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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Portsmouth

another article i published on bleacher report

In the 14th part of my "Three Transfers" series, I look at Portsmouth, a team that is in the middle of a takeover by billionaire Sulaiman Al-Fahim.

Some might remember him being involved in the takeover of Manchester City, and he made bold proclamations of who he was going to sign for City back then. As such, I think we can expect him to splash the cash now that he is in charge of Portsmouth.

Portsmouth have a fair few problems to fix. They started the season with high hopes, but without Lassana Diarra and Jermain Defoe, arguably their top two players, they lacked quality and ended up losing almost half of their fixtures.

I think the short-term aim of the club would be to get into the top half, and possibly a Europa League place with a little luck.

If that is Portsmouth's aim, then I believe strengthening is required in a few areas, and I shall address them now.


After Defoe's departure, goals have been in short supply for the south coast club. Scoring a measly 38 goals, which equates to just 1 a game, is not enough, especially when your defence is not exactly water-tight.

Currently, Portsmouth have Peter Crouch, Nwankwo Kanu, David Nugent, and John Utaka on their books.

Peter Crouch managed to find a little form heading into the tail-end of last season, but clearly he needs to have better partners if he is going to improve on his performances next season.

Nwankwo Kanu's future is still up in the air, but even if he signs, the 32-year-old will probably be used in a role off the bench.

John Utaka has been preferred on the right, instead of in his favoured role, probably because his finishing has left much to be desired.

As for David Nugent, I don't think he has enough quality to be playing in the Premier League, and should at most be restricted to a place on the bench.

As such, signing a new striker must be the priority for Portsmouth in the summer.

I would suggest that with their new-found money, they should go after Darren Bent.

While many criticise him for being a multi-million pound flop, it must be noted that Bent is not the one who put such a price-tag on his head, and it is a result of the crazy market conditions, which sees him valued at 16.5 million pounds.

Darren Bent would be perfect for Portsmouth, as he is pacy, and as such, would be a perfect complement for Peter Crouch.

Often, Crouch has been the lone striker up front for Pompey and has had to drift wide to pick up the ball in space. If Bent were to move to Pompey to partner Crouch, then Bent would be the one running into the channels, leaving Crouch in the middle, where is the most effective.

Also, Crouch can make use of his height to flick the ball on for Bent to chase, if the team decides to use the aerial route.

With Redknapp reportedly keen on offloading Bent, Pompey would definitely be able to afford him, and he would be the perfect signing.

If they are unable to get Bent, they could perhaps turn their sights to Obafemi Martins.

The Nigerian striker is blessed with superb paceand athleticism, and while his shooting is not the best, he would also be a good partner for Peter Crouch, in a classic "big man, small man" combination.

With Newcastle needing to sell players, especially those on insanely high wages, Martins would definitely be attainable as long as Portsmouth come up with a reasonable offer.


Well, Glen Johnson is certainly one of the best right-backs in the league, but unfortunately for Pompey, it is unlikely that he will stay much longer.

With reported interest from Liverpool and Chelsea, among other clubs, the promise of European football will probably be too big a draw for Glen Johnson to ignore.

Assuming he goes, this leaves a huge gap for Pompey to fill. I think they should look for someone similar—i.e. good with the ball at his feet, and bombs down the flank with aplomb.

The player who I think is most similar to Johnson is Gianni Zuiverloon from West Bromwich Albion.

Zuiverloon is never afraid to run down the flank with the ball, or in support of the right-winger, and is thus a valuable asset to have when trying to break down other teams.

Defensively, he is not the best, but he is still young, and his reading of the game will definitely improve as he gets more matches under his belt. Also, his pace gets him out of trouble most of the time, so it's not too huge a problem.

If Zuiverloon cannot be attained, then Portsmouth could try to get Lucas Neill on a free transfer.

His contract runs out at the end of the month, and it looks increasingly unlikely that he will stay at West Ham.

Lucas Neill is very different from Zuiverloon, as he is defensively very solid, but his attacking ability is probably not even half as good. He has loads of Premier League experience, though, and would be a quality addition to any of the other teams in the league, not just Portsmouth.

His status as a free agent just makes it much more appealing for Portsmouth, and with their money, they should be able to afford his wages.

At the end of the day, it depends on whether Portsmouth want a like-for-like replacement for Johnson in Zuiverloon, or they want defensive solidity in the shape of Neill.


Currently, Portsmouth have Jerome Thomas as their only natural left-winger. Over the course of the season, they have used Armand Traore and Niko Kranjcar here as well.

However, Armand Traore will return to Arsenal at the end of his loan spell, while Niko Kranjcar should be left in the middle, where he can use his play-making abilities fullest.

While Jerome Thomas is a useful player to have in the squad, he is probably not good enough for a team with aspirations of finishing in the top half.

As such, Portsmouth definitely need a new left-winger, and I think they should try to sign Tranquillo Barnetta from Bayer Leverkusen.

The Swiss international is a quick winger who enjoys running at defenders at full tilt, and should be a hit in the Premier League.

He is equally adept at using either of his feet, and is comfortable on either wing, which will be a huge bonus to Portsmouth.

With Bayer Leverkusen also not qualifying for Europe, Portsmouth might find it a little easier to tempt Barnetta to the south coast to ply his trade in the English Premier League.

If Barnetta proves to be too expensive, or is not willing to move to England, then perhaps Dmitry Torbinsky will be an interesting option.

He is just as quick and just as skilful as Barnetta, and also possesses an excellent cross.

The only drawback is that he is not quite as proficient with both his feet, and as such is sometimes forced to cut in by experienced defenders.

Torbinsky currently plays for Lokomotiv Moscow, and if Portsmouth were interested, I'm sure he would jump at the opportunity to play in the English Premier League.

So that's it. That's my take on who Portsmouth should splash the cash on in the summer.

Taking a step back from all the suggestions, key to their summer is also making sure their best players like Sean Davis sign new contracts, as 15 of the Pompey team are free agents come the end of the month.

If they manage to keep their best players, use their money wisely and strengthen well, they should be in the running for one of the European spots next season, and not fighting a relegation battle.

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