Portsmouth need the kiss of life as Blues head in wrong direction
‘It’s more boring than watching dried paint dry’, ‘absolutely cheesed off with seeing what is being served up at Fratton Park’, ‘I don’t think I can take anymore of this type of football’.
That was just some of the accusations levelled at Pompey and, in particular, manager Kenny Jackett following Saturday’s disappointing goalless draw with Gillingham.
Social media users were far from enamoured by the performance, as you can guess, as the Blues failed to kick-start a campaign that perhaps now needs the kiss of life rather than just a push-start.
Why, even The News’ Neil Allen admitted the Blues ‘were awful to watch at this moment’ as they languish in 16th place in the League One table, presently looking more like relegation candidates than promotion contenders.
But scrolling through the outpouring of emotions on various social outlets in the aftermath of the Gills’ draw, one simple verdict resonated more than any other.
The posting was adamant that Pompey were ‘going backwards’ under Jackett.
A fair comment and perhaps even an overly obvious assessment given the predicament the Fratton Park outfit currently find themselves in.
After all, on paper, this is the best Blues side gathered at Fratton Park for many a year, with some hefty fees forked out in the summer and a better calibre of player occupying the shirt – regardless of the loss of Matt Clarke and Jamal Lowe.
But was it an unsubstantiated claim, a heat of the moment outburst with little foundation, the jumping of a conclusion?
Or was it an accurate portrayal of exactly what’s occurring at PO4 as Pompey sit closer to the bottom of the table than those teams perched right at the top?
Well, factually, the claimant is right in his assertions.
Looking at a few stats, the Gillingham game marked the Blues’ 10th league fixture of the season, with the goalless draw leaving them 16th in the table and with a record of three wins, four draws and three loses from those matches.
That also equates to 13 points – which is the lowest points total and resulting league placing occupied by the Blues for the same period in each of Jackett’s other two seasons in charge.
The Pompey side that the former Millwall and Swansea boss initially assembled for the club’s first season back in the third tier in 2017-18 sat 14th in the table with 14 points following 10 games played.
That was the result of four wins, two draws and four defeats from those fixtures - not bad considering the turnaround that took place following the League Two title win under Paul Cook.
But those stats are nothing in comparison to last year's start, with Jackett & Co then sitting pretty at the top of the table.
Indeed, the table-topping Blues had accumulated 24 points by this stage of the 2018-19 campaign, with an impressive seven wins from the 10 played.
So, for starters, there’s been less league wins for supporters to enjoy this season – and the same applies to goals scored.
At present, the Blues have netted 12 times in those 10 games played, with only Shrewsbury and Bolton scoring fewer.
Yet 14 had been recorded by this stage of the 2017-18 season, while 20 were notched after the equivalent matches played last term.
Throw in the stat that Pompey’s goals-per-game ratio currently sits at 1.31 in all competitions compared to last season's overall total of 1.76 – and already the Blues are off the desired pace.
On an individual front, Lowe – who went one to score 17 goals in total last season – had already taken his personal 2018-19 league haul to six.
Meanwhile, Brett Pitman was leading from the front with eight in 2017.
But, back to today’s predicament, Marcus Harness, Ronan Curtis and Gareth Evans share the honours with two apiece as Pompey struggle to find form in front of goal.
The number of league goals the Blues have conceded also falls behind last year’s standard – 11 compared to eight as Jackett struggles to identify a solid central defensive partnership.
Six pairings have already been used this season in the league, compared to two in 2018.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Blues’ current goals-conceded-per-game ratio of 1.25 is also some way off the one goal-conceded-per-game ratio recorded for last term as a whole.
Such stats do the Blues little favour and add fuel to the argument that Pompey are currently way off the standards set last season – standards that, let’s not forget, ultimately proved insufficient when it came to promotion.
Improvements are definitely needed, therefore.
But will they be enough to take Pompey to the promised land of the Championship next season? Probably not.
Last season Luton claimed the title with 94 points.
The Blues will require on average 2.3 points per game between now and the end of the season to match that mammoth total.
To match their own points haul of 88, as Pompey finished fourth, 2.2 points per game will be needed from the 34 matches remaining.
Meanwhile, 1.76 points per match would be compulsory between now and the end of the season if Doncaster’s 73 points to secure last term’s final play-off place is to be replicated.
With Pompey currently sitting on an average of 1.3 points per game this season and a figure of 1.51 for the whole of the 2019 calendar year, that’s a tall order, particularly when there’s appears little light at the end of the tunnel.
They also have a win percentage of 44 per cent for the current campaign as a whole, compared to a 56 per cent for last season.
So, are Pompey going backwards – at the minute, yes.
Will that continue as the season progresses?
Hopefully not, but there’s little to suggest otherwise.