Danny Cowley questions ripping up back three system as Portsmouth seek defensive stability against Ipswich

Danny Cowley is weighing up reverting to a back four in a bid to restore the Blues’ defensive stability.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 4:55 am
Danny Cowley is mulling over reverting to a back four against Ipswich. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

Pompey have shipped 12 goals in six matches since introducing a system of three central defenders.

That has involved Sean Raggett, Kieron Freeman, Shaun Williams and, on Saturday, the returning Connor Ogilvie.

However, with Clark Robertson and Paul Downing sidelined, some are being asked to play out of position.

Sign up to our Portsmouth FC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It was only August when Pompey started the League One campaign with four successive clean sheets while operating with a back four.

And Cowley admits he is mulling over bringing the formation back for tonight’s visit of Ipswich (7.45pm).

He told The News: ‘We probably haven’t been able to return to a back four up until Rotherham.

‘Now, with Connor back available, gives us that option.

‘I think when you lose your captain and one of your best players (Clark Robertson) that is always going to hurt your team.

‘While Paul Downing has been out for the majority of the season as well. So that’s two centre-halves – and we’ve had to play people out of position.

‘A back three can definitely keep clean sheets. It can be a really good way of playing, it can go from a three to a five, a five to a three. It’s just numbers, you defend with 11 and you attack with 11.

‘Really, a back three should, on paper, be more defensive than a back four. It’s about what you do in that position.

‘However, I think when you are in a difficult moment you look for the solutions and you have to adapt with what you’ve got. You must work with what you’ve got.

‘You have to work with the personnel available and set them up to have success.

Read More

Read More
For the latest Pompey news direct to your inbox sign up for our free newsletter

‘Now we've got some who can play in a back three, but probably can’t play in a back four centrally, that's just the truth.

‘Whether we like it or not, that's just the facts. So we have to try to set that team up the best we can with what we have.’

On Saturday, the Blues slumped to a 4-1 defeat at Rotherham.

The match marked Ogilvie’s first game back following injury, yet he remains most likely to partner Sean Raggett in the centre of defence.

That’s should Cowley opt for a back four.

He added: ‘You look at the goals conceded on Saturday and how many were tactical?

‘The first was we didn’t stop the cross and are then beaten at the far post by Michael Smith.

‘We worked hard on trying to stop crosses (in training), particularly from that side, and we didn’t do that well enough in the game.

‘The second goal is an individual mistake, that can happen, it wasn't formation or play.

The third goal was set-piece a really disappointing goal for us. The fourth one happens, that’s the mentality to me, wallowing in self pity.

‘If you think that’s technical or tactical, I’m not sure. I’m looking more at the physical and mental answers.

‘Although we conceded four goals, so I can’t defend that.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

You can support our local team of expert Pompey writers by subscribing here for all the latest news from Fratton Park for 14p a day.