Opinion: The key Portsmouth selection options assessed ahead of Blues' trip to MK Dons

After Ellis Harrison bagged a hat-trick last Tuesday against MK Dons in the Papa John’s Trophy, there has been much debate whether the 27-year-old should start against MK Dons tomorrow.

Friday, 10th September 2021, 3:17 pm

Fellow striker John Marquis has started the season slowly after scoring just once across in the opening five league games.

And with Harrison demonstrating what he can do when given a chance, many believe a change up front is needed.

However, this isn’t the only big decision Pompey boss Danny Cowley has to make going into the game at Stadium MK.

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There’s also been plenty of talk surrounding the right-back and midfield positions as players return to full fitness and from international duty.

Here, new Portsmouth News sports desk member Sam Cox quizzes fellow new recruit Pepe Lacey on what he anticipates Cowley will do.

You can also watch the video in full.

Q: After Ellis Harrison scored a hat-trick last Tuesday, who do you think will lead the line for Pompey?

Danny Cowley, right, is facing a number of selection headaches ahead of this weekend's trip to MK Dons Picture: Jason Brown

A: I think Harrison deserves a chance.

Not only did he score a hat-trick, but it was against a strong AFC Wimbledon side, which proves he can score goals against League One opposition.

After Marquis’ relatively slow start to the season, with one goal in five league games, he maybe needs a break, too.

I think he’ll start Harrison tomorrow, but it’s sure to be an interesting battle across the next couple of weeks.

Q: Kieron Freeman has started the season very well, but the signing of Mahlon Romeo from the Championship has provided quality competition for the right-back position. How do you see both players fitting in?

A: I think he’ll give Romeo a chance this Saturday.

Across the two games that I’ve covered for The Portsmouth News, Doncaster and Wigan, Freeman hasn’t been as attacking as I think he would be when fully fit.

He sits back slightly more, and with Romeo being more attacking I think that could benefit Marcus Harness, which in turn may help Marquis or Harrison.

In an attacking sense, I think Romeo would be the player to choose when you’re taking the game to the opposition, but if it’s a tougher game then Freeman may be the better option.

Q: The club bolstered their midfield in the summer, what do you think the best combination is going forward?

A: Reflecting back on the 0-0 draw with Doncaster when Ryan Tunnicliffe and Joe Morrell started together, throughout the first half they were regularly ripped through.

When Williams was then introduced midway through the second half, he just oozed quality and just turned the game around for Pompey.

Williams has that experience, but is slightly older so may not be able to play every single game.

Tunnicliffe is one of the first names on the team sheet, but it’ll be a good battle between Morrell, Williams and Thompson to get that final spot.

I see Miguel Azeez in a slightly more attacking role for the club, and I think that’s where we’ll see him more often than not.

Q: What formation do you think Cowley will implement going forward after seeing him use a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, and five at the back during his time at the club already?

A: I believe Cowley’s favoured formation is a 4-2-3-1, and it’s brought him much success.

It has worked so far this season, but at Wigan he opted to use a 4-3-3 with Morrell, Tunnicliffe, and Williams, which also worked for the best part of the match.

With the strength that Pompey have in midfield, you can rotate the options and they’d naturally fit into a 4-3-3.

Looking further forward, the Blues have Azeez and Gassan Ahadame who can play in the No10 role.

The good thing is Cowley has options to choose from in both formation and personnel so Pompey can alter their game plan to match the challenges they face.

Q: With a number of options in different positions, the Blues have a strong bench for potentially the first time this season, how will that benefit Pompey?

A: Having a strong bench helps so much.

Last season, Pompey arguably had one of the strongest benches in the division, and to be able to bring someone on to change the game is so beneficial especially in League One.

Around the 60th minute against Wigan, they (the Latics) brought on James McClean and that changed the game.

Having that quality and a little bit of class on the bench can be the difference between a win and a loss.

It’ll be interesting to see those who miss out on the squad altogether now, because there will be times where a big name will have to miss out.