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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 11 hours ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 24, 2008

Rookie Traore looking forward to Man Utd test

Armand Traore is not afraid of being plunged in for a Portsmouth debut against Manchester United tomorrow night - even though the last time he faced the Red Devils his team were thrashed 4-0. Frenchman Traore, 18, was playing for Arsenal then in an FA Cup fourth-round tie last January, his eighth senior start for the Gunners. Sir Alex Ferguson's men took an under-strength Arsenal apart but Traore was preferred to compatriot Gael Clichy at left-back and went on to make his Premier League debut - against Liverpool - a few months later. Last week he joined Pompey on a season-long loan and with Croatian star Niko Kranjcar injured while playing for his country in Slovenia last week, looks set for an instant debut at Fratton Park. Manager Harry Redknapp has the option of playing him wide on the left of midfield or in his most natural position at left-back - although that would mean dropping the experienced Hermann Hreidarsson. Traore, who joined Arsenal from Monaco in August 2005, has made 18 first-team starts, mostly in cup-ties and said: 'It's an exciting chance. 'I'm here firstly for the experience and I will certainly get that if I play regularly in matches like this and travel with the team. 'It is what I need really. I couldn't get that much at Arsenal so I am happy to be here and happy to know I'm going to get more games than at Arsenal. 'I don't remember too much about that game except Old Trafford but I know it was tough that day, they were a lot stronger.' Pompey are believed to have paid a £1million loan fee to take Traore for the rest of the season, a solid investment considering owner Sacha Gaydamak has now put the block on big transfer buys. Redknapp said: 'Niko is out with his ankle but I've still got some good wide players and I wouldn't hesitate to put Traore in. 'The kid can play and he can certainly run - and we're looking for a bit of pace. 'The only way we'll have a chance against United is to match their work-rate. We didn't do that at Chelsea and got hammered 4-0 but if we work harder now we can cause United problems.' Traore, who recently signed a new four-year contract at the Emirates Stadium, claims he turned down six other clubs when Arsenal gave him the green light to go out on loan. He said: 'I had Sunderland, Manchester City, Newcastle, Stoke, Hull and West Ham all interested in me. It's great to know that interest was there. 'At first I wanted to stay in London but I prefer Portsmouth to West Ham because they are the FA Cup winners, they are in Europe and I know people here.' Portsmouth will set an unwanted club record of six successive league defeats if they are beaten again by United, who won on penalties against Redknapp's side in the Community Shield, just two weeks after beating them 2-1 when both were on tour in Nigeria. Pompey's FA Cup final triumph in May was preceded by four Premier League losses in a row and Redknapp is battling to arrest a slide. He has midfielders Sean Davis and Richard Hughes back after hip injuries but striker Kanu is still out with an ankle problem. Kanu's Nigeria team-mate John Utaka has been warned he needs to show more after just five goals in 31 starts in his first season and failing to make the starting line-up against Chelsea. He admits: 'I know I have to improve and I know I can but I need the chance to do my best which the fans haven't seen yet.'

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