Derby 2 (McEveley 31, Earnshaw 77) Arsenal 6 (Bendtner 25, Van Persie 39, Adebayor 59, 81, 90, Walcott 78)
You always know that a match has been rendered meaningless when you score six and manage to raise no more than contented amusement at what you are witnessing. Theoretically, of course, the title challenge is still on, but to bridge a four point gap to two opponents, with only two games left, is asking for too much. That said, if one slips this weekend, they may do again as they prioritise Europe, and second could be pinched. It would be incredibly frustrating were that to happen and we didn’t capitalise.
So the second half display was important last night, after going into the break leading despite playing far below our usual standards. That we were ahead at all was due to some truly abysmal Derby defending to let Bendtner and then Van Persie in. Mind you, Gallas was equally culpable at the other end, defending weakly and reacting slowly to allow McEveley to equalise. It would be fair to say the captain isn’t having the best of times at the moment.
Van Persie appeared to tweak something in his leg celebrating the second – you can see him wince slightly as he walked away, taking his injury proneness to new heights. Wenger took him off as a precaution, introducing Adebayor, who had scored a hattrick against the same opposition at the Emirates earlier in the season.
It took him less than fifteen minutes to add to his tally, but only after another laughable Eboue moment. Or at least, it would be comic if it weren’t so infuriating. Walcott worked wonders down the right, squared it, and Eboue, presented with a great chance, fell over trying to poke at the ball. Fortunately, Ade was alert and tapped in the loose ball.
I’ve lost count of the number of times Eboue has fallen over when shooting or playing the final ball – his balance seems all wrong. Is it a lack of confidence? He doesn’t seem the type to be fazed, which is probably a good thing given how poor he’s been.
After somehow failing to add to our lead, Derby hit back, Earnshaw finally scoring his first of the season after our offside trap failed. The goal may have been a mistake though, as it sparked Arsenal back into life, Walcott delightfully curling home before Adebayor scored his 29th and 30th of the season, the former set up by a terrific Clichy run and pass, once again. How he remains so fit in the final ten minutes is beyond me.
And so Adebayor reached thirty goals for the season, yet remains a figure who divides opinion. Incredible really. Yes, six of his goals have come against Derby, but he scored against United, Liverpool, Spurs, Milan and in many more crucial games. The flak he still receives, in my opinion, is disgraceful, so it is encouraging to see some of the more informed bloggers giving him the credit he deserves. Well done Ade.
Third place is now wrapped up, and Derby are all but condemned to be the worst team ever in the Premiership. But the swagger is back, we saw it in the second half, and already thoughts are moving to next season. Four months away it may be, but I can’t wait.