The way I see it - Arsenal v Portsmouth

Last updated : 11 September 2003 By Jason Hogan

That's not to say I am not patriotic because I am but I simply do not get the same kind of buzz when England play as opposed to the Arsenal though in a way, I suppose that there is a parallel that can be drawn between ourselves and the England national team in that we are often damned whatever we do.

It's a pity that the international fixtures came around at a time when the Gunners had built up some decent early momentum. Some would argue that we have not really played anybody yet but then our so-called rivals haven't had overly taxing fixture schedules early on either.

It's far too early to make any firm assessments at this stage as to how we are playing. Whilst our win over Middlesbrough was exhilarating, we have invariably had to grind the results out in the other three games.

Now, I have always been a little cynical of people who say that it's the sign of a good side if they can grind out results without playing well. I prefer to put it this way. Given that the Gunners have gone out on umpteen occasions and played teams off the park only to earn a point or less, then I'm not going to grumble too much when we pinch the odd victory here and there.

Whilst things have gone pretty well for the Gunners so far, it would also be fair to say the same about Portsmouth. You can bet your bottom dollar that Harry Redknapp would have snapped off my arm if I told him before the start of the season that they would remain unbeaten in their first four games and have eight points on the board.

I saw Pompey play Villa in the opening game and I have to say that they were not too bad at all. What was perhaps the most encouraging thing from their point of view was the fact that their new big hitters, Patrik Berger and Teddy Sheringham, made an instant impact and looked right at home in their new surroundings.

I was also impressed with the young Nigerian lad, Yakubu. He was the chap that took the Champions League by storm last year whilst playing for the Israeli outfit Maccabi Haifa and from what I have seen of him there are signs that he might just make the grade in the Premiership.

With Jason Roberts coming in on loan it means that Pompey won't be lacking too much in terms of pace and power up front should they need to utilise it.

The acquisition of Alexei Smertin is an intriguing one, not least in the way that it all came about. The word on the street is that he might stay out on loan at Pompey beyond this season. Well, he is proven performer at international level with Russia so if he manages to adapt to the cut and thrust of the Premiership then he could prove to be a shrewd acquisition.

Yes, it would be fair to say that the master wheeler-dealer Harry Redknapp has done it again. He has managed to assemble a squad with a fair bit of experience for next to nothing. I don't think that their start to the season has necessarily been a fluke nor do I think that that they will go back down either.

In other words I think that the Arsenal will find that Pompey a tougher nut to crack than most people may think. I was at Highbury that day way back in 1987 when we literally hit this lot for six.

Much as I would love history to repeat itself I think if the Gunners will have to put in a fair bit of graft in order to come out on top on Saturday.