Portsmouth weigh up which way is best to go in midfield battle against Tranmere

Kenny Jackett faces midfield selection dilemma this weekend.

Thursday, 8th August 2019, 9:00 am
Updated Thursday, 18th June 2020, 3:54 pm
Andy Cannon in action for Pompey against Birmingham. Photo by Robin Jones.

The Pompey boss’ assistant, Joe Gallen, admitted they are presented with a positive headache over who starts in the middle of the park against Tranmere.

That’s after the central trio shined in the 3-0 Carabao Cup win over Birmingham on Monday night.

Jackett switched to a 4-3-3 formation against the Championship side and was rewarded with a dominant display.

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Ben Close came into the middle of the park with Ross McCrorie suspended, while Andy Cannon was favoured over Gareth Evans, who dropped to the bench.

Gallen hinted after the game Pompey could continue with the same formation in their first league encounter of the season at Fratton Park.

And he feels that’s all in a search to find the right mix of attributes centrally.

Gallen said: ‘We want to play through the thirds and it looks like Ben Close may have a big part to play in that.

‘It’s blends and rhythms, even if it sounds like I’m talking about coffee and music!

‘It’s about trying to find the right partnerships and the team with the right mix.

‘It’s a bit of passing, some off-the-ball work, big enough for set-pieces, some goals, creation and people who don’t let the other team score.

‘It’s a big pot, a big mix and it’s trying to have the right mix in the pot.

‘When Kenny uses those words I think he’s thinking he’s got a good squad and it’s picking the right partnerships in all areas of the pitch to see if we can bed things down and get our season going.’

Pompey were given one of their sights of Cannon, with injury problems restricting the arrival from Rochdale in January to one start and a single sub appearance.

Gallen added: ‘Andy played well. He’s a natural eight.

‘The mix behind that is Tom’s behind him who’s more defensive.

‘Ben’s a bit more of a passer and Andy’s a bit more of a runner.

‘If you think of the blend of those three it’s how it should be.

‘Andy wants to run all over the pitch but he can only do that because Tom’s behind him. That’s when you talk about the blend and the mix.

‘For him to run over the pitch you need someone like Ben to collect it and play it. It’s a good mix those three.

‘He hasn’t played a lot here, Andy. He’s come here, got injured and injured again. He’s a bit of terrier who wants some freedom.

‘He’s a natural midfelder, though, in terms of winning second balls and receiving it in the middle third. He also wants to run off, move and get forward.

‘You’ll find him off the left-hand side and then in the box on the right. He’ll be everywhere really.

‘But that three worked well together with the right mix.’