Kenny Jackett: Why I had to rest Tom Naylor and rotate my Portsmouth side against Arsenal

Kenny Jackett has dismissed the notion that his Arsenal team selection reflected a lack of priority in FA Cup competition.

Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, 8:00 am
Ross McCrorie (right) was one of six changes for the visit of Arsenal as Kenny Jackett looked to protect his players. Picture: Joe Pepler

Yet Pompey’s boss is adamant six changes for last night’s fifth-round encounter with the Gunners was essential.

Skipper Tom Naylor, Sean Raggett and Ronan Curtis were first-team regulars surprisingly benched in the televised Fratton Park contest.

In addition, top-scorer John Marquis and Andy Cannon also made way, while Lee Brown didn’t even make the squad.

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Instead Gareth Evans was handed only his fourth start in 22 matches, with James Bolton switched to centre-half in the subsequent credible 2-0 defeat.

Jackett explained: ‘Coming off a Christmas period, there’s eight games through January, eight games through February and seven in March, so the side is going to change, it has to, we have quite good availability.

‘To expect the same XI all the time is unrealistic, it is never going to happen, they are not going to be able to do their best.

‘The team selection didn’t suggest we have priorities in other competitions, we wanted to win, I did feel confident. All of the players are like for like.

‘To expect the same players to go right the way through a 60-plus game season is unrealistic. You’re looking at the schedule and the side is going to have to change, otherwise there just won’t be any energy in the team.

‘I did feel we could cater for both Arsenal and Peterborough and use the squad likewise.

‘When we had Exeter, we played our full side and got through, but it did reflect slightly on the performance at Fleetwood.

‘So using the same side that week didn’t really work for me in terms of performance level.’

Meanwhile, it was a rare first-team absence for the pivotal Naylor, who remained a sub unused.

Jackett added: ‘I did feel Tom needed a game off – and wanted to look at the other three to see how they could do.

‘Tom’s a key player for us and the captain, he’s a great player, but if you are looking at him in the last couple of games, he has looked leggy at times.

‘I know on Saturday he will be back to his best.’