Stats give clues to Awfs’ formula

James Dunne, right, has started all six of Pompey's league games   Picture: Joe Pepler
James Dunne, right, has started all six of Pompey's league games Picture: Joe Pepler

Andy Awford is insistent he knows what his best side is.

We are left to speculate on what that 11 could be, and what formation the Pompey boss is utilising nine games in.

What is evident is that it certainly includes Paul Jones, Nicky Shorey, Paul Robinson and James Dunne.

And the likelihood is Jed Wallace, Danny Hollands, Craig Westcarr, Ricky Holmes, Ryan Taylor and Ben Chorley are all involved.

For all the talk of tinkering in the opening to Pompey’s season, the statistics emphatically underline that is the case.

The first murmurings of discontent at the changing ways of Awford were evident after the defeat at Burton Albion.

The grumbles are natural enough after a couple of league losses. Those frustrations were drowned out by voices of reason content with the Blues’ start, however.

But, when it comes to league football, Pompey have a more settled side than you may think.

Jones, Dunne and Shorey have started all of Pompey’s six league games to date.

Robinson missed the opener at Exeter – just after his arrival – but has started every league game since.

Holmes has been in for every game after recovering from his thigh injury and coming off the bench against Cambridge.

Then Taylor, Hollands, Westcarr and Wallace have found themselves rested, or dropped, or whatever you want to call it, for a single game.

The same goes for Chorley, although his leg injury kept him out of Sunday’s game, too.

The game-to-game change count stands at 41 in the wake of the loss at the Pirelli Stadium, after nine fixtures.

On the surface, that seems to provide irrefutable proof of Awford’s tinkering ways.

Further inspection of that statistic is revealing, however.

A total of 14 of those changes cover the eight made for the Capital One Cup trip to Stoke, and the six for the ensuing clash with Newport County.

Take the switches between the league meetings either side of that game – Oxford and Newport – and what is the total? Two.

Similarly, 10 changes took place around the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy trip to Yeovil (six after Newport and four for Burton).

Take it across the two league games, which are obviously the priority, and the switch count is two again – one of them, Chorley, was enforced.

Maybe Awfs isn’t quite the changing man we all thought he was.

With a squad of 29, it’s clear the Pompey boss is going to have to utilise his options to some degree.

Of course, we have witnessed that, but Awford is being shrewd enough to prioritise the moments to do it.

So we have seen prospects like Dan Butler, Adam Webster, Nick Awford and Ben Close get their sniffs of action when the moment is right.

Nigel Atangana has made three league starts when it’s the correct setting to use his rangy ability, as he steps up to league football.

The same figure accompanies Joe Devera, while Jack Whatmough and Webster’s potential has seen two league starts apiece.

Perhaps the biggest surprise has been Andy Barcham’s lack of involvement, with just a single league start.

Awford has said he can see a time for a settled starting 11 on the horizon, when the frenetic period of midweek games reside.

The 10 who have appeared most so far sit pretty comfortably in either of the 3-5-2 or 4-2-3-1 systems preferred to date.

A space as the third defender in the former or right-back in the latter appear the variables.

Maybe that settled formula is more apparent than we thought.