Apologies for the lateness of the report. But it`s been a week of celebration for the good ship Stillman and as is usually the case following an evening of raucous celebration, I`ve awoken in foreign territory. Nick Hornby writes at length in Fever Pitch about the fortunes of Arsenal becoming intricately linked with his own personal fortunes and whether or not this is a psychosomatic symptom of the obsessive. It`s a theme I have had occasion to revisit on these pages and one that rises inescapably to mind this week. Arsenal top both of their respective leagues following hefty victories at our much loved neighbours, as well as the midweek crushing of Seville in the same week that my sister announces an engagement, doubles her salary at work, I get myself a new job on the same day that Jose Mourinho loses his. So the nerves were really not forthcoming upon my arrival in the Arsenal Tavern early yesterday afternoon, for what was always a home banker.
Arsenal began the match very much in second gear. But second gear would always be enough against a Derby side who, and I apologise to any Rams` sympathisers, were quite embarrassing. Dean Leacock and Claude Davis in the back four had more leaks than a rusty colander, whilst the front two of Kenny Miller and Stephen Howard had less teeth than Shane McGowan. So it was inevitable when Arsenal took an early first half lead, Abou Diaby cut in from the left hand side, side stepped two Derby defenders before unleashing an unstoppable right footed drive in off the post and into the top corner. It was perhaps the only goal we scored yesterday that Stephen Bywater could have done nothing about. Oddly enough, as Diaby shimmied past the stricken Rams` backline, the `shoooooooooot` brigade were conspicuous in their silence. Yet, to my right, Jon, usually as fond as I am of mocking said vocal chorus, was heard to cry, "have a f*****g dig." It proved to be sound advice.
It was not long before Arsenal added a second. Toure`s searching ball sliced through the ramshackle Rams defence with an ease usually reserved for knives through butter, and Adebayor skipped around Bywater before slotting into an empty net. The game surrendered itself as a spectacle from that point on, with Derby doing a poor impression of a damage limitation exercise. Diaby nearly produced a carbon copy of his earlier effort, sidestepping a Davis challenge, but Bywater beat out his low drive from the edge of the area. Around me, conversation between supporters broke out with this corpse of a match struggling to hold the attention of some. (Not me, I might add).
The second half began in an errant manner, until Claude Davis tugged Eduardo`s shirt in the penalty area as the Crozilian shaped to shoot. The tug looked to be a gentle one, and a harsh penalty, but to the letter of the law it was a correct award. Adebayor stepped up to slot the penalty home low to Bywater`s left. A note of concern would be that all of Adebayor`s penalties thus far have been replicas of one another and goalkeepers tend to be conscientious students of this kind of thing. Kolo Toure came close to adding a fourth, charging forward to meet Fabregas` right wing cross, but heading just wide. It would have been a richly deserved goal for a man playing out of his skin (but then again, doesn`t he always?)
With twenty minutes remaining, a small capsule of our current fortune arrived in glorious Technicolor. Cesc Fabregas picked up a pass from another surging Toure run, arrowed it goal wards and it swept in off of Bywater`s fingertips. Needless to say, last season, Bywater`s butter wrists would have been sufficient to turn the ball around the post. While Fabregas enjoys the purple patch of his career, it`s worth remembering that fortune is a fickle mistress, it can desert you as quickly and deftly as it finds you. Let`s hope Fabregas` rotten luck in front of goal last year, sees fortune recredit his account accordingly.
It was his last contribution of the match, as he was replaced by Denilson. Mathieu Flamini was replaced as well, and I`ve a feeling the standing ovation he received was not solely out of good will with the team four nil up. His contribution was outstanding again and I reiterate, Gilberto will have his work cut out getting back in there. Another bread and butter long ball found Adebayor, he muscled the hapless Dean Leacock off the ball, chesting it down before collecting his composure to steer into the corner for his first Arsenal hat trick. In the end it was a resounding win that will swell the already sky high confidence of this side, but ultimately, Derby will be on the end of these score lines with impunity I fear. It was men against boys at times, and I have seen Arsenal play better and lose. The Rams looked beaten before the first whistle, but Arsenal did exactly what they had to do. With news of Liverpool being held at home to Birmingham, it proved to be a most satisfying end to a glorious week.LD.