Arsenal juggernaut hits the buffers: Arsenal 0 Derby 0

By Ian Grant

The Arsenal juggernaut came up against the Derby buffers. And stopped dead in it tracks. Was this the day Arsenal lost the title? No, but it shows opposing teams that if you get nine behind the ball on the small Highbury pitch, you can defy Arsenal at home. And even get three points. Derby had six clear chances – mostly breakaways. And should have scored at least one. It was a wet Highbury – the rain sheeting down in buckets, shifting patterns in the wind. Arsenal played Bergkamp on the right of midfield, with Ljungberg on the left. Henry and Wiltord paired up front. Birthday boy Grimandi played in the centre with a decidedly off form Martin Keown. Wiltord and Henry showed some neat early link-up play. Bergkamp, highly involved, had a shot, well saved by Poom. Ljungberg also worked himself a good chance. But Derby looked anything but relegation material, and fought for every ball. Colin Todd, no doubt had an influence beside the Regaine-needing Jim Smith. Lukic was slow coming off his line, and Keown saved the day. Then the ball fell to Delap six yards out. His shot hit the top of the crossbar. Powell broke clear and chose the wrong option firing across the goalmouth. He then had a flying header, which went narrowly over. The physicality of Martin and Delap seemed to have the beating of Silvinho on the left. At half-time – a half time cheated of around 20 seconds by ref Lodge, it would have been no surprise if Derby went in 1-0. Wiltord had a shot early in the second half. But again alarming gaps appeared in the Arsenal defence, as Kinkladze fired one in, saved by Lukic. Henry had three good chances, the best when put through by Wiltord – and with only Poom to beat he shot wide. The other two he dallied before shooting, leaving Derby players, including, man of the moment Seth Johnson, time to tackle. Grimandi went off injured, replace by Dixon. And Kanu came on for Ljungberg. But the frustration mounted. Dennis Bergkamp tried a curler. In 1998, it would have gone in. But two years is a long time in football. Parlour and Bergkamp both had shots saved by Poom. And the pattern continued. Delap had a chance near the end -but fired over. Maybe it was the Donetsk trip hangover. Maybe the two losses in quick succession. Most probably, a gritty well managed Derby County, who have said to themselves, enough is enough, and are willing to fight for every ball to ensure Premiership survival. Today was a good start for them. They deserved a point, at least. IG