Date: 4th November 2008 at 11:44am
Written by:

I think it is fair to say that we have all been pretty impressed with Nadir Belhadj since his arrival, so if we could turn his loan move into a permanent one we would be happy – and this is something that Tony Adams wants, if he can!

Adams watched the Algerian first hand before we signed him and after seeking advice from his former Arsenal teammate Gilles Grimandi, who was at Lyon, Pompey eventually pressed on with the deal and he came in from Lens on loan.

The fact that Adams played a major role in bringing him to Fratton must give us more chance of signing him permanently, so long as we can raise the money to pay Lens what they want, which I assume would have been a pre-arranged fee – so success in his loan should not make any difference to this.

Belhadj looks fantastic coming forward, but the defensive side of his game is something that needs a fair amount of work done on it as he is ‘raw’ to say the least. With people like Adams, Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin to learn from – and possibly Martin Keown as well – he will not find many better to seek advice and learn from will he!

All we have to do is look to Glen Johnson to see exactly how much we are able to work on a players defensive game to improve it without the player losing any of his attacking instincts in the process.

Something that Belhadj is going to have to start to learn though is English, he could not speak a word of this when he arrived and it is said that he has not learned much more, if anymore at all…


Another situation that Tony Adams is looking to resolve is the problematic right side of midfield riddle.

Previously it was the left side, but now we are well stacked in this department, and the return from injury of Niko Kranjcar gives us yet another option – although as he has told The News playing Kranjcar on the right – something we have often said he could/should do – is something that he is very keen to look at: ‘I’ve got good options down the left at the moment but not quite so many down the right.

‘When Glen Johnson doesn’t play, we don’t carry the same threat going forward. We need to have a good look at it.’

‘I’d like to look at Niko down that right-hand side at some stage. He hasn’t played too much football after coming back from two months out.

‘But I need Niko in my team – he’s a fantastic player.

‘Although he has usually played from the left, I don’t see why he cannot play on the right. He’s certainly intelligent enough.

‘I’ve spoken to him briefly about it.

‘We’ve done a bit of work on it, but we’ve only tried him for half an hour in that position out in Hong Kong.

‘It didn’t come off for us and Harry threw it out.’

It seems a no-brainer really, the fella is naturally right footed so the right side should not be a problem – cutting inside as he does on the left is something that we would lose but he should have the quality to be effective. We just need to hope that we get a defensive input from him as playing him on the left in front of Nadir Belhadj leaves us very exposed, due to the Algerian’s defensive frailties. Fortunately Glen Johnson is a better defender, so although we do not want him to be fully exposed on the right the England man should be more capable of covering and be more disciplined on the whole.

If we can get the right side of midfield sorted out we can be laughing. The left is very productive, the right is causing us problems as Papa Bouba Diop cannot play this role and the more he does it the more grief he gets and the more I feel this tramples on his confidence. John Utaka has looked a lot better since Adams took over, but he still has a lot to do to prove he would be the right man for the right side. Glen Little has ability and the attitude, but just does not have the pace we need and cannot seem to stay fit! Jerome Thomas is another that I would happily see given a go, but Kranjcar could make this role his own – and it would not be a case of a square peg in a round hole either…

The Croatian on the right? Well worth a punt! Although another position – and again one that many of us seeing as being his best – is a role behind the strikers, and in a 5-man midfield this could be fantastic. This is also something that Adams wants to explore: ‘I’d also like to see Niko playing behind the strikers at some point.

‘I like seeing him coming off the left – he can play that position with his eyes closed. But he can pick a pass and unlock defences.’

As part of a 5-man midfield he would excel in such a role, in the middle as part of a midfield 4 I would not be so keen as we would leave a huge gap in the middle of the park for teams to roam through and pick holes in what would already be a gaping area all day long. ‘Suicidal’ is a word that springs to mind should we try that!


Join the Vital Pompey Debate