Date: 2nd September 2007 at 5:02pm
Written by:

Could Pompey build on the performance that they showed against Chelsea a week prior when they went to Arsenal today, pre match there was a positive vibe, but when the teams were announced to be honest I lost some of that myself.

David James, Lauren, Hermann Hreidarsson, Sean Davis, Sulley Muntari, Matty Taylor and Kanu all returned after being rested for the league cup-tie and Glen Johnson came in for his second Pompey debut, having re-signed on Friday. However Sol Campbell missed out with ‘a slight knock’ – does he have something in his contract or something that means he cannot face Arsenal.

Only Noe Pamarot, Sylvain Distin and John Utaka retained their places from midweek, as Jamie Ashdown, Martin Cranie, Djimi Traore, Benjani, Richard Hughes, David Nugent, Pedro Mendes and Niko Kranjcar all dropped out, the latter four to the bench along with Ashdown.

Arsenal were a classy act, but Pompey were overall poor, defensively all over the place, with the midfield lacking any kind of spark. Goals from Emmanuel Adebayor – from the spot, Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky, the third coming after Phillipe Senderos had been sent off. Kanu scored for Pompey but 3-1 was the least Arsenal deserved.

The Match
Pompey won an early corner after John Utaka had seen his shot deflected over, then Lauren headed over after a bright opening.

Arsenal were soon ahead, the message would have been ‘keep it tight’, but being breached so early always left this an uphill task, it is even harder if you do not play well, which we did not overall. Sloppy play at the back when we refused to clear it eventually saw Lauren’s attempted pass ricochet to Robin Van Persie who broke into the box. Feeling he had no other option David James flew out of the traps to dive at his feet, but could only bring down the Dutchman, the referee had little option but to award a clear penalty. Emmanuel Adebayor stepped up and made not mistake as he sent James the wrong way, 1-0 Arsenal on 7 minutes.

Arsenal could, and possibly should have had a second soon after as a ball into the six yard box saw both James and Adebayor miss it and we escaped, then Cesc Fabregas had a pop from range, but it was straight at James and he saved well.

It was starting as a good open game but Pompey were conceding possession far too easily and giving Arsenal far too much space.

Arsenal put on the pressure and the danger that had been coming, particularly from the wide areas with both Pompey fullbacks having problems, brought Arsenal a second goal. Having won a corner Gilberto Silva was picked out, his header hit Sean Davisand fell to Fabregas who showed poachers instinct to tap into the empty net on 35 minutes.

An uphill task had become a mountainous one.

I do not know what has happened to our defence, but what was thought to be our strongest area has been anything but so far this season and was looking very shaky in the 1st half here today.

Something had to give and Harry Redknapp decided changes were needed at half time so on came Pedro Mendes and Niko Kranjcar for Lauren and Hermann Hreidarsson, who although I do not like to single out people he is not looking like the man to solve the left back problems, this area is still a very weak area for us in my honest opinion.

We were undone again early in the 2nd half on another corner, but for a good save from James it would have been 3-0 as Phillipe Senderos was given a free header. James parried away well and Kanu completed the clearance as the Arsenal attackers converged.

Almost immediately after his chance Senderos was sent off. With Kanu looking like being through he was pulled back and the referee had little hesitation in sending him off after 49 minutes.

From the resulting free kick Utaka was denied by a strange save from Manuel Almunia but he only parried into the six yard box, with the goal gaping Sean Davis should have scored, but with him seeming to have lost the ability to score he blasted over the open goal.

There seemed a little more belief from Pompey at this point and a second goal almost came, well maybe it could have come. Distin surged out of defence passing to the otherwise quiet Sulley Muntari who picked out a fine ball into the box to Kanu, but his control let him down.

Although they did not seem like they had 10 men, as they did, Arsenal were 3-0 up on 58 minutes when some shockingly slack defending gifted Arsenal a goal. A quickly taken free kick saw Utaka with his back to the play and Mendes looking god only knows where and Tomas Rosicky was picked out in the area, shooting through Glen Johnson’s legs for a simple, yet completely avoidable goal.

Instantly Pompey had a goal back. The luckiest goal that we will score all season came from Kanu. He had been trying to control Utaka’s pass but somehow a ricochet off one leg to the other saw him score, 3-1 on 59 minutes could there be hope?

Straight after this goal David Nugent was thrown on in place of Davis – his miss was looking even more costly now.

Had a Pompey striker gambled we could have been right back in the game on 70 minutes. Matty Taylor put in a brilliant cross shot that was only needing a touch, which it did not get, right after this Arsenal should have scored again. A mere six yards out with a free header sub Abou Diaby – who had all the time in the world with the defence AWOL again – could only head wide.

With the Arsenal defence backing off, Johnson given time. He continued moving forward and he got closer to the area before forcing a good save from Almunia, when it came back to him again poor control let him down and the chance was gone.

Arsenal were always comfortable, with them always looking threatening on the break.

A quickly taken free kick brought Pompey another chance, but Utaka’s effort was comfortably saved by Almunia, with him also saving comfortably from Pedro Mendes in the final 10 minutes.

Johnson did what he does best, when another attacking run picked out Nugent, maybe he took too long but he still got a shot in which was blocked by Kolo Toure for a corner.

As time ticked away Pompey were beaten, finishing like a beaten side too, with the final chance coming to Diaby, who shot over from distance.

Match Summary
After the Chelsea match I thought we might have turned the corner, we might actually look like a side that could compete against the best even when away from Fratton, but today we looked completely unorganised virtually right through the side and were completely void of and real ideas.

I do not want to do Arsenal a discredit, as they were fantastic and deserved to win, arguably 3-1 flattered us, but we made it easy for them. We had chances, but few were genuinely threatening chances, with Arsenal rarely stretched.

Arsenal played most of the second half with 10 men, but it did not make a blind bit of difference, you would not have known if you did not count up the players had you missed Phillipe Senderos’ sending off whilst returning from a half time pie!

The defence was an absolute shambles, we were all over the place with only Sylvain Distin only to come out of this with credit in the back line. The midfield was virtually non-existent for most of the match and had little or no creative ideas.

This caps what has been an overall bitterly disappointing 3 days or so – it also shows that we still have a lot of work to do. It is early days, but if we want to get into the uefa cup this season we need to buck our ideas up.

Liverpool look like a formidable side, so Fortress Fratton or not we will need to play a lot better than this or we will be facing another defeat in a couple of weeks time.

PLAY UP POMPEY!

Goals
Arsenal 3 – Emmanuel Adebayor 7 (penalty), Cesc Fabregas 35, Tomas Rosicky 58
Pompey 1 – Kanu 59

David James
Glen Johnson
Noe Pamarot
Sylvain Distin
Hermann Hreidarsson (Niko Kranjcar 45)
Lauren (Pedro Mendes)
Sulley Muntari
Sean Davis (David Nugent 60)
Matty Taylor
John Utaka
Kanu


Substitutes Not Used
Jamie Ashdown
Richard Hughes


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