Why Conor Chaplin still wouldn't be a Portsmouth regular had he stayed ahead of his return with Barnsley

Conor Chaplin still wouldn't be a regular starter had he stayed at Pompey.

Friday, 24th January 2020, 6:00 pm
Updated Friday, 24th January 2020, 6:00 pm

That’s the verdict of The News sports writer Jordan Cross, speaking in the latest edition of Pompey Talk.

Chaplin returns to Fratton Park with Barnsley for tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth-round tie (3pm).

The academy graduate remains a firm favourite among Blues fans and will undoubtedly receive a warm welcome.

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Chaplin departed his boyhood club for Coventry in August 2018, following 122 appearances and 25 goals.

But for the majority of his PO4 career, the striker was confined to a bit-part role and failed to fit into either former manager Paul Cook or current boss Kenny Jackett’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.

Chaplin joined the Tykes last summer from the Sky Blues and has underlined his quality in the Championship.

Conor Chaplin, left, and Kenny Jackett. Picture: Shaun Boggust

Despite his exploits in the second tier, Cross feels Chaplin would still find himself in the same predicament if he was still a Pompey player.

He said: ‘You’ve got to remember Conor wanted to go and he was craving first-team football.

‘He was the one banging on Kenny’s door and asking about a lack of game time. And quite right, too.

‘I don't really believe he would have played a lot of football and was right to get out when he did.

‘He would have been involved but nowhere near to the extent someone of Conor Chaplin’s quality and desire should be, because he’s a consummate professional and the archetypal last off the training field.

‘When Kenny came in, all the chat was playing a 4-4-2 with Chaplin alongside Brett Pitman in pre-season. It quickly got binned and Kenny wanted to continue with what the squad knew, ie 4-2-3-1 under Paul Cook.

‘If you play that formation, where does he fit into it? Is he a number nine that leads the line? No. Is he a number 10? He’s played there at times, but is not a natural.

‘Where does he fit into the framework of that side? He’s playing with a second striker and Barnsley and you can see why he needs someone else up there to get the best out of him.

‘The counter-argument is why don't you change the formation to accommodate him?

‘You could do but you have to look at the success of Pompey amassing 88 points last season playing 4-2-3-1.

‘Fundamental to the success going forward was through Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe. Would you have got the same out of them playing 4-4-2? You’d be asking more of them on the back foot and that’s probably not their natural games.

‘It sounds absolutely bonkers but that is the deeper detail and thinking behind it.

‘That’s why bizarrely, despite the notion, we've all come to the conclusion that would be the case.’

Watch the rest of Pompey Talk on the video above or download the podcast by clicking here.