Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday April 29 2008
The last three times Arsenal have finished their home campaign against Everton have seen us twice seal league titles and win 7-0 on the other occasion. West Ham denied United the title in memorable fashion in 1995. The last time Arsenal won the Premiership (where did we seal that again?), we were aided and abetted by a Chelsea defeat at St. James' Park. We have twice curtailed Sunderland's home campaign with 4-0 and 3-0 victories respectively. So there you see, history GUARANTEES we will finish the season as Champions!
While we will obviously secure the league title with wins against Everton and Sunderland, Derby have been the most woeful top flight team in history. Having been awash with money troubles, the Derby board have not really made much attempt to provide the sort of financial backing needed to keep Derby up. They've been prepared to take the money and run, which, given how much Sunderland have spent to barely keep their heads above water, you can understand. We arrived at Prode Park quite early. As we sat on our coach at around six thirty, to our East and West were clear skies. To the left the sky was cherry red as the sun dipped beneath the horizon. To the right, a bruised dusk scenery. But seemingly only above Pride Park, a torrential rain shower enveloped the ground. A neat a poetic image as one could conjure for Derby's Premiership season.
The game began with Arsenal looking riddled with complacency, the tempo was slow and tackles were half hearted. Derby seemed determined to give it a go. Five minutes in, Arsenal created the first opportunity. Bedntner teased in a cross from the left which saw Eboue unmarked on the back post, but the Ivorian hooed a close range volley over when a header would have been the wiser option. Derby looked the better side thereafter and Mile Sterjovski's shot deflected agonisingly wide off of Alex Song. But just as Derby looked competitive, an horrendous error from Darren Moore, whose pass went straight to Bendtner, he played a smart one two with van Persie and the Dane buried the chance. Arsenal shoud have doubled the advantage minutes later. Walcott skipped in from the left and played in van Persie inexplicably curled wide on his left foot with the goal gaping.
The Gunners' lack of ruthlessness was punished after 31 minutes. Robbie Savage flighted in a free kick fromthe left, the ball dropped down in the area and Gallas unforgivably turned his back on it, leaving McEveley to notch an equaliser from close range. It wouldn't be Gallas' first error in what was comfortably his worst game in an Arsenal shirt. The goal was enough to awake Arsenal from their complacent slumber and were soon ahead again. Toure hit another clipped cross from the right, identical to the one that set up Adebayor against Reading last week, van Persie controlled and hit a rising volley into the roof of the net. van Persie seemed to be moving gingerly thereafter and came off at half time. van Persie's injury situation is getting beyond a joke now, we literally cannot get twoand a half games from him. The medical staff have to ask serious questions as to whether this recurring thigh problem is their incompetence in diagnosis or van Persie's body not being up to competitive sport.
The second half was little more than a saunter. Adebayor, on at half time, almost made an instant impact. Villa tried to cynically break up play by feigning injury in his own half, for once Arsenal were not gullible enough to be taken in by it and Bendtner, playing impressively in a withdrawn role, played in Adebayor, but Carroll beat out his effort using his left foot. The third did arrive soon after. Denilson played in Walcott on the left, Theo jigged to the touchline and pulled back for Eboue, who scuffed his effort, but Adebayor was on hand for a tap in. After Derby fans had been serenading himwith a 'witty' variation on the 'give him the ball' chant, Ademade sure tolet the Derby fans know what he thought. The Derby support was predictably enraged, but if you're going to give it, be prepared totake it. The game became an attack versus defence training session from that point. But the Gunners took pity on their opponents with some woeful finishing. That disappointed me immensely, in the last two matches we couldhave wiped out United's goal difference but chose not to. Walcott went through on goal with no Derby defender in sight but curled his shot wide.
Walcott danced down the right and played in a delightful left wing cross which sat up beautifully on the volley, but Eboue confusingly elected not to shoot and the chance went begging. As the game became too easy, Arsenal decided to try and make it hard for themselves. Savage played a slide rule pass to Rob Earnshaw, which again left Gallas reeling and the extra terrestrial Earnshaw slotted past Fabianski. Arsenal were jogged from their slumber and Gilberto's cross field ball found Walcott on the left and Theo, unfazed by his earlier miss, swerved a sumptuous shot past Carroll. 'We only score when we want to' came the chant from the South Stand visiting section. I'm not sure if that was an endictment of Derby or us. Adebayor decided he had had enough of our profligacy and put a more reflective sheen on the scoreline with some clinical finishing. Firstlya flowing move saw Cesc play in the inspired Clichy on the left and he played in a low cross for another Ade tap in. Personally, I wanted to see Clichy take it on and help himselfto a well deserved goal. Oh well, he can score the goal that clinches us the title at the Stadium of Light. Adebayor and Eboue showed that they frequent the nightclubs of Croydon by stealing some of my trademark moves in the celebration. In typical Croydon style, the response from an onlooking Derby fan was to throw a bottle. Another Fabregas through ball saw Ade skip past Carroll to complete his hat trick. It was with some regret that we did not register double figures, but the unstoppable march to the title goes on.LD.
Date:Tuesday April 29 2008
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