Belfast Telegraph

In Pictures: Arsenal 4 Portsmouth 1

Arsene Wenger believes his young side are now ready to write their own chapter in Arsenal's history and give the Emirates Stadium faithful a season to remember.

The Gunners maintained an impressive opening to the new campaign with a 4-1 demolition of struggling Portsmouth in front of a 60,000-strong crowd.

Arsenal issued free red and white scarves for fans as part of moves to create a unique atmosphere of its own at the £350million stadium, which has been the club's home since August 2006.

Wenger hopes 2010 will prove a vintage year for the young Gunners.

"Highbury had a natural soul because of all the history," recalled Wenger, who took charge of Arsenal in September 1996.

"We have to create history here first by winning titles, but also by making the place warm and where you feel the history of the club.

"The fans have to feel a connection between the values a club wants, and that has always been right here.

"You want to transfer the history of the club in the walls here, and create a new history with the results.

"We have maybe at the moment not achieved that, not outside nor on the pitch.

"My job and that of the team is to create it on the pitch.

"We have the ambition to win the title, and have a good opportunity to show we can do it."

Despite four changes to his starting XI with one eye on the midweek Champions League play-off against Celtic, Arsenal were at times sublime yesterday as they stretched the Portsmouth defence with wave after wave of quick, passing football.

A brace from Abou Diaby put them 2-0 up inside 21 minutes, before Younes Kaboul pulled a goal back.

After William Gallas escaped what on another day could have been a red card for his last-ditch clash with John Utaka on the edge of the penalty area, the Gunners defender popped up at the other end of the pitch to bundle home his third goal of the season.

Substitute Aaron Ramsey - on for injured captain Cesc Fabregas who could miss the next couple of matches with a hamstring problem - wrapped things up with a fourth on 68 minutes.

Wenger said: "We have a morale booster and now go to Manchester United.

"There was only scepticism around us, now there is a bit less. Now people say 'let's see what will happen when they go to Man United"'.

Diaby marked his 100th Arsenal appearance with an impressive display.

The Frenchman has battled back from an horrific broken ankle in May 2006 to force himself into Wenger's side and has big plans for the campaign ahead.

"We can definitely challenge everyone this season," he said.

"We are ready to fight and to get something."

Diaby, 23, also knows there is the chance to end the campaign in South Africa.

"I know it is a big season for me," the France international said.

"Of course, the World Cup is in my mind. We have to qualify first, but I want to be there and make sure I am in the team so it is one of my targets for the season."

For Pompey, the long term is not so clear cut as speculation continues over ownership of the south-coast club.

Manager Paul Hart, though, can do little about what happens off the field, even if it make his job almost impossible.

"It is difficult, but I get my lift from the players," he said,

"If I had a group of players who were not at it, or were just feeling sorry for themselves, then I would not have anything then.

"You can spend hours going through all the bad luck, but it would kill you."

Goalkeeper David James will have a scan tomorrow after sustaining a knee injury yesterday, and England as well as Portsmouth will be hoping the problem is nothing serious, considering the national team face Croatia next month in a World Cup qualifier.

Hart is now considering transfer dealings, and added: "I am hoping to add to the squad, and not looking to let any more players leave, unless I want them to."

Belfast Telegraph


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