Arsenal v. Pompey, match preview

Alright, just a little over 24 hours away from the home opener against Pompey and there’s very little news, apart from the exclusive with Le Boss on the dot com. Still, we have to have a match preview, right? So, let’s get stuck in.

Much has been made of home form when it comes to winning trophies and looking back at last year, where United lost just one and Liverpool zero, one would tend to agree. Arsenal lost three matches at home all season (six matches all told) and that simply won’t do if we want to challenge this year. Not to heap pressure on the boys, there will be plenty of pressure as the year winds on, but good home form especially over these next two matches is absolutely critical before we take a road trip to Manchester and face those two. I see this Pompey match as a jumping off point for this squad, we showed we can get 6, on the road, now lets show what we can do at home.

Those of you who are there can help out as well by bringing the atmosphere and helping to make the Emirates a place where no team wants to play. Now’s the time to start intimidating other clubs with a vibrant atmosphere and a team that scores bags of goals.

Like I said, no pressure!

Pompey will very likely use the 4-5-1 to try and stop us from playing so this means that tomorrow’s match will be our first real test against one of the Premiership’s defensive teams. My man inside the Emirates just emailed me and said that Paul Hart has finally parked the bus in front of the goal, and… yep, now he’s unpacking the tent, the cooler, and the grill. Did I say that they’ll play a 4-5-1? It should be more like a 9-1-1.

And their 1 is a guy on loan from Lyon, Frederic Piquionne. He’s been around the block but never really impressed for any stretch. That said, he will need to be watched because he’s strong and still has some pace left in his 30 year old legs. Set TV5 on him and I think we’ll be ok. Pompey are one of only 4 teams that have yet to score a Premier League goal, let’s keep it that way.

I am a huge proponent of clean sheets. Clean sheets build confidence. Clean sheets win championships. Lets keep a clean sheet tomorrow, especially against a team for whom 4th from the bottom is going to be an admitted victory at the end of this season.

To keep that clean sheet, Wenger will be looking to Vermaelen and Gallas again:

At the back it’s always difficult to combine aggressiveness and commitment and calmness and I think he (Vermaelen) is a good combination of that. And, overall, I think he’s a good combination with Gallas.

Up front, Wenger is already talking about what will be needed to break down Pompey tomorrow. When asked what his favorite part of the season has been so far he replied:

What’s pleased me most is that we play like a real team, who works for each other, and who relentlessly tries for 90 minutes to go at the opponent and score goals.

So, we’ll be attacking, nay marauding their bus, and they’ll be back there cooking sausages on the grill. I don’t expect a high scoring game, because unlike other teams who, once opened up, tend to stretch and attack back, Pompey will defend the whole time. Even if the score is 6-0, I’d be surprised to see Pompey attack.

The injuries (so far HA HA) are Rosicky, Djourou, Nasri, Fabianski, and Walcott. Wenger didn’t mention Vela’s injury so it’s safe to assume that he’s recovered.

Rosicky is starting to worry me, on August 6th it was revealed that he has a slight hamstring injury and on the 8th, Wenger went so far as to say it’s “not major.” It’s now the 21st and he hasn’t even been training. You have to start to wonder how many games he’ll get this year.

Theo Walcott’s a bit different. He traveled with the England team with a back injury, so that kept him from playing with them. When he came back, Arsenal put him in practice (there were photos of Theo practicing) and had to withdraw him from practice when “a scan came up negative.” Le Boss is saying that Theo is only a matter of days, fingers crossed that this is not the same as Rosicky’s “no big deal.”

When asked whether he’s got his eye on anyone in the transfer market, Wenger specifically stated “defense.” I think he sees the problem of having Djourou out for another month (and then trying to get his form) and the only backup being Gerry or Senderos. Senderos reportedly wants to leave, even though no one reportedly wants him, according to, erm, the reports. I tend to agree with Arsene on this, yes, we have some injuries in our attack, that doesn’t mean that 2 games into the 60 game season we need to throw in the hat and buy another attacking player.  It’s a bit of a gamble, but I think Theo, Rosicky, and Nasri will play quite a bit this season — especially Theo and Nasri, who combined for 85 matches for Arsenal last season. Not shoring up defense, on the other hand, would be a much bigger gamble.

As for the lineup, given that we’ve got a match on Wednesday, I’d bet money that Wenger rests folks and my starting XI is going to be like this:

Remember, it's just a guess, have fun with it and don't take life too seriously.

With ManOne, Arshavin, Silvestre, Denilson, Ramsey, Wilshere, and Vela on the bench. Yes, I know, it’s a 4-4-2 and we’ve been mostly seeing Arsenal in a 4-3-3, but it’s the only way I could rest anyone!

As for tomorrow’s match on the telly, I’ve created a handy little guide here for my North American and UK readers. The U.S. listings I’m pretty certain of (multiple sources) but the UK Listings, well, I got them from Arsenal dot com so they are as accurate as that site. If you’d like to add data to that list, please, send me an email. I’ll be updating it as we get more information.

Anyway, tomorrow’s match is on Setanta and our friends over at Doyle’s will be hosting us local Gooners. Come on down and have some breakfast if you’re in town. Oh and hey, look at that, it’s a 7am kickoff!

Stop by here after the match (noon-ish PST) for the post match Good, Bad, and Ugly. No sense in doing a 7am blog tomorrow, when I could just as easily wait till after the match and do the “match report.” Right?


  1. Lets really get behind the team this year and none of the booing or sitting quietly shit that has become a hallmark of arsenal fans. Lets make it a great thing to be an arsenal fan and not have to be embarrassed by a couple of idiots

    1. I was watching a video of a match at Highbury and it’s absolutely comical that they called that place “the library” the fans were brilliant.

      Sometimes the Emirates (like the 0-0 draw I went to) can be so big that you feel sort of lost. Combined with the fact that the opposing team is sapping your crowd with their 0-0 play and the energy levels can get down.

      That’s why it’s so important to stay up for the game tomorrow. I mean, if you’re lucky enough to be at Emirates, watching the team who are going to be this year’s champions, the least you could do is be full voiced!

      1. @Tim, I agree, Highbury was great at times but last year I was at the everton match and I was singing along with one girl in my section and there was a couple of people looking at us like ” Do you mind we are trying to watch the match”. It helped i was a little drunk but lets make it a proper atmosphere. Away fans should not be able to make more noise than us

  2. I think Arsene will put out the 4-3-3 again against Pompey. Also when you made the lineup (I like it btw) is there anyway to change the text to something more readable.

  3. I hope we get to see Vela soon. Maybe on Wednesday?

    Thank you for the TV listings. This seems to be well-guarded information on the Internets.

  4. Re: Senderos, I was just reading the manager’s mail: “It was an interesting 1st game and we want to show that we have the depth in our squad. If you see that nasri, rosicky, diaby, walcott *an senderos* for example stayed at home, you can see that we do have quite a big squad”

  5. Good article but someone correct if I’m wrong because I thought that Liverpool lost to city at home last year. Craig Bellamy scored I think

    1. @Murt, they lost to Chelsea in the Champions League, the City game you’re talking about ended 1-1, so other than the Champions League match they were perfect at home.

  6. So, maybe there is room for big phil after all. What do you think? I see him staying for this “special” season providing cover for the back 2, and then leaving after winning the EPL and CL. mbwahahaha

  7. I watched Piquionne in a Lyon preseason game (Peace Cup)and he was not very interesting or interested in that game. Maybe that was because he knew his time was up. He’s 30yo, looks the part but has been light weight as a scorer his whole career. We will cut off his supply lines and he will ‘die’ of starvation. Pompey’s only real threat will be Krancjar. Diop is out injured so their MF will be thin. James is the key. Distin is the other key but maybe he to will have his mind on rumors. Hughes apparently is done w/ the Lescott chase.

    I say Wenger still goes 4-3-3 if only to see it in action against negative team tactics. That way he can refine it going forward.

    1-0 will be fine but I want there to be blood.

  8. Good work on the TV Listings. Looks like I’m SOL once again because I don’t get Sentanta like most of us here. Looks like Nevada Smith’s it is! (best soccer bar in the northeast IMO).

  9. James in goal for Pompey tomorrow. You never know he may have one of his motor-neurone moments and let in a bucketful.

    Chamahk to the Hammers, can anyone confirm that this is a possible?

    ctpa – ‘Hughes done w/the Lescott chase’, what value Jolene now? He wants away, but who wants him? Was never worth 20M anyway. Maybe Le Boss will offer big Phil and some small change as a swap.


    1. @viva los gooners, Re James, you also never know, he may have one of his Buffon-on-steroids moments and not let anything past him.
      And Re Lescott, he doesn’t just want away, he wants that sweet Citeh money, so rule Arsenal out. And anyway, Moyes wouldn’t let him go to City for double what he’s worth, he’s certainly not going to let go for anything Arsenal might offer.

  10. Definitely 4-3-3, it is the standard Arsenal style now for Wenger and it works best for the players and style. I, for one, have wanted Arsenal to play that way for a while now. But in truth, the biggest positive change in Arsenal is the approach to defence: defending all over the pitch. We scored 6 against Everton because we kept winning the ball early. Unless you have Vieira and Petit in the middle, you need to add an extra body in midfield to win the ball and I love it. Arsenal all the way!!!

  11. Arsene said specifically that Arsenal will play a 4-4-2 this season. I can’t see any way for him to rotate the squad without reverting to a 4-4-2.

    1. @Tim, I agree we will use 4-4-2 at times but T don’t see why we cant rotate with 4-3-3. The only player i feel that cannot be rotated is song

      1. @chris, Theoretically, Diaby could be used as a sort of attacking player in a 4-3-3, but since I included Eboue, I don’t see him using Eboue as a 3 in midfield.


        1. @Tim, I think we were looking st it in 2 different ways. I was looking at it in terms of which players could come in for those rested while you were looking at where players who might come in may play. I mean eduardo can come in for rvp vela and diaby could play wide. Eboue has come on and played in the front 3 against everton and he could play in the midfield 3 as wenger used him there last year

  12. I really enjoyed last season’s away match with Pompey and I’d love to see AW trot out a similar lineup (at least up front). That day he played Arshavin, Vela and Bendtner up front with Ramsey and Denilson and somebody else in the midfield and a back line of Eboue (at left back) and (I think) Song, Gerry and Sagna). It won’t happen as it’s the home opener and I think we’ll see a lineup very similar to what we saw in the first two games but with subs early if we can get a goal or two up.

    I think the combination of Arshavin & Cesc (and Rosicky if/when he’s fit) will be very effective in getting in behind “park the bus” defenses so I wouldn’t expect to see either of them rested. I’d prefer to see Dudu in for RVP (who looked to take the biggest knock vs Celtic) and I think Bendtner is quite valuable in these situations as a target for goal kicks/set pieces.

    I’m hopeful for a reasonably relaxing first outing in front of a pleased home crowd.

  13. Piquionne’s best days were at St. Etienne and I was surprised when Lyon bought him. They’ve been desperate for forwards over the last few year with Benzema destined to move on and Fred constantly being under appreciated.

    I don’t see Wenger going to 4-4-2 just yet, especially after drilling 4-3-3 into the team all pre-season. He knows he has a comfortable lead in the Celtic tie and quite possibly that’s when he’s play a top draw line-up for an hour and then withdraw them for the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey in the last half hour. Portsmouth is a terrible team now and their defense in shambles so I expect at least 2-3 goals put past them. Ashavin is probably going to play because he’s looked off and uninterested in the last couple of games and Wenger will be keen to get him back to his form from last season.

  14. Hart says Pompey are not going to Arsenal for the scenery and to make up the numbers (we’ve heard all this before from ‘better’ teams). He hope’s Burnley’s win over Man U will inspire his team’s to get ‘something’ from the game. “Senator, I knew Man U and you sir are no Man U.” Pompey have 18 1st team players and 3 of them are GKs. You don’t even have to “smarter than a 5th grader” to do that math 🙂

    Liverpool have found an experience defender who is also cheap and Soltiros Kyrgiakos ‘ticks’ all the boxes for Benitez. Kyrgiakos left 2 clubs (Rangers and Frankfurt) on free transfer before Pool ‘swooped’ for him at AEK. I watched Greece vs Russia in Euro 2008 and Kyrgiakos was crap (think of an over sized version of Steven Taylor). Arshavin and Co. shredded the Greeks in that game.

    Rio’s thigh injury means he’s out 4 wks and not 1-2 wks. So no big mean old Rio Ferdinand to terrorize Ade…, er RVP.

    I really hope the hiring of Fox as Commercial Director will lead to Arsenal being able to market itself to a bigger audience world wide. The guy has Gatorade, NBA, Nike marketing experience. The guy has worked in Asia. He sounds perfect.

    Arsenal will have a free team scarf on every seat for tomorrows home opener. They want the Emirates to be a sea of red and white.

  15. Some recent notable quotes:

    “For me it was a no brainer to play at a good club like Hull”-Jozy Altidore

    “I think we were working but not working with any kind of thought process.” “Too many individuals out there weren’t listening to instructions, weren’t listening to game plans and consequently they played around us too easily.” “But I didn’t bring him off, the players who let the side down brought Daniel Cousin off”-Phil Brown after Hull lost to Sp**s 5-1.

    This is when you need a Stewart, a Maher, a Letterman or a Leno to really get a zinger in right about now. You just know its a problem when your club has been linked to more players who have turn you down than want to come 🙂

  16. I have just looked at the website and it looks like there are still tickets available for the pompey game. That is a worrying sign – i think this is the 1st time that premier league tickets at the emirates have gone to general sale

  17. They are off the air now because of anti-Semitic Liverpool doucebag supporters of the US. The threatened their families and steven and kenny decided to call it quits. The US lost the only good football radio show and we Gooners lost one ofthe only pro-arsenal people in the US media besides nick webster.

    1. @TxGun, I generally podcast so I hadn’t realized it was over yet. I am a bit shocked, it is upsetting to let them win, but I can understand. It was a great show.

  18. 4-1. Good enough but not as dominant as it could/should have been.

    Eduardo, Diaby had good displays.

    Maybe Diaby can now go on to become the player he would have been before meeting the miscreant Dan Smith.

    Gibbs got some good lessons today and eventually made a class defensive stop on the troublesome Piquionne.

    RVP kept the level of of play high despite being denied by James. It was good to see RVP not let frustration ruin his day.

    Almunia still needs to become more aggressive and decisive in his area.

    Hopefully Fabregas will be ready for Celtic and Man U. If not, then Ramsey will get the call and he should do ok.

    Arshavin still treading water.

  19. Fabregas: ? 3wks out w/ hamstring. Went into the game w/ injury and now the decision not to keep him on the bench against Portsmouth looks unwise.

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