Where the key lies to Portsmouth’s recruitment this summer

In the first of two features on Pompey’s summer transfer business, Blues writer Jordan Cross gives his view on how Kenny Jackett’s recruitment should pan out.

Saturday, 25th May 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 26th May 2019, 4:22 pm
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett

Major surgery will not be required, no need for squad-saving surgery this time around.

But a few major organs need to be transplanted into the body of Pompey’s set-up to have a healthy array of options full of promotion vitality.

Mark Catlin’s assessment it’s tinkering which is needed to Kenny Jackett’s options this summer, is, of course, a fair reflection of where things currently stand.

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‘It’s not a team or squad which needs ripping up and starting again,’ the chief executive said when debating the topic. ‘It’s about adding quality to the excellent squad we have.’

And you don’t need an analysis department and access to the Wyscout database to see where the focus will lie.

At the top of Jackett’s hit-list has to be a quality striker who brings another dimension to his current options.

With Oli Hawkins and Brett Pitman the only senior players to call on in that area, and Pitman now being seen as one for a withdrawn role, more is needed at the top end of the pitch.

Significantly, a striker who brings different qualities and adds another dimension to the Pompey attack is what’s required.

Chuks Aneke fits the bill and is an early name to emerge in that area. Of course, there are many others.

But you only have to tap his name into YouTube to see the 25-year-old brings the kind of power and dynamism which will excite supporters.

Of course, such potential comes at a premium and, in this case, that means paying the wages for an out-of-contract talent who will have no shortage of suitors after bagging 19 goals last term.

How Matt Clarke’s future plays out is likely to be crucial to the recruitment narrative over the next 68 days. As it’s developing, it looks likely to be an extremely enriching tale when it comes to Jackett’s war chest.

You can sense Catlin’s comfort when the topic of Clarke is broached, the chief executive and his team will be happy to let a bidding war play out with those courting Pompey’s prized asset possessing deep pockets.

The key lies in how the cash injection, and that of any sale of Jamal Lowe, is utilised. Does Jackett use it to tempt clubs to release players under contract? Or does he opt to cover the contract of some of the most attractive free agents out there, who will be able to command higher wages with no transfer fee required?

Whatever happens, a successor to Clarke will be necessary, while Jackett will have to decide if one new central defender will suffice with Tom Naylor cover and Jack Whatmough touted for a December return.

With Nathan Thompson seemingly waiting to see what could be out there for him with his contract soon at a close, a right-back to compete with Anton Walkes is another priority.

The midfield department is well stocked, but the mind can’t help but wander back to how much Ben Thompson was missed after his January exit. That sentiment is tempered, however, by the manner in which the flourishing Ben Close finished the season, as he found his feet with a run of starts.

Out wide, Louis Dennis’ future is also up in the air, as is, as we all know, Lowe’s.

With Ronan Curtis there and Gareth Evans a versatile option it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Viv Solomon-Otabor return permanently. Much depends on who departs out wide to who comes in.

Then comes that troublesome number 10 position. For pretty much the entirety of last season the starting XI lacked a natural for that role.

Evans impressed there through many of the side’s best moments while Pitman gave a different kind of option later on in the campaign. Neither, though, really felt like a natural fit in Jackett’s preferred 4-2-3-1 set-up.

It was hoped Andre Green could come to the fore there, before Aston Villa’s recall put a spanner in the works. Dennis doesn't look to be trusted in that area, while we wait to see where Andy Cannon fits into Jackett's plans.

It’s critical to Pompey’s ambitions, however, they recruit well there.

With a goalkeeper likely to arrive in the face of Luke McGee’s expected departure, and, hopefully, Alex Bass given the game time out on loan to accelerate his development, the gaps to fill are evident enough.

There’s not too many of them, so no one should expect the 10 new faces we witnessed walk under the mock-Tudor facade 12 months ago.

But those new additions who walk up the tunnel and into the Fratton light in August simply have to make the difference this time.