Arsenal continues impressive start
Arsenal dismantled Portsmouth to continue their impressive start to the season with a 4-1 romp at Emirates Stadium. Abou Diaby, one of four changes by manager Arsene Wenger, smashed in a first-half brace to set the rampant Gunners on their way. Although Younes Kaboul pulled a goal back, it was only delaying the inevitable as William Gallas bundled in his third goal in as many games, before youngster Aaron Ramsey wrapped things up.
Arsenal had smashed seven at Everton before winning the first leg of their UEFA Champions League qualifier 2-0 away to Celtic in midweek. Next up in the Barclays Premier League is a trip to Old Trafford. If they can produce more of the same there, indications will be this could yet be a vintage season for Wenger's young Gunners.
Portsmouth, though, have now lost all three of their matches so far and it looks set to be a long campaign ahead for the Fratton Park club, who have yet to resolve their ownership issue.
With perhaps one eye on the return game with Celtic, Wenger had opted to rotate his team. Fit again Croatia marksman Eduardo, French midfielder Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue and Kieran Gibbs all started. However, the formation remained a fluid 4-3-3, with Diaby and Denilson flanking captain Cesc Fabregas.
It was a bright start by the Gunners and they eventually went ahead on 18 minutes. The ball was worked out to Eduardo on the left. His cutback to the penalty spot picked out the surging run of Diaby, who promptly smashed a shot into the top right corner, giving England goalkeeper David James no chance.
Before Pompey could recover, they were 2-0 down. This time Eboue broke free down the right onto a pass from Fabregas, before rolling the ball across the six-yard box where Diaby slotted it past James once again. Pompey were shell-shocked and it now seemed a case of damage limitation.
Arsenal maintained their ascendancy, stretching the visitors backline with every attack. On 32 minutes, Robin van Persie turned at the edge of the penalty area and drilled in a low drive, which James did well to turn away. The Dutchman then had the chance for another strike at goal with a free-kick some 25 yards out in a central position. Again, he tested the keeper, as this time James produced a diving save to push the ball behind.
Out of nothing, Pompey had a goal back on 37 minutes. Manuel Almunia hesitated on coming to collect a high cross into the six-yard box from Nadir Belhadj and Kaboul got up to nod the ball into the net as the Gunners appealed for a foul on the keeper.
Wenger made a change at the start of the second half, with Wales youngster Ramsey coming on in place of Fabregas, who had been suffering from a slight leg problem in the build up to the match. Utaka went down under a challenge from last-man Gallas at the edge of the Arsenal penalty area, but referee Steve Bennett waved play on. Gibbs was then caught out by Frederic Piquionne, but fortunately for him, the on-loan Pompey striker could only find the side netting from a tight angle.
Arsenal restored their two-goal advantage on 51 minutes with another fortuitous effort from Gallas, who netted a deflected effort off his back at Celtic Park in midweek. Andrey Arshavin swept a deep free-kick into the penalty box from the left.
Van Persie flicked it on to the far post, where Thomas Vermaelen volleyed the ball back goalwards. It hit Gallas, first on the boot, and then on the face before dropping inside the far post. They all count, though, and Gallas was not worried as he wheeled away to celebrate a third goal of the campaign.
Arsenal were now in cruise control again, with van Persie, Arshavin and Eduardo all showing off their expert close control. Ramsey beat the offside trap to make it 4-1 on 69 minutes when he latched onto van Persie's slide-rule pass and coolly beat James, who had to go off during the closing stages because of injury.