The way I see it - Arsenal v Derby County

Last updated : 21 September 2007 By Jason Hogan
I said that it would be a real feather in the cap for the Arsenal if we managed to beat Sevilla and I meant it. We didn't beat a pub team here by any stretch of the imagination on Wednesday. We beat a proper outfit that, on their day, are as good technically as any side across Europe right now.

I thought the final score was a touch flattering for us but given the opposition, I was more than glad to settle for it. It was a real credit to the lads that we kept a clean sheet against this lot and that Almunia was only really called up to make one decent save in the whole game.

Whilst Cesc once again played a hugely pivotal role in our success on the night I have to give a particular shout out to Mathieu Flamini, Adebayor and Bacary Sagna. These three guys epitomised the drive and purpose with which we played on the night.

Flamini looked to be a man on his way out of the club in the summer I thought but the boy has definitely come on a bit in the last few months. He has always been an unsung member of the squad but I detect that he has added an extra poise and assurance to his game that wasn't quite there in previous years and for me it has been there not just in our last two games but in pre season as well.

Adebayor was a menace up front all night long. The Sevilla defenders really never knew whether to mark him tight or drop off. What a pity he didn't get on the scoresheet particularly with the diving header from Sagna's cross. It would have been a belter of a goal.

And, what of young Sagna? In rugby terms, when commentators talk about a winger or a fleet footed centre they refer to them having a bit of gas. This boy has that and energy too. I remember the outrageous gallop he made up the field right at the death and I thought "Talk about perpetual motion".

Sagna has been a real find by Arsene and what I have liked about him most of all is that he is generally a neat and tidy defender who doesn't muck around in defensive situations and is not afraid to put the ball into row Z when necessary. Keep up the good work, Bacary. You are a star in the making.

Of course the other encouraging aspect of the night was the fact the Arsenal fans were out in force once again to watch the team play. Getting 59,000 through the door is no mean feat considering the widely held belief that we are a club in turmoil with a team in terminal decline, etc.

Indeed that way things are going, it's closer to the truth to say that the people that supposedly were in the know in this country had sent wrong scripts for this season to wrong clubs in London. We may have started the season as the butt of a lot of people's jokes up and down the country but there's no doubt that right here and now, it's not us that are the laughing stocks of the capital.

It's safe to say that Spurs now have an altogether different rivalry on their hands these days. It's not with us however, oh no. It's with West London's finest, none other than the PRF. Because when it comes to trying to outdo each other in the art of shooting themselves in the foot they are both definitely without equal in the capital right now.

I don't really need to spell out what I mean, my fellow Gooners and I don't want to start sounding off like a typical Tottenham fan that has to desperately resort to constantly using the occasional misfortunes of others in order to make themselves feel better about camouflaging the chronically consistent inadequacies of their own club.

What I will say as far the situation at Stamford Bridge is concerned, is that I for one will not miss Moaninho one bit. It was never the fact that he helped the PRF win a lot of pots over the last few years that has fazed me or upset me. It was the fact that, for me, he epitomised the deceit, arrogance and the sheer unscrupulous pretensions of a "club" that genuinely thought that they could fool ALL of the people ALL of the time while these trophies were being won (and still do).

In any case, I prefer to concentrate on what the Arsenal are doing and what our objectives are. I prefer to concentrate on the fact that we have got off to good start in the Champions League and that we are currently top of the league in spite of what is going on elsewhere not because of it.

This leads me nicely on to Saturday's league game at home to Premiership newcomers, Derby County.

It will have come as a huge relief to all at Pride Park to see Derby gain their first win in the Premiership at the sixth time of asking. A strike by new boy Kenny Miller was enough to see off Fat Sam's Magpies and anyone that saw Scotland's famous win against the French the other day will get an idea of what I mean when I say that it was a strike right out James McFadden's book.

It will ease the pressure a tad on manager Billy Davies though I'm not altogether sure how much. Never mind Moaninho, despite the things he has done for the Rams, Davies is another manager that appears to have a fractious relationship with his board and there are suggestions that some members of the board are just waiting for an excuse to get him out. Crazy or what?

All the same Davies and his men will at least come to The Grove in far better heart than when they went to Anfield and Shite Hart Lane and got a spanking. They will also come to The Grove that little bit older and wiser for those experiences as well.

For me there are two men we will need to watch out for. Kenny Miller and Rob Earnshaw can be lively performers on their day but one man I think we need to watch out for is Steve Howard.

Howard is not the quickest guy you have ever seen on a football pitch but he is nevertheless a typical old fashioned centre forward who is brilliant in the air and someone that knows where the goal is. We have to make sure that we do not give Derby to many opportunities to feed him with crosses or form set pieces because he is a threat in and around the box.

The other chap we will need to look out for is the ex-West Ham full back Tyrone Mears. He provides a pacy outlet for the Rams, loves to bomb forwards and put crosses in for Howard in particular to feed off. Not a player to be taken lightly.

It has been a very good week so far for the Arsenal but it will all count for nothing if we go and drop points at home to Derby. Whenever we have faced this lot at home in past Premiership fixtures it has invariably been very tight as a contest and it really wouldn't surprise me if that was the case on Saturday.

I was a fan of the band Madness when I was growing up and I remember reading an article on one of the band members, Mike Barson. He said that in music if you look after the thing strings, the fat strings look after themselves.

In other words, it's the little things that often count and if you take care of them a lot of other things will fall into place. That's why this game is test for us regardless of how it looks on paper. We know where we let ourselves down in the main last year - against the lesser teams. If we are going to mount a serious challenge for the title we have to take care of business in games like these.