The run of games during the festive period continues for Arsenal today with a visit to bottom of the table Portsmouth. After the high of clinching our first home Grove victory over Aston Villa, it is imperative that we maintain the same high standard displayed on Sunday.
In the Premier League, sometimes the table position does not tell the whole truth. Although they are currently last in the league, Portsmouth have actually done well recently. They’ve beaten Liverpool at home and only narrowly lost to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. They have also taken more points on their travels than at Fratton Park. So far, no draws have been recorded in the 9 Premier League games there, I don’t expect this to change even after today’s game.
Portsmouth usually plays with the same system as Arsenal do with 3 midfielders, 1 main striker and 2 supporting forwards. Michael Brown will be one trying to rough up our players and we must not let that happen. I’m too worried about their front players as the backfour from the Villa game should be able to contain the likes Pompey.
Luckily for us, we have the service of Alex Song tonight to add further steel to our backline. What difference a year makes in a player’s career. Song is now the lynchpin of Arsenal at the heart of the midfield. With him in the side, it allows the more creative players to their job more efficiently without being overly cautious. Fabregas and Denilson will be missing this game, therefore Song will remain the only midfielder to start tonight from the one that we set out at Everton in the first game of the season. I suspect the line up will resemble something like this;
With the latest bout of injuries, 2 players will be given further chances to stake a claim in the first team. Aaron Ramsey has had a yo-yo season but that is expected for someone who is still only 18 years old. Sublimely good at times but disappointingly average at others. Portsmouth are likely to employ rough-house tactics to put off Arsenal and Ramsey must anticipate all these and learn to improvise. Quicker distribution of the ball is needed from the Welshman as opposition will be quick to close him down.
Another player who needs further game time is Eduardo. I think we have not seen the best from the Brazilian this season. There has been far too many chances that either went straight to the keeper or scuffed wide even though he has shown the ability to find and create space for the shot in the first place. Another goal or two will put him in good stead and confidence. A return to his clinical best will be a sight to fear for opposition defenders.
For tonight’s game, I feel that Arshavin will be the key. Last season, he was the tormentor of Portsmouth and played his part in each of the 4 goals that we scored. He return to his quiet self once again after the high of his Anfield exploits. So, it’s fair to say that we are due a good one from him today.
After Chelsea’s fortunate victory over Fulham, the result puts the pressure back on Arsenal. To come out of Fratton Park anything less than that will add some form of truth to what this old man has to say. I’m pretty sure we all won’t want to see that happen.