Between them these two teams encapsulate much of modern football: new stadia, exotic owners, foreign management and players, bizarre transfer arrangements. But this was also a fixture which echoed a different age. In a six-season period soon after the last world war they took two titles apiece and their matches were significant occasions.
After half-a-century during which Pompey sailed in the doldrums, they are big matches once more and Portsmouth justified equal billing on Saturday. Organised and neat, they drove Arsène Wenger to another of his explosions and pushed Arsenal's players into using all their outrageous gifts.
Wenger, who was fined £10,000 last week for squaring up to Alan Pardew, should face censure again when Steve Bennett's match report arrives at the Football Association today. He not only confronted the referee, who dismissed him from the bench, but also breached his penalty by continuing to manage the team, giving the interval team talk and making substitutions, actions he admitted to the media afterwards.
Superficially Wenger's fury was because he disagreed with the free-kick which led to Portsmouth's first goal, but his team must have frustrated him more then the linesman's interpretation of a clash between David Thompson and Gaël Clichy. Starting sumptuously but finishing erratically, especially Robin van Persie, Arsenal let the game drift. They compounded this with another shocking display of man-marking at that set-piece, Noé Pamarot heading in after Thompson put a free header against the post.
When Matty Taylor beat Jens Lehmann with another of his trademark volleys immediately after the break Wenger must have despaired but, catalysed by Emmanuel Adebayor, Arsenal rallied impressively.
Adebayor had been rested, said Wenger, because he had played "five matches in 12 days" (four, actually) and had a groin problem. Wenger railed at Arsenal's fixture list but being in Europe, which causes the congestion, brings in £10-30m which means he can build a bigger squad than most. Redknapp, for example, had no fit forwards, Kanu battling on despite a knee problem. He also had to omit Manuel Fernandes because playing him for a fourth successive match would trigger a £12m transfer from "Benfica, or whoever it is".
"Is he on loan then?" Redknapp was asked.
"I suppose he must be."
Redknapp plays up to the bumbling wheeler-dealer image but he has a shrewd football brain and his team are a smart blend of youth and experience, English and foreign, probably better blends than Arsenal, who chased down the lead because they have just as much desire and more natural talent. Their opener typified this, Alexander Hleb's sublime pass freeing Theo Walcott, whose first-time cross was swept in by Adebayor. The equaliser, from Gilberto, was scruffier. It needed a cruelly ironic deflection off the legs of Sol Campbell, who made an impressive return to Arsenal, to edge inside the far post.
Such is the standard at the top of the Premiership it still felt like a defeat for Arsenal and, said Wenger, "I am a bad loser. There is no room for good losers in this game."
"Some of the people at the top are not used to losing, it is difficult for them when they do," observed Redknapp. "We've had to get used to it as we're no good."
As a child he watched his football not at Upton Park but at Highbury, so it was fitting that Redknapp's first professional visit to the Emirates Stadium should conclude in such an engrossing draw. Afterwards he mused on those early visits but the memory which lingered was not of the football but a footballer, Jimmy Logie.
Logie was a diminutive inside-right, much in the Cesc Fabregas mould, who signed for Arsenal, aged 19, in the summer of 1939 and spent the next six years serving in the Royal Navy. He nevertheless played 328 times for the Gunners, winning two titles and the FA Cup during the period in which they duelled at the top with Pompey. But footballers made little money then, and Logie liked a flutter.
"I used to love coming here," said Redknapp, "but we would see Jimmy Logie selling newspapers with his mac tied up with a piece of string. He had been a great player and my Dad's idol. Please God you won't see players doing that again."
Redknapp's son, Jamie, is also in the publishing business but he owns a magazine and no one has to flog it on streetcorners; Icon is distributed on a subscription-only basis to players. Footballers have come a long way, maybe too far, but what is more obscene: Icon, with its advertisements for six-figure watches and cars, or the sight of Jimmy Logie - who, like Thierry Henry, attracted 60,000 gates to north London, and with his contemporaries and 1930s predecessors laid the foundations for the the Emirates, and the fortunes of those who have run Arsenal down the decades - selling newspapers with his mac tied up with string?
Goals: Pamarot (45) 0-1; Taylor (47) 0-2; Adebayor (58) 1-2; Silva (60) 2-2.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Eboué (Flamini, 78), Touré, Djourou, Clichy; Ljungberg (Walcott, 6), Silva, Fabregas, Hleb; Aliadière (Adebayor, 55), Van Persie. Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Senderos.
Portsmouth (4-5-1): James; Johnson, Primus, Campbell, Pamarot; O'Neil, Thompson (Kranjcar, 71), Davis, Pedro Mendes, Taylor; Kanu (Hughes, 85). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), O'Brien, Douala.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Booked: Portsmouth Johnson, O'Neil.
Man of the match: Adebayor.
Kanu issues exit warning
Kanu will consider offers from other clubs in the transfer window if Portsmouth do not offer him a two-year extension to his one-year contract.
"Clubs will come after you when they know you are almost out of contract," the Nigerian said. "It's down to Portsmouth to say 'yes, he has done enough for us' and reward me. If they gave me a longer contract it would help. It would make me more settled."
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