Arsene Wenger had sprung eight changes to Wednesday’s toilers but even with his eleven resembling a Carling Cup set-up, Portsmouth could hardly handle the class of the youth – justified by a splendid brace and first-time strike from Bendtner and Vela respectively.
That victory has turned cementing top-four spot into confirmation that Arsenal will not be pipped for Champions League berth next season. And it was exactly two months ago today that a similar walkover at West Brom initiated a rally over the once poised Aston Villa.
Wenger’s line-up was understrength today but the attacking menace proved full strength anyway.
Theo Walcott was at his services from the right wing – swiping an alerting low ball across the face of goal with Bendtner attempting to contact. Nadir Belhadj then surged through Arsenal’s back line to invite Fabianski, but he could only unleash a taming effort.
Carlos Vela was optimist from 20-yards out before Arsenal grasped firm gear on 13 minutes.
Arshavin pumped the ball back into Portsmouth’s area after his corner-kick was incompletely cleared. And Bendtner wrestled well to get a header which David James spluttered into his net.
Arsenal had been cruising early and Vela should have made it count more when Eboue pulled back a clean ball for him with space and time to finish. But the Mexican hesitated and his eventual effort went begging.
Portsmouth were only living off the pieces of Arsenal’s flair and relentless thrust until they finally faulted in attempt to contain Wenger’s men till half-time. Arshavin barged into the visitors’ territory and was tripped by Sean Davis. The victim of the infringement, Arshavin, looked more reluctant about the spot-kick’s rewarding than the referee himself, but Bendtner converted anyway.
The Gunners’ second might have been harsh on the home side, but even they could concede it had been coming. Portsmouth emerged rejuvenated for the second-half and should have pegged level perhaps.
An introduced Utaka smashed a decent effort off the face of the post, then Crouch squandered before Kanu nearly profited from 20-yards out. Chance after chance came and Portsmouth were missing from point-blank ranges.
It was inevitable that they paid for their profligacy.
Arsenal broke into attack again. Vela was biding his time in possession and shifted to hand over to Arshavin on the edge of the area. The Russian’s effort was blocked before Vela rebounded with a sweet low drive into the far bottom corner of the net.
Even with half-an-hour not ticked, there was nothing more to do than switch attentions to a larger-looming Champions League semi-final in midweek.
Likely contributors Walcott and Bendtner were given a breather as Amaury Bischoff benefited with a league debut before Merida was gifted a cameo.
After deputizing Fabregas effectively, Aaaron Ramsey was replaced by another creative mold in Mark Randall.
Arsenal did go for more on the score-sheet though – Vela forced a save from James and when Arshavin was thwarted in attempt later on, Noe Pamarot was issued his second-booking and sent off.
A clean-sheet flattered Arsenal but Fabianski did earn it well with Crouch and Distin all vying to cause stains late on.
The Gunners were dominant by a stretch.