By Chris Harris
If you can't beat them, buy them. That seems to be the policy of Harry Redknapp, renowned wheeler dealer and manager of a Pompey side which contains as many of Arsenal's 'Invincibles' as the current Gunners squad does.
Kolo Toure, Gilberto and Jens Lehmann are still regulars in Arsène Wenger's matchday 16 but their Boxing Day opponents can match that with Sol Campbell, Lauren and Kanu. And let's not forget Mr Arsenal himself - Tony Adams - who is making a name for himself as assistant manager at Fratton Park.
Amid all the reunions, Arsenal can expect a stern test on the south coast. Pompey have hit a minor rut with two straight defeats but they have been one of the revelations of the season. Indeed, until losing at Liverpool on Saturday, Pompey racked up seven straight wins on the road.
We spoke to Jordan Cross of the Portsmouth News for a Pompey perspective ahead of tonight's game. Read on for his thoughts on their contrasting home and away form, the impressive new faces in Redknapp's squad and the impact of the imminent African Cup of Nations.
THE STORY SO FAR
"They have been very good away from home but not quite so good at home. Things have been remarkably positive this season, to look at the table and see Portsmouth up there among the contenders is magnificent. The only concern is that Fratton Park has been a fortress in years gone by and although they have only lost once at home - against Spurs - Portsmouth have been held to a lot of draws there this season. The basis for another strong campaign has been the away form with six straight wins in the league until they lost at Liverpool. The key factor for me is the new formation Harry has employed this season. He has gone for a single striker with five men in midfield with Nico Krancjar and John Utaka pushing on. It has worked fantastically away from home where opposition teams come out and attack. But it's different at Fratton Park, teams know about Portsmouth there, they know how hard it is to go there and get a result, so they play accordingly and Pompey have found it hard to break more negative teams down."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"David James won all the Player of the Year awards last season and he is doing well again. But Benjani is up there too - Pompey fans thought he couldn't buy a goal last season but he's near the top of the scoring charts now. Sylvain Distin has been one of the bargain buys of the season, Harry really weaved his magic to get him in for no fee. He's been electric, he's got so much pace about him and Pompey will need that against Arsenal's players."
"The new players have done remarkably well. There's a strong African contingent at the club now. Sulley Muntari took time to settle but he's hit form recently with two excellent goals at Aston Villa. Utaka, who started like a house on fire, he has electric pace but has died off a little in recent weeks. He's coming to terms with a wide right role. Distin has been fantastic but Harry likes to do his business in the transfer market and he's been busy again. People expected much of David Nugent but he's been held back, largely due to Benjani's form and the fact Harry only plays one striker. But by and large it has been positive."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
"They lose four players to the African Cup of Nations - three midfielders and Kanu. Harry is weighing up the best way to attack this because if you go out and spend big money to replace the African players, when they come back it's harder to accommodate people. The likes of Lauren and Matty Taylor haven't been getting games so it's a balancing act for Harry. So perhaps he'll go for a couple of loans to see them through."
"The line up would probably be James in goal, Pamarot - if he's fit - at left back, Distin and Campbell in the middle and Glen Johnson at right back. Into midfield you probably have Muntari in the middle alongside Papa Bouba Diop with Pedro Mendes and Sean Davis vying for the holding role. Davis has been fantastic this season but missed out with a couple of injuries. Kranjcar and Utaka will probably take the wide roles, they like to bomb on and support Benjani, who has also been playing fantastically well."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"The 3-1 defeat at the Emirates was probably the one game this season when Pompey were well and truly turned over. Harry had no complaints about the scoreline, Arsenal were on fire that day, and not many teams have done that to Portsmouth this season. Arsenal are a joy to watch and Harry has been making a big deal about the youngsters Arsène Wenger can call upon in the Carling Cup. He is such a massive fan of these players, he delights in talking about them, and the talent Arsenal have. He expects a big future for a lot of those players."