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Preview: Arsenal v. Pompey

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

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

Writer:Brice Coffer
Date:Friday August 21 2009
Time: 6:48PM


Portsmouth Player to Watch: John Utaka
Says it all really .. please be gentle with us .. Keep it to single figures eh .. please
21/08/2009 19:03:00
Home banker for me!
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.
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
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.
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 #?%$£.
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.
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
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
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.
22/08/2009 02:55:00
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