Will Millwall's Ben Thompson return to Portsmouth, a kick up the backside for Ronan Curtis and Ellis Harrison's chances of staying in the side - your Blues questions answered

We’ve tackled the questions you want answering in the wake of Saturday’s much-needed win over Burton Albion. There’s plenty of ground covered, too, from what happens now in terms of the strikers, Ronan Curtis, Sean Raggett and a Ben Thompson return...

Monday, 5th October 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Monday, 5th October 2020, 6:16 pm

Can we keep Harness at 10 and Harrison up front?

@themartinfish

A natural place to start from the man that is the Martinfish, after the events at the Pirelli Stadium at the weekend.

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It was interesting to see Kenny Jackett take some stick for the three changes he made at Burton. I personally thought each of the changes - Ellis Harrison, Ryan Williams and Lee Brown in for John Marquis, Ronan Curtis and Cam Pring - were entirely justified for different reasons.

In the final analysis, it’s the decision to bring in Harrison for Marquis which really stands out.

It’s quite something to say this on a day when Marcus Harness got a hat-trick of that quality, but Harrison actually pushed him close for man of the match!

He gave Pompey a presence and focal point in Jackett’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation which has been missing – and is very necessary to the formation’s success.

Ben Thompson

To take a look at his performance, you just need to look at his Wyscout stats.

He undertook a massive 98 actions in the game with 43 successful. Harrison was in 66 duels (29 successful) with 33 area duels (16 successful).

They are massive numbers. For comparison, when a renowned powerful striker like Andy Carroll played 89 minutes for Newcastle against West Ham last month, he was in 41 duels (17 successful) and 17 aerial duels (nine successful).

There’s been plenty of talk of playing Harness as a 10 this summer, and I think we can now all see why Jackett has been talking about that.

His ingenuity and ability to drop deep and find pockets of space was central to the win.

Importantly, it didn’t negate Michael Jacobs’ impact on the left, who was also effective.

The probing of the three behind Harrison, including when Ronan Curtis came on really was encouraging.

Harrison has been playing catch-up slightly with his fitness this season, but is now at full throttle so I see no reason for things not to continue in that way against MK Dons on Saturday.

Although Saturday's result is only one game, Pompey looked far more threatening with the changes they made in the forward department. Was it purely a temporary measure to give the likes of Curtis and Marquis a kick up the backside or do you think it will have dramatically changed Jackett's thinking about what his best options are up front? (Simon N, North End, via [email protected])

Continuing on from the previous question, as I said I felt the changes were necessary Saturday.

Ronan Curtis has been way below his best this term, while John Marquis has been struggling for form in front of goal (it was no goals in five and one in 12 for him before the weekend).

I don’t think Marquis has been wanting for work-rate in that time so wasn’t in particular need of a kick up the backside, though maybe some of the signs of dissent and frustration he does display has been noted.

I think you could fairly call it a reminder for Curtis not to take his place in the side for granted, however.

The last time he was on the bench for a league game was against Lincoln a year ago. Perhaps, it becomes easy to take your place in the side for granted on a run like that, especially when you’re regarded as the team’s prized asset.

All of a sudden Sean Raggett looks the weak link in our defence. Is he still regarded as Jackett's No1 central defender and do you expect Rasmus Nicolaisen to be pushing him for that spot on the left-hand side beside Jack Whatmough any time soon? (David Johnson, London, via [email protected])

Good point highlighted here by David. After the defence looking like a positive in the opening games, it’s now conceded four in two and was unsettled in the first half on Saturday.

Sean Raggett was caught out on a couple of occasions for the first goal, with Tom Naylor also failing to clear.

The second goal was unfortunate as it went in off Tom Naylor, although Jack Whatmough was beaten to the byline after possession was turned over.

It’s fascinating, because I know Rasmus Nicolaisen was brought in because there were concerns about the lack of mobility of the current pairing.

The suggestion going back a few weeks was it could end with Raggett going to the right of a central two, alongside a new boy.

I don’t think that would be the case now, however, with Whatmough Pompey’s best player so far this term.

The early reports are Nicolaisen has looked good in training, strong and mobile.

It’s pretty likely he’ll start at Southend in the Leasing.com Trophy, and there will be eyes on him to see how he goes on his debut with a view to how things shape up moving forward.

Ben Thompson doesn't seem to be a regular for Millwall these days. What's the chances of getting him back down the Park on loan? (Ollie, Hillsea)

Oh, Ollie - you had to mention him didn’t you!

I’m still pining for Thommo 21 months after his return to Millwall, after making that massive impact during his loan stay in the 2018-19 season.

There’s no doubt in my mind Thompson’s return to the Lions made the difference between finishing in the play-offs and automatic promotion back then, and is right at the top of the tree of the best Pompey players in recent years.

I’m sure, like you, the observant Blues fans have noticed Thompson’s not been too involved at Millwall this term, starting one of their four league games to date.

I expect some fans will put those two issues together, and be dreaming of Jackett bringing Thompson in to spark the midfield to life.

We know the Pompey boss is looking for a player to do that, but is Thompson a realistic proposition at present? I’m not so sure.

There’s the small issue of the £2.5m wage cap Pompey are operating under at present to consider.

Thompson signed a new long-term deal at The Den last summer and, naturally, would have got a sizeable hike in his wages; one you’d expect would be impossible for Pompey to match at present.

Even a loan agreement would be tough to picture when factoring his wages, or even a contribution to them, under the salary cap. That would be a hell of a deal.

Could maybe a Paul Downing be shifted and possibly James Bolton to make the space? You’d never entirely rule it out, but it would seem unlikely.

Still, we can still dream of Thommo back in a Pompey shirt again one day, right!

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