Portsmouth captain Tom Naylor believes his in-form side can beat anyone at “fortress” Fratton Park as they prepare to spring an FA Cup upset against Arsenal.
Pompey will set aside their Sky Bet League One promotion push when Mikel Arteta’s Gunners visit the south coast for Monday’s sold-out fifth-round tie.
The clubs have not met for more than a decade, while Portsmouth’s last victory in the fixture came almost 62 years ago.
Defensive midfielder Naylor insists his team are brimming with confidence and thinks a passionate capacity-crowd located close to the pitch can help unsettle the Premier League visitors.
“Everyone knows Fratton Park is a fortress,” said the 28-year-old, who led Pompey to a 3-0 success over Rochdale on Friday evening – the club’s 10th successive home win in all competitions.
“Week in, week out we play there and the atmosphere’s brilliant, it’s crazy, and it will be a different atmosphere for the Arsenal lads, and they won’t expect the atmosphere.
“It’s probably the best home crowd I’ve had, and I can see why people come here and think they can’t play in this environment because they’re not used to it.
“The crowd’s a massive factor and a big 12th man for us and we’ve seen that throughout the season.
“When you’re in the Premier League, there are like 60,000 fans there all the time, and it’s quite enclosed Fratton is. It’s on top of you and the crowd goes for it because it’s so close to the pitch.
“Whoever we play, we have the confidence of beating them, even if it’s Arsenal. The way we are playing at the minute, especially at home, we can beat anyone.”
Portsmouth – two-time FA Cup winners, most recently in 2008 under Harry Redknapp – are the lowest-ranked club remaining in the competition and the only one from outside the top two divisions.
Kenny Jackett’s men have won 21 of their last 27 fixtures in all competitions, including dispatching Harrogate, Altrincham, Fleetwood and Barnsley en route to the last 16.
However, Pompey’s last victory over Arsenal – a 5-4 success at Fratton Park – came back in March 1958.
Naylor has been studying the Gunners from afar all season and feels there is little expectation on the hosts to snap a 21-game winless streak against their high-profile opponents.
“I think the pressure’s off us. Everyone’s going to expect Arsenal to win, so we’ve just got to play freely really and enjoy the occasion,” he said.
“Over the last couple of years, they’ve not really done anything in the league but the club speaks for itself. They’ve had some great players over the last 10 years and they’ve got some unbelievable players now.
“We’ve watched them all season on Match of the Day. We know what their attributes are, we know what their qualities are.”
Arsenal unexpectedly crashed out of the Europa League to Greek side Olympiacos on Thursday evening, with the FA Cup now their only opportunity of securing silverware in Arteta’s maiden campaign as manager.
Former Mansfield, Derby and Burton man Naylor is looking forward to leading his team out for the televised tie and admits knocking out the north London club would rank high among his career highlights.
“I think it would be up there, yeah. I’ve never been to the fifth round (before) and if we do beat them, into the quarters, it’s massive,” he said.
“It would be a massive milestone for me and I am going to take it with both hands and try and get there.
“It’s a real honour to be captain of this club. It will be nice to walk out at Fratton against Arsenal, it’s a massive honour.”