The way I see it - Portsmouth v. Arsenal

Last updated : 05 March 2004 By Jason Hogan

En-route to Highbury last Saturday, along with my mates Gary and Terry, as well as one or two others the skies were grey and overcast. Having sat in the East Stand watching the Arsenal build a 2-0 lead and disappear down the tunnel looking in complete control, I went down underneath the stand to get a cup of tea and make an ill-fated attempt to text my mates. By the time I got back to my seat, I was greeted with bright sunshine. I remember turning round to a chap and saying that maybe our day will turn out sunny side up as well!

I have to admit that I was more conservative in terms of my passion to Saturdays game against Charlton because to my immediate left there was a chap from Northern Ireland who had brought his very young daughter along. She could not have been a day over five and I tried to curb any vitriolic tendencies to a minimum. However, just around the hour mark I am afraid my somewhat volatile nature got the better of me and when Lauren was penalised for the "foul" that in turn led to Claus Jenson pulling a goal back for Charlton, I was dishing out my own version of the Ferguson hair dryer treatment I can tell you! At this point, allow me to offer an apology to the young lass if not her father.

Anyway, I think that it was suffice to say that we Goners had to endure a classic game of two halves. Make no mistake my fellow Gooners though our win was deserved it was hard fought nonetheless. I thought we looked a little tired from the moment the second half started, Charlton seemed to sense it and they went a long way to showing why they were fifth in the league just one point behind fourth placed Newcastle at the start of play. So when the final whistle went, I was a hugely relieved man. By the time I had got out on to the Avenell Road I had got word from one of my fellow Gooners that United had been held to a draw at Loftus Road and despite suddenly being confronted by a mini blizzard where once there was sunshine, my spirits were heightened enormously rather than diminished.

After a brief stop off at the chippy to touch base with another mate of mine called Gus (he and his son Tom sit in the West stand family enclosure) I headed towards the Twelve Pins to meet up with Gary. By the time I got there a huge roar went up inside - who was on the big screens in the pub? None other than old purple nose himself. How my fellow Gooners and I loved it. Nobody was particularly concerned as to what he was saying, just the fact that he was there on TV, not looking altogether happy with his lot. Priceless!

Now I will not deny that I was in a very euphoric mood on Saturday night. I was consumed with the belief that nothing was going to stop us getting our title back but now that I have calmed down somewhat, it is time to apply a sense of perspective to things. Whether we Gooners like it or not, the fact is we are at the same crossroads that we were at last season.

Twelve months ago, almost to the very day, we were 90 minutes away from an FA Cup semi-final. Twelve months ago, we were effectively 90 minutes away from a place in the last eight of the Champions League and twelve months ago, we also had a handy lead in the Premiership.

I did not want to remind everyone of what happened but by the middle of March last year it would be safe to say that things began to go a little sour for us.

Twelve months on, it is almost ironic that in the Champions League we will have to dispose of Spanish opposition once again in order to reach the last eight. It is also ironic that we are faced with Blackburn away and then Bolton in our next two league games. Both sides were instrumental in our downfall in the Premiership last term but first, above all that, we have to go to Fratton Park on Saturday night to play Pompey in the cup. I am sure that most Gooners, were glad that Pompey disposed of Liverpool in the last round and I was no different. However, playing this lot is not a softer option by any means and the only reason this tie appeals to me more is because if we were playing Liverpool, the media would have billed it as a re-run of the 2001 Cup Final - not exactly the best day of my life I can tell you and the less I am reminded of it, the better.

Down on the South Coast it has definitely been another eventful year for Harry Redknapp. Once again he has had to deal with all sorts of injuries to his squad and he has had to beg, borrow and steal just to get a team out on to the pitch at times.

When Pompey played Liverpool in the cup replay the other day, they had no less than fourteen players missing. Despite that Pompey won of course and that factor alone is sufficient warning to all of us that our trip to the South Coast is no Jolly Boys Outing.

There are quiet a few danger men in the Portsmouth side, one is the Croatian striker, Ivica Mornar, he was very impressive when Portsmouth played against Liverpool at Anfield in the first game.

Another chap to watch out for is Eyal Berkovic. The ex Southampton player has been a great influence at Fratton Park since his recent arrival.

Above all this game is all about concentration for Arsenal and they cannot afford to let what will be a genuine cup-tie atmosphere get to them. Concentration, concentration, concentration is the key here. If we do that then we should be in the hat for the semi-finals.