Portsmouth’s Checkatrade Trophy clash against Arsenal under-21s won’t be easy

Portsmouth celebrate a goal against Tottenham Hotspur under-21s. Picture: Robin Jones/Digital South.
Portsmouth celebrate a goal against Tottenham Hotspur under-21s. Picture: Robin Jones/Digital South.

Steve Claridge believes Pompey’s tie against Arsenal under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy won’t be an easy game.

The Blues face the Gunners’ development side in the second round at Fratton Park the week commencing Monday, December 3. 

Kenny Jackett's troops topped Southern Group A, defeating Gillingham, Crawley and Tottenham under-21s.

Arsenal finished second in their pool, beating Coventry and Forest Green, as well as losing to Cheltenham.

Claridge – who pulled his former club Pompey out of the hat during today’s draw at Checkatrade’s Lakeside, North Harbour base – feels the tie is one of the picks of the second round.

And the ex-Fratton Park boss has insisted it’ll be a good test for both teams. 

‘It’s a fantastic draw – we actually picked out two or three crackers!’ said Claridge. 

‘Everyone will be looking forward to it. 

‘It’ll be a totally different game to anything that they’ve (Arsenal) played against before.

‘You watch those games and there’s an element of development and getting them ready for first-team football.

‘It’s a real good test for everybody.

‘Everybody has got a way of playing the game, certainly at that level (Premier League).

‘They want to express themselves and it’s all about mobility and movement to open the game up. 

‘It’ll be a good test for Portsmouth. It’s not an easy game. 

‘On the face of it, it’ll be a tough game for both.’

The Checkatrade Trophy has offered Jackett the chance to give players on the periphery of things much-needed minutes.

The likes of Luke McGee, Danny Rose and Louis Dennis have all benefited from the competition, having had limited League One opportunities. 

With Pompey pushing for promotion this season, Claridge reckons the tournament allows the fringe players to ensure they’ll be ready if needed in the league. 

And the Fratton Park hall-of-famer sees it as an opportunity for Jackett to experiment with new formations.

‘They need the games. They have got a lot of players and need to keep people involved,’ added Claridge. 

‘They have got a lot of quality and Kenny Jackett can try different things in the competition.

‘Once or twice Pompey have struggled at home a little bit this season.

‘Jackett might tinker with things against Arsenal to see what works – it’s a win-win all round.’