Opinion: Portsmouth boss Jackett must quickly decide on Mnoja’s best position
Last month saw Haji Mnoga make his League One debut for Portsmouth. At only 18, he has caused a stir at the club with Kenny Jackett tipping him for a bright future.
Speaking to the Portsmouth News the Pompey manager said, “He will have to develop consistently. I do feel he is good enough to do that”.
While at this age all minutes on the pitch at senior level are invaluable, to develop consistently the player and the club will have to decide on Mnoga’s best position and play him accordingly.
In the early stage of his career he has already been used in a couple of different roles, leaving the fanbase unsure where his strongest position is.
The 18-year-old is listed with the defenders on the club website. Right-back appears his most natural position. He is athletic, strong and comfortable with the ball at his feet. Judging by his game time this season though, Jackett believes his best position could be elsewhere.
Due to injuries Mnoga has been handed his chances on the right wing. He can certainly do a job in this position which is a credit to the player, but lacks the dynamism to be a constant threat from the flank in the way Ronan Curtis is. This lack of natural flair in his game will likely become more apparent if the Blues make it to the Championship and he faces tougher opposition.
Some fans believe he can become the “Pompey Partey”; A midfield enforcer in the mould of Arsenal’s Thomas Partey. While his defensive talents make him a good destructor in the middle of the park, it’s unclear if he has the ball playing ability to have a career there. Skills such as receiving the ball with his back to the game will be new to him as a natural wide player. So while Mnoga may well have a future in midfield, he will need game time to bed him into the position.
A more likely career for Mnoga lies in the heart of the defence. His strength, athleticism and tough tackling means he can become an impressive centre-back, serving as a long-term partner for Jack Whatmough.
Another option would be to send him on loan in January. By doing so he will get half a season at senior level and the experience that brings. Also it will remove him from the situation at Fratton Park, for as long as he continues to be played in different positions he risks becoming a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none.
Portsmouth certainly have a bright talent on their hands. Whether he reaches his potential will depend on his development, and until the club decide on his best position, his career will be hampered.