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Stuart Dalgleish 29th Dec 2009 - 22:15

Arsenal still have Cesc appeal without Fabregas

Before the start of the season a few were questioning whether Arsene Wenger could keep his young side in the top four, never mind mount a title challenge, but make no mistake about it - the Gunners are right in the shake-up for a 4th Premier League title and should move closer to leaders Chelsea with three points here.

In fact if Arsenal's next two games go as expected they will be just a point behind Carlo Ancelotti's stuttering side, which by that time will be without stars such as Didier Drogba and Michael Essien, and above Manchester United into 2nd place.

Even if, as expected, skipper Cesc Fabregas misses out after he suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury, Arsenal should still have too much for a Portsmouth side which hasn't beaten their Wednesday night opponents in over 50 years.

Pompey are improving recently having won three of their last four outings at Fratton Park, keeping clean sheets in each of those victories, but Arsenal are a different proposition and have goals in them from all areas.

One of these players who has stepped up to the plate since Robin van Persie's injury and got his shooting boots on is Abou Diaby.

The big Frenchman took a while to establish himself in the Arsenal team, but this season he's been an instrumental part of Arsene Wenger's midfield along with Fabregas and Alex Song, and with four goals in his last ten games he will be someone that Portsmouth have to keep off the ball if they want to get anything out of this game.

If Portsmouth can keep Diaby and the visiting midfield quiet then they will hope to make a mockery of their odds of 11/2, they're without a win in their last 20 matches against Arsenal though so it doesn't look likely. The draw is a 3/1 shot but with three successive wins over Pompey, I'd be steaming into the 8/15 on offer for a Gunners win.

With Portsmouth not managing to score against Arsenal in their last three games on this ground correct score options such as 0-1 and 0-2 both at odds of 5/1 look appealing, but as Arsenal have only kept one clean sheet in nine Premier League away games both teams to score at 10/11 looks the bet for me.

Frederic Piquionne has been doing his best to fight for the Portsmouth cause recently with two goals in his last three games, if the on-loan striker can find gaps in the sometimes questionable Arsenal defence he could look like a good shout at 8/1 to break the deadlock, and is 11/4 to grab a goal at anytime of the match.

For Arsenal the aforementioned Diaby is their form player with two in his last two games, and also scored twice against Pompey at the Emirates earlier this season, at 14/1 he is fantastic value to get the first goal, 11/2 just to pounce at any point of the 90 minutes.

Join us to bet In-Play on this exciting looking clash.



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