams to the sword, instead doing just the right amount to ensure they picked up victories.

The cornerstone to Pompey’s success was their defensive solidity.

How they could stoically soak up pressure and see games out – Luton on the opening day of the season a prime example – was the basis of Jackett’s pragmatic approach.

Cleans sheets were a common occurrence for keeper Craig MacGillivray, with the likes of Matt Clarke and Jack Whatmough making his job easy.

However, the keeper hasn’t kept a shutout in 12 league games, with his last coming when the Blues beat Southend 2-0 on December 8.

Pompey have suffered injuries in defence during that period to the likes of Lee Brown, Nathan Thompson and Whatmough,

The latter is out for the remainder of the season.

A change in personnel could have contributed to why the Blues haven’t been as durable of late.

But, even still, Jackett will still be disappointed clean sheets have been evading his side.

SQUAD STILL GELLING

The return of the four loaness – Thompson, Andre Green (Villa), David Wheeler (QPR) and Joe Mason (Wolves) – meant Jackett likely had to be more active in the transfer window than he’d have liked.

Six new faces arrived last month, meaning the Blues boss had to try to seamlessly get them to adapt to their new surroundings.

However, the likes of Andy Cannon, Bryn Morris and Lloyd Isgrove have all had spells on the treatment already, while Omar Bogle has an ongoing problem with cramp.

It’s resulted in Jackett not having all of his options available and his side still moulding together.

THINGS CATCHING UP

When Pompey sat at the summit of the table, Jackett rarely opted to make a change to his starting XI unless necessary.

And, in truth, there was no reason for him to do so. The settled line-up was performing on a weekly basis and they were hurtling towards the Championship.

But did things come too predictable?

Jackett’s 4-2-3-1 formation, playing off a big target man, wreaked havoc before the turn of the year. The Blues boss had every confidence in his players that they couldn’t be stopped.

But the system hasn’t had the same effect in 2019, with Pompey lacking the thrust they had persistently demonstrated.

In fairness, Oli Hawkins – the focal point of Pompey’s attack – was sidelined for a month and Brett Pitman didn’t offer the same presence.

And Jackett switching to 4-4-2 at Southend, with Hawkins and Bogle spearheading the front line, gives him the flexibility to switch things up in the business end of the season.