Vieira looks on as Gunners fire in four

Patrick Vieira watched from the stands as Arsenal pt on a stunning first-half show to put another major dent in Portsmouth’s fight against relegation.

Vieira, sold for £14million to Juventus in the summer, was enjoying Italian football’s winter break on a freezing night in north London, where he spent nine golden years, and his trip was rewarded by his former team-mates winning 4-0 at Highbury.

His fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry scored twice in the first half – one a penalty – to end a five-match drought against a Pompey side diluted by five changes from Monday’s 1-1 draw with West Ham.

Pompey boss Harry Redknapp left out skipper Dejan Stefanovic, star midfielder Gary O’Neil and was also without the suspended Laurent Robert ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Fulham.

Goals by Dennis Bergkamp and Jose Antonio Reyes put his patchwork team 2-0 down in the first 14 minutes and Redknapp said: “Arsenal did not have many chances in the first half but they scored four goals from four chances.

“They opened us up like a barn door every time they came forward and things have changed so much since I was last here with a Pompey team.

“Before we had players like (Aiyegbeni) Yakubu, (Teddy) Sheringham and (Nigel) Quashie and we drew where we should have won.

“Stefanovic has a bad ankle and I couldn’t afford to risk him making it worse when we have the game on Saturday. O’Neil was also suffering from a knock but hopefully they will both be back for Saturday.

“I had to put in some players that I’ve not even see play before. It’s a silly situation and there’s no way I can expect to rest players for a game like this and come away with a result.

“Arsenal are a different level and there are four teams like that in the Premiership. It will finish Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool - in no particular order.

“It’s going to be hard for us to stay up but I’m confident we can make it. Wait and see what happens in the transfer window.”

Arsenal boss Wenger said: “It was 4-0 at half-time and I felt we did the job. We looked sharp and could always be dangerous.”

He added: “I feel the team has improved over the past few games and we can chase the pack. All the signs are positive.”

Arsenal are now back up in sixth place in the table and after travelling to Aston Villa on Saturday they take on Manchester United at Highbury.

Wenger said: “Manchester United will be a big game. It always is but it will be even bigger if we do well at Villa.

“It doesn’t matter too much at this stage because there are still 20 games to go. What matters is the team realises they can do well. We lost some belief but the players realised they should not have lost to Chelsea two weeks ago and we tried to put that right.”

Henry said in his programme notes as captain that Arsenal need to change their style and have someone up alongside him in attack.

Wenger said: “Thierry has done very well in games recently even though he hasn’t scored until now.

“Every striker goes through periods that he has. He hit a post against Chelsea and Shay Given, the Newcastle goalkeeper made some great saves from him soon after he missed a penalty in Europe against Ajax.”

Wenger also picked out midfielder Mathieu Flamini for special mention. The manager said: “He is very dynamic, he reads the ball well and has a huge desire. He’s only 21 and plays in a difficult position but his game suits a bigger pitch and we will have that when we move to a new stadium next season.”

Wenger reported that Brazilian midfielder Gilberto left the pitch early in the second half with a groin problem and is a slight doubt for Saturday’s trip to Villa Park.


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