Kanu and Derby's Jacob Laursen battle for posession.

Overmars just over-runs Petit's through ball.

Goal-scorer Anelka hurdles Carbonari's challenge.

ARSENAL vs Derby County
1 - 0
Attendance : 37,323

By David Alexander

Maybe we've been spoilt after 11 goals in the last couple of games.

With Arsenal on fire since the defeat against Manchester United two weeks ago, the fans were expecting an avalanche of goals.

And despite the evident gap in class between the sides, Derby have never been trounced at Highbury, losing seven of the last league meetings by a slender margin.

Nicolas Anelka's early strike was enough to settle it and take us back up to the top of the table.

Latching onto Ray Parlour's finely-executed through-ball, he beat the Derby offside trap and fired into the far corner.

That should have calmed the nerves and allowed us to go on and turn the slight goal-difference deficit into an advantage.

But, whether it was the weather, a midweek of exhausting and mainly meaningless internationals, or the heat on a particularly clammy London day, the Gunners never got moving.

Too often we were second to the ball, unaware of opponents running in, limited to long range efforts or ambitious shots which would never come off.

Wenger admitted a rare case of nerves may have been to blame. He said: "We had problems with our passing and we were nervous.

"The players told me it was very hot and maybe the first heat went into their legs, but we finished really tired.

"We did not make decisions quickly enough. We needed that special strength at the back but in the end, it's three points, three important points.

"Derby know how to lose 1-0 here and they never let us score a second goal."

While Kanu still showed why he has become a crowd favourite in his short time at the club, few others can take much credit from the game.

There was a sense that they didn't want to do more than was necessary, preserving themselves for the Tottenham derby in midweek.

That in itself is a dangerous ploy, willing the opposition to come forward in the hope of exposing gaps at the back.

Those openings did present themselves, though the normally reliable Marc Overmars rarely showed his usual magic and those in his support fared no better.

No Arsenal players were booked, a surprising statistic considering the pace of the modern game, and even more so with so much at stake.

And the Highbury faithful could sense it to. No one wanted to get stuck in, no one wanted to chase and harry in the manner we have come to expect.

It could have proved costly at the end. Paolo Wanchope had the ball in the back of the net, only for the effort to be disallowed for offside, and later the Costa Rican striker was denied by David Seaman when through.

It was indicative of the sloppiness of the Arsenal players that although the rousing chanting seemed to do little to raise their game, few fans left before the final whistle.

United will not tremble after a performance like this, but as Wenger added: "It's very open now."

AFCi's Newsroom is brought to you by the official Arsenal FC Magazine
Subscribe Now