Tonight we were without Van Persie, Fabregas, Denilson, Walcott, Djourou, Clichy, Gibbs and Eboue. So those left standing or not already in Africa got a game. Pompey have no undersoil heating but fortunately tonight on the South Coast it wasn't frosty. The surface however was fairly slick and slippery which suited our game. The Pompey fans were as noisy as ever for about two minutes but given that this match was very much one way traffic they didn't stay that loud for that long, just a late rally of support to keep themselves warm as much as anything else I suspect.
You'd have expected the men in blue to be doing all the closing down but that wasn't the case. Arsenal closed Pompey down and then proceeded to pass them to death. Having passed them to death we buried them in passes with Song as ever bossing the midfield alongside the buoyant Diaby and ever improving Ramsey. Their gameplan was to hit long balls, chuck in some long throws and to keep the ball as far from the grass as possible. A predictable and not so cunning plan assuming you can get the ball, but for most of the night they couldn't.
What half chances Portsmouth had before the break came about from Arsenal errors, such as a Song slip or an Almunia partial punch. Piquionne looked to have an easy chance but he was well offside. An Arshavin solo down the middle and shot wide followed. Once our passing game was in full flow the result seemed inevitable, or as inevitable as it ever can be with our suspect defending and ability to switch off. We won a succession of corners. Good pressure from Arsenal continued and an Sagna cross to Eduardo who headed wide, thanks to not quite enough contact on the ball.
Alan Wiley still doesn't understand the advantage rule but played it anyway when there was none. An Eduardo cross to Andrey whose shot was met with a decent reflex save Begovic. A Sagna shot blocked. The free kick count against Pompey continued to rise - by full time they'd won the count 16-3. Mokoena fired well over and then proceeded to increase his personal foul count. One of which provided Arsenal with a free kick outside their box and slightly right. Edurado took it and it got a massive deflection off Kaboul to beat Hreidarsson who was theoretically guarding the near post. 0-1 Arsenal and very much a deserved lead despite the luck involved for our opener. Eduardo was then fouled twice and stayed down injured, no free kick of course from Wiley. We now had almost total control of the game and were even closing at twice the speed of Pompey.
Belhaj, their liveliest player shot wide but should have been closed down. Arsenal were defending en masse for about the only time in the game. Hughes is a dirtbag and proved it by going in late on Vermaelen. A couple of poor touches by Arshavin who was working hard but not quite on his game. A great run and cross by Nasri whose influence was growing. Arsenal worked it left and Eduardo has it in their box he stood over the ball but was not closed. So he flicked it right to Ramsey, also in their box and not closed, he moved it quickly on to Nasri who bided his time before picking his spot and drilling it low into the corner. 0-2 Arsenal after 41 minutes. The added time at long last saw Mokoena get his long overdue yellow card.
We were still managing to pass the ball around at will and laughed at Piquionne's theatrics just before the break, this was about the only thing he did all night. 'Are you Tottenham in disguise' as the half time whistle blew.
After the break it was more of the same with Arsenal bossing the game. Once again Wiley gave us an advantage where there was none. It's simple Wiley - if we have a player down and out of the game we lack the numbers to gain an advantage, especially when the foul is in our own half and there is no clear break on you Muppet. 'Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal' as the away fans could now be very clearly heard above the depressed Pompey faithful. Grant has the right face for a depressed team doesn't he? The perfect face for an undertaker in fact. A Ramsey shot, Arshavin offside. Arshavin to Ramsey to almost put him in. Edurado shot over. Nasri hauled over, hurt, but no foul was given. Fortunately it was just his hand he'd injured. We seemed to be easing off a tad but Arshavin nearly made something from a dropped cross by Begovic. Belhaj with a cross shot wide.
Our passing was still controlling the game and the possession stats were up to around 60%. Piquionne took out our Belgium. A shot by Yebda. 'You're not fit to run a pub' (?) - well that's what it sounded like at least - can anyone confirm?
Ramsey stole the ball not too far from their box, he took it on, cut inside and powered a sweet left footed strike into the corner to make it 3-0 and game over with about twenty minutes to go. This was our 50th goal of the season at about the halfway point. Rosicky came on for Eduardo. Kanu also on as a Pompey sub and appeared to be their only player who could hold onto the ball. Arsenal fans were by now warming up for the Cup with 'You can stick your f*cking hammers up your ar*e'. Good play by Kanu a pass wide, looked marginally offside but was cut back well for Belhadj to deflect it off Vermaelen past Almunia our captain. 1-3. But this was way too late for Pompey and hardly invoked so much as a token flurry.
A missed punch and a decent save follow from Manuel. Rosicky cut inside and fired one just over. A good move was worked for Song to steam into the box looking for his first goal of the season. Almost the next move saw Nasri given acres of space on the right and he found Song who had pulled away from any markers at the far post. The cross wasn't perfect but Song uses his neck muscles to good effect to power home a header and his first goal of the season. 1-4 Arsenal. 'Is there a fire drill?'
Vela on for Andrey. Nasri with a shot deflected for a corner. Ramsey with a shot blocked. Eastmond on for Nasri making his Premiership debut and he managed to win his first ball with a header, concede a corner and have a half decent shot on goal quite apart from linking well in the six or seven minutes he was on. Hughes was seriously lucky to remain on the pitch after upending Vela for what looked a certain second yellow.
What could have been a tough game turned out to be a stroll, but only because we worked hard enough for most of the game to make it so. A fair bit of work and a whole load of fine passing, more of the same please Arsenal in the Cup.