Portsmouth v Arsenal Match Preview
There has been a general feeling of late amongst Arsenal supporters of emptiness and boredom that would normally be attributed to being an Aston Villa or Everton fan. With the side having been left with nothing to play for in the past several weeks it really has felt like Arsenal are lodged somewhere in mid-table obscurity. In fact folks, they’re not, and a positive result on Sunday against Portsmouth could see Arsenal finish as high as third in Premiership. And, as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has pointed out, things could be so much better if he could get rid of all the Blackburns, West Hams and Sheffield Uniteds of the league.
“If you make a table of the top 10 we are second, three points behind Man Utd. If you make a table of the top 20 we are 25 points behind the leader.”
In fact, if the table included just the top four clubs – Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal – things would be even better.
“If you make a table of the top four we are top.”
What is striking about Wenger’s statements are that they are not his opinions, they are facts. And facts can be interpreted very easily at times. Looking at the facts it would suggest Arsenal’s current problems are exactly what most supporters and critics have already mentioned; an inability to get results in ugly matches and to cope with teams that play aggressive, defensive football. Teams like Sheffield United, Blackburn Rovers and PSV Eindhoven have each troubled Arsenal this season with their aggressive style of play. There is no doubt that the squad needs toughening up – and Wenger knows this as well as anybody.
“Our aggressiveness is a little bit lower than the others. We hear about the number of fouls, which is much lower. The number of tackles we made is much lower and that is linked with the conversion rate as well.”
It’s not surprising to see that Wenger has a complete understanding of Arsenal’s current weaknesses, and his side will have an immediate chance to address them on the weekend in their final game of the season against one of the Premiership’s typical mid-table sides, Portsmouth.
It appears that in-form striker Emmanuel Adebayor and acting captain Gilberto Silva will both be left out of the game with niggling injuries but midfield dynamo – and Arsenal Ghost Signing #1 for next season – Fredrik Ljungberg will be available. It seems likely that Arsene Wenger will be playing Julio Baptista up forward in what could potentially be his last game with Ljungberg as a supporting striker. Surprisingly, Manuel Almunia looks set to start as goalkeeper and, as for Abou Diaby, he will most likely operate from the unusual position that Wenger continues to persist with – on the left.
Probable Arsenal Line-Up (4-4-1-1; R-L): Almunia – Eboue, Gallas, Toure, Clichy – Hleb, Denilson, Fabregas, Diaby – Ljungberg – Baptista.
Prediction: 2-0. Arsene Wenger understands that his side has little to play for this week but that shouldn’t mean that the technical aspects of Arsenal’s game will evaporate. As mentioned earlier, the big question marks will be around whether Arsenal’s lightweight midfield has enough steel to let their technical skills shine through. With ex-Gunners Sol Campbell and Nwanko Kanu expected to start for Portsmouth and with both sides having nothing to play for this game is almost impossible to predict – but I’m going for 2-0 with the hope that Arsenal’s defence can do what they have failed to do all-to-often this season; keep a clean sheet.