Between several games in the EFL, the Third Round of the FA Cup was being played over the weekend. The FA Cup is always good for a couple of exciting games and this round was no different to others. In Norfolk, the match between two promotion driven sides was played: Norwich eager to clinch promotion to the Premier League at the end of the season and Portsmouth doing the same, but searching for promotion to the Championship.

In this tactical analysis, I will have a look at how Portsmouth manifested itself at Carrow Road after the red card of Norwich and led them to victory over their opponent Norwich City in this clash between the Championship and League One.



Both teams started out with a 4-3-2-1 formation in this FA Cup tie. One might think that Portsmouth would play a little bit more defensively, but they didn’t hold back with their formation. The 4-2-3-1 formation for the hosts changed after 15 minutes after Hanley was sent off and Norwich were left with ten men. They changed their formation to a 4-4-1 formation and ended the game with a 3-4-2 formation, hoping to get a result at the end. Portsmouth changed nothing to their formation all game long, they remained consistent with their 4-2-3-1 formation and that was the key to their success in this match.

Intensified pressing

The red card was a key element in the game but was not translated in the shots on target. Norwich still had 14 shots and three on target. If you look at what Portsmouth’s output all game, there’s not much difference. They managed to shoot 12 times with five shots on target. Although Portsmouth had a higher conversion rate of shots on target, it was not a noticeable difference to the game.

What was a noticeable difference to the game and what led Portsmouth to victory, was the pressing the guests activated after the red card was given in the 15th minute. This can also be seen in the following graph:

Courtesy of Wyscout

Portsmouth started the game with a low pressing intensity, which means that they allowed more passes per defensive action. If you look at the leagues they play in, it was not something you would not expect. You can see that after the first 15 minutes, the PPDA of Norwich dropped after they went down to ten men and as a consequence to that, the PPDA of Portsmouth increased significantly. Portsmouth maintained a better PPDA than Norwich in the rest of the game. Especially in the last minutes of the game, Portsmouth’s pressing was higher than Norwich’s and that led to the 0-1 by Green in the 95th minute.

Portsmouth pressing Norwich with multiple players

The pressing by Portsmouth did not change too much over the game, but they intensified the way they did over the game. In the first minutes of the game, they showed how they went about pressing: multiple players taking part in the pressing in order to try to catch the ball and counterattack.

Pressing by Portsmouth at the beginning of the second half

After the red card, the away team intensified their pressing and you can see that in the way they play on the pitch. They start pressing quite early and with three players involved to get the ball. With four players in midfield in absence of possession, they can overturn the ball and get many bodies in a counterattack to enhance the success rate.

The pressing of Portsmouth turned into an attack.

Portsmouth became increasingly better in turning the pressing into (counter) attacks and they became more dangerous in the process. In the end, a counter-attack led to a 95th-minute winner for Portsmouth.

Tale of consistency

In the end, it was the consistency of Pompey’s formation that saw them victorious at Carrow Road. Norwich changed their formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-1 to 3-4-2 and all those changes did not lead to anything concrete. Portsmouth’s 4-2-3-1 formation was quite useful in the last minutes of the game when Norwich started to play three defenders at the back with Klose-Zimmermann-Godfrey, trying to force something upfront.

This left them exposed to counter attacks and that’s exactly what Portsmouth exploited in the 95th minute. Pitman-Lowe-Green-Wheeler managed to break through the high-lying defence of Norwich which ultimately led to the 0-1 winner. The patience that Portsmouth had shown paid off when the ten men of Norwich started to attack more in the final phase of the game and the guests could punish them for it.

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