Friday, August 15, 2008

EPL Preview: Portsmouth

Harry Redknapp is rightly celebrated in the south of England. After saving Portsmouth from relegation, he put the pieces together for an impressive campaign last year. Top half of the League. A spot in the UEFA Cup. And an FA Cup that, while perhaps tarnished by a fortunate run of matches (though they did take down United in the quarters), still stands as the first FA Cup won in 13 years by a club other than the Big Four of United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

‘Arry. The Pompey faithful. Fratton Park . A squad built on steel, muscle, and experience. Playing in a crusty old ground that vibrates every weekend. Managed by a self-promoting but exceedingly personable character who may still be underrated. If there is a side that better personifies the battling nature that should define the middle of the Premiership table, I haven’t found them. Pompey give the Tottenhams’ of the world the shits one would normally get from bad lasagna.

After the jump, I’ll preview YOUR 2009-09 Portsmouth Blue Army…

Harry overpaid for Peter Crouch . 11m pounds. Really? For a guy who couldn’t really get a run at Liverpool and who specializes in terrorizing Macedonia? But the bean pole has underrated ball skills and, after all, just…scores…goals. He returns to Portsmouth to pair Wee Speed Demon Jermaine Defoe in certainly one of the most mouth-watering strike forces in the League. Pompey will score. And we’ll finally see what a full season brings out of Crouch.

David James. It’s almost hard to remember his moniker “Calamity.” Is he the best keeper in the Prem? His gaffes are more rare, and there are few better pure shot-blockers. I’d say fully 17 clubs in the league would take him in a heartbeat.

The Portsmouth back came together impressively last year. Former Hammer and Chelsea bust Glen Johnson has become perhaps England’s best right back. On the left, Herman Hreidarsson…ok, I don’t know a fucking thing about him. But the pairing of Sylvain Distin and slowing-but-proud Sol Campbell are about as stout as any center-half pair this side of United, Chelsea and Liverpool. And ‘Arry brought in Spurs’ reject Younes Kaboul to deputize the back. This is exactly the kind of move that works out for ‘Arry more often than not.

In the middle, former Chelsea and Arsenal man Lassana Diarra proved the big clubs wrong with a special season in a reserved role. And you may have seen Croatian Niko Kranjcar providing service to his mates in the Euro this summer (the link was from an, umm, prior match). The man can play.

In fact, Portsmouth’s one true weakness to this observer is on the wing. ‘Arry lost underrated Sulley Muntari to Mourinho’s Inter (of course, ‘Arry doubled his money on the sale). This will hurt. But where are the wings? You’ve got Peter Crouch’s head up there! Who’s going to ping them off that towering noggin? Width is Portsmouth’s one true question.

My Chelsea get Pompey this weekend. I’m not sweating the match too much, but it will be fun to open the season against this lot. If you’re looking for a club in the Premiership to follow, you could do much worse. Prediction? They’ll be, to my mind, right in the mix for 5th through 7th with Villa and Spurs (I’ve dropped City and Everton from this frame). Villa has to wonder about Gareth Barry’s attitude. Spurs have to knit a whole new squad. Harry is smiling like a Cheshire Cat. Call it 6th.

I’ll leave you with Pompey’s famous song. The Pompey Chimes. Sing it with me to the Westminster Chimes.

Play up Pompey, Pompey play up!

1 comment:

Bigus Dickus said...

Wow. 6th...Thats a bold prediction. They are deffo going in the right direction but so were reading once!