Who is to blame for Portsmouth's alarming League One problems and where do the solutions lie?

There’s been plenty of finger pointing going on at Pompey following recent results, with a ramping up of the blame game a natural consequence of Tuesday’s 4-0 defeat at the hands of Ipswich.

By Mark McMahon and Jordan Cross
Thursday, 21st October 2021, 1:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 1:12 pm

But who exactly is to blame? What are the solutions and is Danny Cowley right to be speaking so honestly about his players’ character after recent events?

Those are just some of the questions we asked Pompey writer Jordan Cross in a video Q&A.

And here’s how he responded...

Q The blame game is in full flow, with plenty in the firing line – but can you definitively say that one party is to blame more than another? It’s like the perfect storm is brewing.

First off, from a supporters’ point of view, they’re quite right to look for answers after that debacle against Ipswich and two defensive debacles on the spin now.

In answer to your question, there has to be people culpable.

Most supporters accept now that we’re looking at a period of transition, perhaps even looking down the table and not up it.

There's been plenty of people in the firing line of supporters since Pompey's season took a turn for the worse.

But that doesn’t mean there doesn’t have to be people culpable for what’s happening at the moment – and that has to be across the board.

It has to be from the manager, the players and the owners.

People will be looking at Danny Cowley’s recruitment – 15 players in this summer, which is a big turnover, and how those players are faring.

Have they got ample cover in all positions? Was it right to push the boat out for Mahlon Romeo and Joe Morrell? Two of Pompey’s best performers but now we’re looking at the problems in attack and the problems in the middle of defence.

Would that money have been best distributed elsewhere?

Danny Cowley, for his money, would probably, politely, point to the fact that Pompey’s budget, although a competitive one, is off some of his rivals’.

And he feels that he’s lost out on players as well.

From the ownership position, my thought is that, everyone’s culpable – including them.

The players must take responsibility, too.

But there’s no free hits this season. There has to be answers – even in a season of transition.

There has to be signs of progress and answers from all parties.

Q What’s the issue on the pitch? We’ve asked Danny Cowley what the solutions are but we’re still not clear, are we?

Look, the goals being conceded – two sets of four goals now – shows Pompey are shipping goals all over the place,

It’s obvious to see that that’s a major area of concern.

But how to you remedy that?

The back three has looked leaky – you’ve got some square pegs in round holes there – so do we look to go back to a back four now?

And at the front end of the pitch, it’s the same again,

The one area that we look okay is the midfield – although you look at the form of Ryan Tunnicliffe and it's dipped significantly.

It’s the same old issues – and there’s no obvious answers really in terms of the squad.

Where do you look for the changes? From that squad on Tuesday night, where do you look to change it up now?

There’s not a lot of places for Danny Cowley to turn to and that’s why he’s probably feeling slightly hamstrung at the moment.

Q Has Danny Cowley done himself any favours speaking so honestly about his players’ character following recent results?

Danny Cowley is an honest, sharp-shooter.

As far as he can be when facing the press, he’s spoken honestly and openly throughout his tenure and he’s respected for that.

He’s honest to say that sometimes he can’t say exactly how he’s feeling but we still ask the questions, questions that the supporters want to hear answers to.

That includes is he under pressure and those questions aren’t easy to answer.

Danny's kind of questioned, with justification, the players’ response to adversity.

It’s a fair criticism given what’s going on.

But it’s a hard balancing act for Danny as well because he has to keep the players on side, especially when it’s a small squad and the players he’s criticised are asked to go an perform again the following weekend.

So it’s one that Danny probably has to tread carefully with moving forward.

Be honest where he possibly can to the public, but when you criticise the players so publically you fear that if he continued to do that you can lose those players.

So a tough balancing act, but one Danny needs to get bang on moving forward.

Q Where do you stand in the Gavin Bazunu debate?

Gavin Bazunu, along with Shaun Raggett and latterly probably Joe Morrell and Mahlon Romeo in places, have been the best performers for Pompey.

But the mistakes he’s made have put him in the firing line.

What I would say is that it’s a difficult call now for Danny Cowley.

If he takes him out, what happens if Alex Bass makes a mistake, with goalkeeping such a specialised position?Confidence plays such a factor in that.

Danny often talks about Bazunu’s strength of character.

I just think the signs are, with that, and the fact Danny is such a fan of his, it probably makes sense to stick with him.

But looking at other positions, who else is staking their claim?

George Hirst? It doesn’t look like Danny fancies him because John Marquis isn’t hitting his straps and they’re not really taking him out of the firing line.

Obviously, Ellis Harrison is injured, too, so there’s a problem there.

Can he change the defence and move to a back four?

Possibly bring Connor Ogilvie into the left side of a defensive two alongside Sean Raggett.

Perhaps you can change it by bringing in Louis Thompson, who hasn’t done too badly.

And then there’s Miguel Azeez.

He could be the one to change the dynamics with the qualities he brings to the table – he’s more of a progressing player than some of the others, but not a No10 as some believe him to be.

But let’s face it, there’s not a lot of players Danny Cowley can turn to, which leads me back to the point that he needs to keep his players onside.