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Preview: Arsenal v. Pompey

Last week I talked about our chances for this season, and while I know it's too early for those claims to be justified, it certainly feels good to start the season off with a bang. Putting six past a rival on opening day can make a pessimist pretty optimistic. So after two impressive results on their travels, Arsene`s troops return to N5 to play Portsmouth at the new Ashburton Grove, which has gone under the supporter`s surgical knife. With the help of REDaction, Arsenalization of the Grove has been in full swing since the Emirates Cup. I better see photos on forums from those going to the match tomorrow!

Onto the match. Considering the predicament that Pompey finds itself in at the moment, three points on Saturday looks like a given. This feeling of entitlement against supposedly lesser opponents has been our downfall in past seasons, but you have to get the feeling that this fatal flaw won`t rear its ugly head this time around. Confidence, self-belief, and a sense of caution are resonating around Arsenal dressing room this season. The squad looks to have galvanized together, and senior leaders like Fabregas, van Persie, Gallas, and Arshavin will be looking to stamp out any sense of compliancy throughout the ranks. That needs to start tomorrow.

Vital Pre-Match Quotes:

Wenger had this to say on the season's title race: 'The big task for United is replacing the goals that Cristiano Ronaldo scored over the last few seasons. You can say whatever you like about Ronaldo, but you have to admit he had two fantastic qualities. Firstly, he was never injured. Secondly, he put the ball in the back of the net. I'm surprised that they didn't reinvest more of the money they got for Ronaldo, but they may do that in January. Manchester United, of course, will continue to be a major force in the championship, but you can see that where we drew four times 0-0, they won them 1-0, sometimes because Ronaldo made the difference.

About Liverpool and Chelsea, Wenger said: 'Alberto Aquilani will be a good player, but they have lost a great player in Alonso. He was the brain of the game for Liverpool last season. I don't expect them to struggle this season, but people might have a little question mark about how they replace Alonso.'

'I still think that Chelsea will be a main threat for the championship, but their squad is a year older which might have an impact when they have to repeat the games in short succession'

Portsmouth Team News:

Portmsouth comes into the match without a point, after losing to both Fulham and Birmingham in the past week. The lack of transfer funds have some Pompey fans fearing the worst for the club this season. Hreidarsson, Primus, and Finnan are out, while Diop is a doubt.

Predicted Portsmouth XI: James, Vanden Borre, Distin, Kaboul, Wilson, Kranjcar, Diop, Mokoena, Belhadj, Utaka, Piquionne.

Portsmouth Player to Watch: John Utaka

Utaka is blessed with dynamic pace, but he has problems combining his speed with the required technical ability to make it in the EPL. Sound familiar? On his day he can cause the best outside backs problems, so Sagna and Clichy will have to be on alert.

Arsenal Team News

Good news is that Arsenal's injury list hasn't gotten any longer, but it hasn't gotten shorter either. Walcott still hasn't recovered from a back injury, but Wenger said it was a matter of days not weeks. I seem to remember him saying that exact thing in January 2008 about a certain Czech. Nasri, Djourou, Rosicky, and Fabianski are all still out, while Eduardo has recovered from a tight hammy that kept him out of the Celtic match.

Predicted Arsenal XI: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Denilson, Fabregas, Bendtner, van Persie, Arshavin

Arsenal Player to Watch: The Front Three

Bendtner, van Persie,and Arshavin have started up front in the 4-3-3 against Everton and Celtic, but they haven't put their name on the score sheet yet. Even though we haven't lacked goals in those games, it is important for them to get the ball rolling very soon because we can't always rely on defenders, midfielders, and the opposition to get the goals for us. I expect at least two of them to find the net tomorrow.

Quick Vital Stats:

Arsenal has not lost to Portsmouth in 19 league and cup matches (W:11 D:8)

Arsenal has only lost one game in 2009

Portsmouth have yet to win an away game in 2009

Ref Watch: Steve Bennett

Steve Bennett will be the head official for this match. Last season he handed out 79 yellow cards and no red cards in 22 EPL matches. This gives him a 3.59 card per game average.

Match Prediction

Portsmouth are really struggling right now, and I can't see anything but an Arsenal win. These are the games we might have slipped up in last year, but not this season.

I`ll go with a 4-0 home win. Goals to come from van Persie x2, Arshavin, and Eduardo off the bench

Upcoming Fixtures

26/8 (Wed) - Celtic (h) - Champions League

29/8 (Sat) - Man United (a) - Premier League

12/9 (Sat) - Man City (a) - Premier League

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Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Brice Coffer Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday August 21 2009

Time: 6:48PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Portsmouth Player to Watch: John Utaka
Says it all really .. please be gentle with us .. Keep it to single figures eh .. please
Report Abuse
21/08/2009 19:03:00

Home banker for me!
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21/08/2009 19:38:00

I'd be very disapointed with anything other than a convincing home win. I have a soft spot for Pompey, but they really seem to be in the poo.
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21/08/2009 20:21:00

I make no apology for being the boring old ***** that says I'd be happy with a scrappy 1-0- and that's exactly what I'm predicting.
Little Dutch
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21/08/2009 20:50:00

It has to be a home banker - but i'd also say LD, it won't be fun. We'll set out with five tough midfielders, 4 big defenders, and one isolated man up front. If Arsne was complaing that celtic were physical, I can see him going livid with pompey.
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21/08/2009 20:56:00

your probablyright about utaka being our "player to watch" - but If he starts though, I think you will see a prime example of how to take "conserving energy" to extremes. He has both the speed AND the technical ability to cause you real problems. it's just the application of both of them that he has trouble with. in other words, he's a lazy #?%$£.
Report Abuse
21/08/2009 20:59:00

Finally some news on Vela. He's out till the end of the September and Theo has been ruled out of next week's clash at Old Trafford as well.
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21/08/2009 23:41:00

I'm aware Bouba Diop is out, but with Mokoena and Mullins in centre mid, possibly with Hughes, that's pretty much what I'm expecting PC. I detected quite a lot of anger from Wenger over Walcott's injury- you'd like to think with Capello at the helm the England set up would have been more sane. I also think Wenger waskind of saying "I told you so" to Walcott, who he asked to pull out of the U-21s for his own good. Pre season is the worst time to pick up an injury, you could see that from Cesc last year, it becomes very difficult to establish rhythm. Walcott might just end up losing his place in the Arsenal side to Bendtner long term.
Little Dutch
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21/08/2009 23:50:00

As for the Arsenalisation, I'm aware of the pic outside on the stadium walls and the Chapman quote in the lower tiers. But (and if you're reading this pre match) exclusive of sorts, but the lower tier East and West sides will have a cannon painted into the seats a la Highbury. You heard it here first, unless you read it somewhere else first................
Little Dutch
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22/08/2009 00:05:00

Wenger's press conference puts things into perspective. So we're definitely not after Hangeland. Good thing thats been put to rest. So does that mean Phil is set to stay after all? If Senderos stays I guess we're ok at the back, since that would push Silvestre to 5th choice . We're still short of cover for Song and Denilson though. Wenger is biding his time - hope he is not waiting for last minute cut price deals because he should have learnt from last years' experience that things dont always go according to plan and it doesnt hurt shelling out that extra 1 or 2 mil and get the player 2 or 3 weeks in advance because after all time is money. The further we delay it higher the probability that it won't happen.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 02:55:00

I am expecting AA and RVP to come to life today. Not that they've played badly, they've just been a little ' quiet ' in the new system. Going for a safe 2-0, but like LD will take a dull and flukey 1-0 if need be.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 06:47:00

I'll be listen on the radio, and I'm hoping for 3pts and a Good performance from The Arsenal to welcome The Fans back to The Grove!!!
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22/08/2009 07:24:00

Hell we are going to hammer them 4 or 5 nil.
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22/08/2009 10:12:00

LD and is negativism...
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22/08/2009 12:00:00

Almunia; Eboue Gallas Vermaelen Clichy; Fabregas, Denilson, Diaby; van persie, Eduarde, Arshavin - there is a rumour that Gibbs might play, but the ATVO thing has Clichy down.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 14:19:00

It will ve VERY interesting to see where van Persie plays.
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22/08/2009 14:23:00

Gibbs does start.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 14:24:00

First post on the new look VA: LD's 1-0 I'd be happy with but I can't help but predict the same scoreline as Brice did: 4-0 to us! Now I'm off to a not too proper English pub in Shanghai to watch this game heehee. Come on you Gunnersssss!!!!
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 14:33:00

Come on Diaby, get your hatrick and silence your critics for good.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 15:26:00

Diaby is soo frustrating. We know what hes capable of and I can assure you next match he'll go back to what we've seen for large parts of last season.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 15:27:00

Arsenal playing well today, I wish we can keep it up all season. It is so nice seeing us get back into the groove.
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22/08/2009 15:30:00

Bad bad defending again, we really are not learning from our previus seasons at all, makes my blood boil, so ******** stupid.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 15:33:00

So poor from Almunia.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 15:42:00

to be honest, that was a superb jump from Kaboul. Very little Almunia could do.
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22/08/2009 15:49:00

Sajit he should have got that ball, the pompey player has to head the ball wheras Almunia can use his hands, under no circumstances should Kaboul have been able to out jump Almunia.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 15:55:00

I would love to make this 5 or 6-1. Come on Arsenal make it 6-1 again :P
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 16:26:00

Almunia should have come and met the ball instead of waiting for it to come to him.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 16:49:00

Almunia was totally at fault for the goal, nobody can complain as though we were vulnerable or anything, just a simple error. We played pretty well by average standards, but I am getting annoyed at the lack of strikers. Gallas' shiny head, arse and nose have scored more than our strikers this year.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 16:53:00

BUT it could be classed as a foul, it would not have been unusual to see the ref stop it.
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22/08/2009 16:54:00

Wow, three games in, 12 goals scored, only one from a striker lol. Our build up play was just from another planet. Well done lads another awesome performance. Sure we still look shaky at set plays which will cost us against the stronger teams but fack it, not gonna hear me bi*ch with the start the team have made.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 16:56:00

I don't think we look shaky at all niko, Almunia should have dealt with it to be honest.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 16:59:00

The broadcast I was watching didn't show a replay of the Gallas incident with Utaka. Did anyone else get a better view of it?
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 17:06:00

C'mon Tom we have scored 12 goals in 3 matches although only 1 has come from a striker at least we know we can get goals from all over. Also Gallas is getting into positions to score the goals.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 17:08:00

It is a question of whether the 433 works. The whole idea behind it is having a solid base (which seems to have happened) as well as three attackers. You would therefore expect those three to not only play well, but also get in on the goals. Neither has happened yet to any great extent. Nobody is more happy than me about the results, but the performances need to be looked at.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 17:11:00

Hate to complain so much but the home support was s***e today. It was as if we lost 4-1
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 17:11:00

Yeah he should've Tom but he didn't - hence my comment that we're still a bit shaky at set plays. Seriously mate you don't have to argue every petty point for the sake of it lol, it get's tired pretty quick. More to be positive about though despite the now traditional lacklustre home support and predictable early leaving cocksacks dashing back for whatever braindead fodder is gonna be served up by ITV this evening, instead of sticking round to cheer the teams' performance at the final whistle, a real embarassment to our club - probably the same cu*ts that'll be on ebay flogging their free scarf later..
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 17:49:00

bad goalkeeping from our no.1 however to be fair the sun was right in his eyes...thats probably why he didnt go for the ball,it was hard to judge its flight coz he was blinded
fran merida
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22/08/2009 17:54:00

I wonder why Arsene rested Song, Clichy, Sagna, but let Fabregas play. There was a concern about him before Celtic, surely he could've gotten a break for this one. I just hope he'll be 100% for ManU.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 18:15:00

Give the strikers a break, RvP played well, was involved in the goals and was denied by the keeper. But you can see he really wants one as well, he's getting a little frustrated. Bendtner was a bit disappointing when he came on, selfish and ball-losing. Eduardo did ever so well to set up Diaby.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 18:21:00

niko, just because my belief is that we did not look shaky from set pieces you don't have to have a go at me. I believe that Almunia made a massive cock up, but in general, we have looked very good on corners etc.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 18:24:00

Having a go? ha hardly Tom. You contradicted yourself in the very same sentence. On the one hand our defence didnt look shaky but Almunia should've saved it? Well which is it?. Second thoughts don't rush, bickering with teenagers is surprisingly not top of my list for being here.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 18:53:00

Cant really fault the teams performances so far this season, the strikers arent notching but importantly they are starting to get in scoring positions. Of all the areas theirs was also going to be the last to adapt to a 4-3-3 as they are now performing 3 roles (defend-create-score). Diaby was a monster today if only we can get that out of him 20 games a season instead of 5, Denilson was also very good. We looked a little shaky at the back but I think that was more down to the defensive unit being disturbed (The full backs) than anyting else.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 19:50:00

niko, the defence being shaky implies (to me) that you are talking about Gallas and Vermaelen/our dealings in terms of winning headers. if you are merely discussing the Almunia catch - fair enough. But one pathetic error hardly constitutes shakiness.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 20:08:00

I'm very pleased with Eduardo, he play first match in Premier in first 11 since injury (Taylor).... he was No.1 in Arsenal today, great match.....
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 20:09:00

I was mainly thinking of Almunia obviously, can't knock Billy or Verm who look like a great partnership in the making, I disagree though, of course one pathetic error can constitute/cause shakiness, poor Gibbs against manure last season obviously springs to mind. A better team than pompey would've taken the game to us after being let back in after we were in such complete control of the game. But likesay I really have no real qualms and can't be doing with picking holes in a performance that was pretty flawless in the main.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 20:39:00

Almunia could have done better with the ball in but he was also entitled to expect some protection. It looks to me as though Diaby was guilty of ball watching and, along with Gibbs, could have done more to stop Kaboul having a clear run at Almunia.
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 21:41:00

Any of you got any opinions on Arshavins recent performances? You've got a fair few goals in your last few games and I'm suprised that he doesn't seem to have been involved much. Has he been as anonymous as my bl**dy fantasy football team suggests?
Report Abuse
22/08/2009 22:48:00

I have to say, Kaboul was unmarked as wasthe player behind him. It's very typcial of Arsenal to get very, very sloppy when 2-0 ahead. At the ridkof being picky, the defence wasn't very good today. A better team would have scored more against us. I'd like to see the defence take real pride in the clean sheet, the same way yousee a striker still desperate to score at 5-0,I want to see our defence regard a clean sheet as a massive personal victory. They don't, slopiness still dogs us despite what was a good performance against a poor team. Good result, good display, but the defending will have to be better than that next Saturday.
Little Dutch
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22/08/2009 23:57:00

Arshavin has been pretty anonymous, but he's the type that drifts in and out. You know when he drifts in, he'll tear any team apart. But his defending is really, really atrocious, AA's tracking back is pretty appalling for a man of his age and it has to improve.
Little Dutch
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I dont have that many complaints about Arshavin - he will come good when we really need it. Its good to see the mid field and defence get on the scoresheet, so that the pressure on RvP, Bendtner is eased. As for the defence, its ok in these kind of games where we have a healthy lead, but in the tight games, even the single goal could prove costly. However, we should realise that the Gallas-Vermaelen partnership is still in its early days, and we need more defensive work from the full backs. But I've got to agree with LD - we need to be more particular in preserving the clean sheet.
Report Abuse
23/08/2009 08:43:00

On the bright side , its pleasing to see Diaby get a good game in. He needs to make it this season. With Cesc out injured, the creative burden will rest on him and Denilson - time for him to step up consistently. It was also good to see our counter attacking football making a comeback of sorts - lets hope thats here to stay. I've missed that over the past few seasons.
Report Abuse
23/08/2009 09:01:00

Cesc isnt injured he was only taken off as he had a small injury and wenger was confident of the win so he took him off to preserve him for celtic and man utd
Report Abuse
23/08/2009 12:04:00

It is easy to judge the previous games are so far so good, many defenders are involved on the attacking. but RVP concentration on the Portsmouth game is relatively low. i believe NO injury keeps good results of Arsenal
Report Abuse
24/08/2009 09:13:00


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