Before the game I was interested to see how we would line up. With the season done and dusted but for a small miracle, it is a perfect opportunity to see how certain players can improve the side. Wenger has a chance to look at new options and partnerships and tonight he went half way to doing this.
He chose Fabianski in goal which is a good choice. He is thought of highly at the club and with Lehmann on his way out, it seemed natural to chose Lukasz. There is nothing at stake and he has the chance to prove himself in matches. There comes a point where work on the training ground needs to be used on the pitch.
Song continued at centre back as Wenger has a real look at him. He has settled into the position well and is a serious contender for a spot there next season. I feel this will be a regular thing until the end of the season and it is an exciting change for me. Toure has been at right back and has looked comfortable there. He may be used as our second right back should we lose Sagna to injury again.
It is in midfield where I was a little disappointed. We know what Eboue can do from the right side of midfield; basically nothing. He has produced very little this season and I want to see him back as a full back. He looks more natural there but Wenger once again gave him a chance at right midfield, with Theo on the left.
I had an idea of something I wanted to see given a chance. I would have played Traore at left midfield and Theo on the right. Their directness, drive and pace would cause most full backs problems, none more so than Derby’s. Traore has played out wide for the reserves and earned rave reviews. He can deliver a good cross, is good on the ball and has a powerful shot in his locker. He will find it hard to break past Clichy into the side but at left midfield he may have a chance.
Credit where credit’s due, Derby looked up for it and were working very hard. They harried each Arsenal player when he was on the ball and gave our defence some trouble. They never threatened massively but told the men in red that there was a game to be played. Derby then, as they have done so many times this season, shot themselves in the foot.
With Arsenal looking a little subdued, Moore presented Bendtner with the ball and we were suddenly 2 vs 1. Some neat link up play but Bendtner in the clear and he made no mistake. He showed clinical finishing which is something we have missed at times. The goal was also our first shot on target, a very rare thing for an Arsenal match nowadays. (Unless it’s the opposition at the Emirates!)
It was nice to see the players congratulate Bendtner. After his goal against Liverpool no one but Theo went over to him and Arsenal fans hoped this was due to the need for a second goal. Today we put to bed the idea that Nick is isolated from the squad. Either that or it was because Ade was not on the pitch and no one goes against Ade when he is on the pitch!
The defence has looked shaky recently and the top teams exploited it majorly. Every team needs the foundations of a solid base if they want to challenge but we have lacked this. Derby always looked like their pressure might reap the reward of a goal and do it did. The free kick that was whipped in came into a difficult area but no one took responsibility as it ricocheted around the area. The defence failed to clear and then Fabianski went a bit mad. His initial decision to stay at home was spot on but his comical belly flop type dive left the goal open. Lo and behold, the ball went into the net via the part of the goal where his chest was 5 seconds before.
No sooner had Derby got back into the game than they shot themselves in the foot again. Their terrible shape at the back left Van Persie room to waltz in unmarked before rifling his shot into the top corner. We have looked far more dynamic with Robin back in the side and that finish showed what he can do when he finally gets back to his best.
One interesting aspect of the goal was the assist from Kolo Toure. It is the second in two games from him and both have come from quality crosses. He has settled in at right back and looked assured on the ball as he attacks from full back. He may well be used there next season should we lose Sagna to injury again.
Robin had somehow contrived to get himself injured AGAIN. This time it seemed he had got injured celebrating his goal. If that is the case it takes the weak bodied idea to a new level. I think it was probably a precautionary decision to take him off as he lasted until half time without too much stress.
As one player left the pitch injured, another gradually found his feet on his return to the side. Denilson has not played at all recently and at the start looked way off the pace. He got his bearings bit by bit and after half time his passing range and swagger returned. Inevitably a third goal came and he was the source.
A clever and precise pass freed Theo in the Derby area but Walcott still had a lot to do. As he has done a lot more in recent weeks, he kept his cool before squaring to Eboue. As we have come to expect from Eboue. He managed to fluff his lines in front of goal; getting injured in the process to add extra comical value! Adebayor was the man to profit from Eboue’s madness.
Eboue never looks like breaking his duck this season and apart from a few comic moments and the odd neat touch, he was ineffective again tonight. The commentator summed him up perfectly with two comments:
“His positions are good; his final ball is not very good”
“Eboue never looks like he has a goal in him”
At 3-1 surely more goals were on the agenda?
Arsenal wasted many chances before another goal did arrive; surprisingly for Derby and Robert Earnshaw. The worrying thing for Wenger was the parting of the ways at back as Earnshaw broke right through the middle. His finish was assured and left Fabianski no chance. Would Derby mount a comeback at 3-2?
The answer was an emphatic no as Arsenal broke almost from the restart to retake the lead. Theo had looked dangerous all night as he proved to Wenger again why he should have played far more in recent weeks. Where Eboue lacked positivity and end product, Theo had it in abundance for his brilliant goal.
I have been wary of comparing Theo to Henry throughout his Arsenal career but tonight it is hard to do so. His goal was reminiscent of the great man in his time at Arsenal. Cutting in from the wing he drove at his man before curling a shot into the far corner with deadly accuracy. His confidence has grown hugely lately and the run in the side has done him the world of good. Next season the lad must get more games in the side from the start as he can provide us with a pace and drive we lack at times. He stretches teams and invariably picks the right pass.
Adebayor and Bendtner do not get on, that is clear. However, tonight they worked well together and Ade managed to get his second hat trick of the season against Derby. All his goals showed something different. The first was a real poacher’s goal and the second calmness in front of goal. Some brilliant passing football eventually led to Walcott feeding Ade from out wide. A Sliding finish put the icing on the cake of yet another fantastic move.
To add more comical value, Eboue joined Ade in a dance; well I assume that’s what one calls their pendulum movements. If they were mocking Earnshaw as I suspected, they did very well to choreograph it so well so soon after. I rather suspect there has been some rehearsing going on. It does seem Eboue adds a light hearted feel to the squad but he can do this from the bench. His first contribution with success was this little dance.
His second was exactly the same, just a different dance after Ade’s sixth against Derby this season. It was simp ly too easy for the big man as he jogged clear, rounded the keeper and slotted home. It was well and truly job done and rounded off with a merry jig.
The players have rediscovered their best play now the season is up. It is laying down a marker for next season and tonight we showed a far more clinical side to our play which I hope we can take into next season. Wenger has some options for the side next year and hopefully we can continue in this manner in the rest of the run in, during the summer and into next season.