It was a game that had a real end of season feel to it. We played in second gear the whole time and got caught by a plucky Derby team who at least gave it a shot. Sitting bottom of the league after the season they’ve had it would have been easy for them to roll over but they didn’t and credit to the Derby fans who gave the club their 6th consecutive sellout crowd at home. And not too many of them fucked off early either.
Anyway, when I say we played in second gear in the first half we were in neutral most of the time. Derby started well and could have gone ahead when a shot deflected just wide of Alex Song. We didn’t look that penetrative and it was a mistake at the back which saw us take the lead, van Persie feeding in Bendtner to open the scoring. Robin van Persie could have made it two but curled a shot just wide. Derby got right back into it though, Alex Song gave away a free kick on our right and William Gallas should hang his head in shame for turning his back on the ball and the player as they equalised, taking advantage of such slack defending.
The equalisationalism didn’t last long though. Kolo floated a ball over the top, Derby tried to play offside and failed miserably, van Persie controlled it on his chest and fired home with his right foot. Sadly, just as it looked Robin was getting back into the groove he picked up yet another injury. A thigh strain again apparently. The TV said his withdrawal was ‘precautionary’ but it’d be no surprise if he spent a year out injured.
So for the second half Derby were faced with the man who scored a hat-trick against them at the Grove early in the season. And they didn’t have to wait too long to be reminded of his quality, he tapped it at the far post after good work from Theo Walcott. This followed chances for Kolo and Bendtner and at this point we were all over them. Bendtner, who had a decent game I thought, set Theo free through the middle but his Henryesque finish went just wide. It’s no exaggeration to say we might have scored four or five in that period. Typically though we conceded.
William Gallas lost track of Rob Earnshaw, football’s only Ferengi, and he finished smartly past Fabianski to make it 3-2. Not good defending really. We made it comfortable again just a couple of moments later. Theo Walcott controlled Gilberto’s long pass beautifully, drove into the box and curled a great shot into the far corner for his 6th goal of the season. It was a great finish from a young man who is definitely giving the manager something to think about in terms of his role for next season. He just looks so much more confident and assured.
The 5th came when Bendtner sent Clichy away down the left and his cross was put away first time by Adebayor and the big man’s hat trick was completed in the last minute when from Cesc’s pass he rounded Roy Carroll with ease and slotted home. That’s 30 for the season now and to put it in perspective that’s 11 more than the entire Derby team have scored all season. Hats off to Adebayor, he’s had a brilliant season, something not lost on his team mates with Cesc saying:
He makes a difference every time he plays, he’s a striker who can do everything. We should feel fortunate to have him.
Afterwards the manager was full of love for his team, saying:
It was a typical performance from us – mobile, clean technically and we were always dangerous but as well we had moments where we lacked concentration and we were punished.
I love this team and I think they have a great future.
And it was typical from us. Some chances missed, some players going off injured, some really slack defending but Derby are just so very bad that even missing as many chances as we did you always knew we’d make more and score more. It keeps alive our very, very slim hope of the title but we need both United and Chelsea to turn Devon Loch and the odds on that must be enormous. Still, next up it’s Everton for the final home game of the season and that’s not going to be easy. More on that in the days ahead.
The boss was asked about the futures of Flamini and Hleb and said that Hleb would stay as he had two years left on his contract but admitted that while he was hopeful Flamini would stay it was out of our hands ‘unfortunately’. We’ll wait and see.
Up for grabs is this fine shirt to your right, it’s the 84-86 home kits and it comes via my good old chums at Toffs. To win simply answer the following question.
Who was manager of Arsenal from 1984 to 1986?
a) Don Henley b) Don Howe c) Don Johnson
Answers via email to firstname.lastname@example.org – you have until Thursday at which point the Random Number Generator will do its thing and select two winners.
So there you go. More tomorrow.