Portsmouth currently sits 4th in the EFL League 1 table and are within touching distance of an automatic position. Their star performer, Ronan Curtis, has been vital in the success they have enjoyed thus far. The Irish international tops the table for goals and assists at the club. Whilst the season is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Portsmouth and Curtis will be hoping it is a minor blip on the way to automatic promotion. They currently sit two points off second. With the league being as competitive as it has ever been, a fresh Curtis will be vital to ensure they go up rather than stagnate.
This tactical analysis scout report will consider the tactics deployed by Portsmouth to assist Curtis. It will use analysis to highlight any further strengths and weaknesses. The tactical analysis scout report will also use analysis to consider the next step for Curtis should Portsmouth not gain promotion. The Irish winger had been previously linked with a move to Blackburn in the January transfer window. If he continues this form one would think a move would be reconsidered.
Lineup and style of play
In the tactics used by Portsmouth and Kenny Jackett, Curtis usually operates on the left-wing of a 4-2-3-1. This position and formation are ideal for Curtis. He is able to come inside on his stronger foot and link-up play with his fellow team-mates, as well as go for goal. Playing out wide also allows him to square the full-back up. Curtis will often look to dribble past the opposing player, a trait that the tactical analysis scout report will consider in-depth. With Portsmouth being relatively compact with two holding midfielders, Curtis is often relieved of his defensive duties. This allows him to be higher up the pitch to instigate the counter-attack. He can use his on-ball acceleration and dribbling to devastating effect and drive Portsmouth up the pitch.
The tactical analysis scout report will now look at his on-ball acceleration. It will use analysis to identify how these tactics assist Portsmouth.
On the ball acceleration
The tactical analysis scout report has previously stated that Curtis possesses excellent on the ball acceleration. Portsmouth will often look to get him in areas where there is plenty of room to run with the ball, and the analysis of these tactics will be considered.
Firstly, it assists in Portsmouths counter-attacking style. Portsmouth will often remain compact and tight, and look to exploit teams in the transition. Curtis is an excellent tool in helping them to achieve this. The tactics deployed by Portsmouth allow Curtis to remain in vacated space in transition areas on the pitch. This is done intentionally as they will look for him to receive the ball and drive forward, dribbling past opponents in the process. Therefore, the tactics deployed allow Portsmouth to be as effective as possible on the counterattack, and give freedom to Curtis. He is relieved of defensive duties so Portsmouth can be dangerous on the counter.
Curtis averages 1.43 on the ball accelerations per 90, with over 50% ending in a cross, pass or shot. This clearly shows that given the opportunity to travel with the ball, Curtis will more often than not make a choice that leads to a chance or shot, and keeps the counter-attack flowing.
Another part of his game that Curtis excels at is dribbling ability in one-on-one situations. It is once again tactics that Portsmouth will use and look for. They will aim to generate situations where Curtis is able to be in one-on-one positions. Curtis averages 6.6 dribbles per 90, with a success rate of 64.7%. It is clearly something that he does well and the tactical analysis scout report will highlight how and why Portsmouth look to generate these situations.
As the two images above show, Curtis often plays extremely wide, making the pitch as large as possible. Again, these are tactics that have been worked on to isolate Curtis with the opposing full-back. Portsmouth will look to switch the play at the earliest opportunity with a long ball as opposed to shuffling the ball across midfield. This reduces the amount of time that the opposition has to shuffle across to close down space. It also reduces the time the opposing winger has to get back and support his full-back. This allows Curtis as much time as possible to set himself and look to drive at the full-back.
Of his 555 total dribbles, 268 have come against the full-back. This clearly shows that Portsmouth can manufacture situations to get Curtis directly against the opposing full-back. With a success rate of 62.7%, he often comes out on top in these situations. This then puts him in a scenario where he can look to score or create a goal. Perhaps no wonder he tops the goals and assists charts at Portsmouth and is one of the most prolific players in the league.
Off the ball movement
One of the main reasons why Curtis has been able to score so many goals this season is because his decision making and off the ball movement is excellent. He knows when to stay wide and receive the ball and when to push inside to get on the end of a move to finish. In doing so, he epitomises what it means to be the modern-day winger. The tactical analysis scout report will highlight how Curtis does this to good effect.
Being right-footed, it is an instinct for Curtis to come inside onto play. Being used at left-wing means that he will look to make runs off the ball inwards to exploit any available space. As the image below shows, he’s in a fantastic position to make the run in behind as he is able to understand that this is where the play will manifest, rather than staying wide.
Curtis has excellent off the ball movement which gets him into scoring opportunities. His understanding of the game ensures he is always involved in the play, not spending too much time out wide. When in scoring positions, he can be lethal. He hits the target 45% of the time and has a conversion rate of 15%, impressive numbers for a wide man.
As the tactical analysis scout report had previously highlighted, Curtis had been linked with a move to Blackburn for £3m in January 2020. Curtis will almost certainly be playing Championship football next season, whether with Portsmouth or someone else. A championship side that should be looking at Curtis I feel should be Nottingham Forest.
Forest, like Portsmouth, play counter-attacking football, so the transition in terms of tactics should not be too difficult for Curtis, and he would suit their style of play. He would also bring a greater sense of balance to the Forest team. Joe Lolley currently operates on the right-wing and comes inside onto his left foot. However, Ameobi who usually plays on the left side is left-footed. He often stays wide which does not allow for Riberio to push forward the same way Cash does. This means play can be congested and forced down the right-hand side. His ball carrying ability will be an extra danger for Forest, who often find themselves heavily reliant on Joe Lolley to drive them up the pitch in counter-attack situations.
The tactical analysis scout report has highlighted key parts of Ronan Curtis’ game. The tactics used by Portsmouth often allow for him to be in dangerous positions. This is possibly a sign Jackett has looked to build his team around the winger. When in possession of the ball, he carries it with drive and pace, aiding in the counter-attacking style that Portsmouth uses to great effect. The analysis also showed his decision making when in these situations is good. He very rarely loses the ball in transition, increasing the chances the end result is a goal.
His excellent one-on-one dribbling coupled with his off the ball movement make it a nightmare for opposing defenders. It creates a situation where they are unsure where to position themselves. When he gets into goal-scoring chances, he hits the target and has a high conversion rate, making his 11 goals from a wide position unsurprising.
Whilst Portsmouth will be hoping for a return to the Championship., it is almost certain Curtis will be there. Blackburn has previously held an interest and the tactical analysis showed Forest would be an ideal move for club and player. However, if neither of these sides goes for Curtis, expect there to be several other clubs interested. A Premier League move may not be far off, having impressed in league cup fixture against Southampton. Given Southampton’s track record of moving players onto bigger clubs, a move to a top 6 side such as Tottenham is always a possibility.