Portsmouth Feels the Wrath of Early Season Schedule

26 August 2008

2 games, 0 points. No goals scored and five goals allowed.

What those numbers don't tell you are the two opponents in question. At Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and then host to Manchester United.

When Portsmouth saw their early season schedule, they had to be a little concerned. Granted this was a side that was tipped for a European place in the table. This was a side that brought in Armand Traore and Peter Crouch, and working on developing the partnership up front...

And then all of a sudden, Sulley Muntari is sold and it can be debated that Portsmouth could be back at square one. No they still have quality on the field, but working on revamping tactics so late in the summer with a major piece of the puzzle gone is challenging enough. However add that with two games against two current giants of Europe in their first two matches added with a trip Saturday to Everton, Harry Redknapp's challenge is only made more difficult.

The big/small partnership of Crouch and Defoe I have a feeling won't work in the Premier League to the same effect it works on the international level. While good in theory, Crouch isn't all that great in the air. In fairness to him however, he does get called for some questionable fouls that I don't think should be called against him. It happened a few times again Monday against Manchester United. Even when given space to chest down, Vidic and Ferdinand where quickly there to close him down and dispossess.

Armand Traore needs some experience at the top flight, hence the reason Arsenal loaned him out to Portsmouth in the first place. His youth got the better of him Monday night as he was caught out at least four times, three of those resulting in decent chances for Manchester United goals. Jerome Thomas did well in the 35 minutes he had on the park, closing down well and getting Portsmouth's first shot on target.

However what Portsmouth need to realize right now is they cannot get discouraged because of this start. Even with Muntari, it was very possible they could be on zero points from a possible six. I think right now this is a time for John Utaka to step up his game and show game in and game out the flashes he showed last season from midfield. They have the players to make a push for a European place, now is the time to come together and rally around it.

Darren Fletcher is keeping Manchester United a float right now. It's almost amazing in how similar his two goals have been this season. However when looking at the replay of this goal, I wonder if the ball didn't end up going in off Sylvain Distin? I guess the dubious goals committee will have their fun with that one. My judgment call says Fletcher deserved the goal as he beat Campbell to the Evra centering pass.

Manchester United are just doing what they need to do. Anderson's inclusion in the starting eleven proved to be valuable as not only did it seem he got better as the game got along, his passes were also inch accurate.

A few other observations.
1) Is it just me or did it seem like Portsmouth couldn't keep possession at all in the second half?
2) Was there any reliable camera angle on the fourteenth minute penalty shout? There was a least a handball that could be debated, but thanks to production, we never saw it again.
3) Wayne Rooney looked lively up front. Granted he didn't score, but he sure had a few decent half chances.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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