Portsmouth v Arsenal - Pre-match Review

As things stand Chelsea own a seven point lead over Arsenal at the top of the Premier League. The Gunners have the luxury of two games in hand on their London rivals but it is important not to allow those comforts to jeopardise the work ahead, starting with the trip to Portsmouth tonight.
Pompey occupy last spot in the Premiership yet this is no reason to get complacent. Despite scoring the least out of any team in front of home fans (9) the south coasters have improved under new boss Avram Grant, winning three from the last four at Fratton Park. One of those victories was the recent 2-0 win against Liverpool.
Still, Portsmouth’s current ranking has plenty to do with the fact that they have only salvaged one point from a losing position, something that might animate Arsenal to attack from the outset and take the initiative – their game hasn’t come fruitful  until the second-half in recent games.
Encouraging the full-backs to attack might be the trick, and Armand Traore might need no further goading than flourishing in front on the club he went on loan to last season. Since filling in for Kieran Gibbs and Gael Clichy, Traore has settled nicely at left-back.
At first, the Frenchman’s impulse was to charge around, eager to impress. Often the 20-year-old was caught out of position either pressing too high or getting sucked into the middle. After a run of five league games, Traore now looks to have calmed down, using his pace more wisely to track and cover. It is another success story for Arsene Wenger and characterise the depth of the squad this year.
That same strength will be needed across the field what with the injury to Cesc Fabregas and doubts on Denilson featuring due to a recurring back injury. Cesc proved what a vital influence he is in the biggest of games on Sunday against Aston Villa, but with the catalogue of international stars behind him, Portsmouth really should be a three point salvo regardless.
Aaron Ramsay is likely to step into the fold for Denilson. The Welshman has demonstrated enough to the Arsenal faithful that he is capable and it is doubtful many would be feeling jittery seeing his name of the team sheet tonight. Because his game is similar to Cesc’s, we can expect to see Abou Diaby striding forward the way he loves too when the skipper plays.
It’s brilliant and ever so Arsenal, how Diaby has come of age to the point where we now look towards him to provide goals and lead the team forward. Only last month Diaby had his critics but is slowly brushing them aside and looks to have found the answers to his own personal questions as well as the columnists, saying:
“I asked myself questions because they were really hard times to live. I started to have enough of football and getting injured all the time. I wanted to stop, to give everything up. But I hung on. I worked a lot and now I am getting rewarded.”
I like the epic fable of the injured rising to greatness. Diaby only has everything to gain. Anyway, new faces, plus the more regular appearance of Diaby, will be needed when Alex Song heads to the African Cup of Nations next week, so there is nothing damaging about slotting those replacements in now.
Talking of the African Cup, the yellow card received by Didier Drogba on Monday means he now stands to serve a one match ban. If the Ivory Coast make it to the final, Drogba’s return to the Premiership will coincide with the game against Arsenal on February 7 where he should find himself suspended.
Food for thought, but lets get three wet points at Portsmouth first, see a repeat of the 4-1 victory at the beginning of the season – where Diaby scored two incidentally- close the gap on Chelsea and step into the new year in positive spirits.

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