Rampant Gunners wrap up third
Adebayor hat-trick earns Arsenal win
Arsenal secured third place in the Premier League as a second half hat-trick from substitute Emmanuel Adebayor earned a comfortable 6-2 victory over Derby at Pride Park.
The Gunners went into the contest well aware that three points against bottom club Derby would guarantee a third place finish, but this was not evident as Arsene Wenger's side started without their trademark flair for eye-catching football.
However, against the run of play, it was Arsenal who took the lead on 25 minutes as Rams centre-back Darren Moore was guilty of dallying on the edge of his own box and Robin van Persie promptly set up Nicklas Bendtner for a simple finish.
But Arsenal's lead lasted only six minutes as Robbie Savage swung in a wicked free-kick from the left and, after winning the initial header, James McEveley prodded in from close range.
Moore, though, was again the guilty party in the 39th minute as he attempted in vain to claim offside as Van Persie latched onto a precisely lofted ball from Kolo Toure to fire past Roy Carroll on the half-volley.
After the interval, Arsenal turned on the style and added a third as Adebayor - who came on for the injured Van Persie at the break - tapped in from close range on 59 minutes.
Derby, though, fought back as substitute Robert Earnshaw slotted past Lukasz Fabianski with composure on 77 minutes, but the strike only appeared to anger Arsenal as Theo Walcott deservedly got his name on the score sheet on 78 minutes and shortly after Adebayor added his second.
And deep into injury-time Adebayor ensured he was taking the match ball home with him as he rounded Carroll to secure third place with ease.
The Rams began more purposefully of the two teams and Emanuel Villa only just failed to connect with Tyrone Mears' inviting low cross before Mile Sterjovski's drive took a major deflection off Alex Song beyond the wrong-footed Fabianski, only for the ball to creep past the right post.
It was hardly the start Wenger would have hoped for as the Gunners struggled to find their rhythm and they could count themselves fortunate when Villa's bullet header flew just over.
But the Rams paid for their profligacy in the 25th minute when Moore's mistake gave the ball to Bendtner, who played a one-two with Van Persie, before coolly slotting the ball into the left corner.
And soon Derby had the equaliser they deserved as Savage's inswinging free-kick landed on the six-yard line and McEveley reacted first to hook home.
Cesc Fabregas extended Carroll with a ferocious shot from the edge of the area and the ball was cleared.
But the defensive deficiencies that have blighted Jewell's side were apparent again when Van Persie had all the time in the world to chest down Toure's floated pass and volley home in style.
The goal proved to be the striker's final telling act of the game as he was replaced by Adebayor at the break as the Dutchman was struggling with a tight hamstring.
Derby's brave first-half performance appeared to have taken its toll as the Gunners' pace and movement began to stretch tiring legs.
Twice Toure, again playing at right-back, fired over, the second opportunity created by Fabregas' brilliant backheel.
Again the Rams had Carroll to thank in the 58th minute when he saved superbly with his feet from Adebayor, but there was nothing he could do to deny the Togo international a minute later.
Walcott took full advantage of Alan Stubbs' slip to cut the ball back to Eboue, who gave Adebayor the simplest of finishes.
All too easy
Walcott should have made it four when he was slid through by Bendtner but the teenager's indifferent finishing was again apparent as he fired wide.
By now it was looking all too easy for the Gunners as they toyed with the home side, creating chances at will.
But the Rams reduced the deficit to just a single goal with effectively their first attack of the second period, substitute Earnshaw opening his right foot up to stroke beyond Fabianski.
Yet within a minute the two-goal cushion was restored, Gael Clichy pinging a pinpoint pass to Walcott wide on the left before the youngster cut inside and curled into the top-right corner.
Adebayor grabbed another poacher's goal, sliding to convert another Clichy assist with 10 minutes remaining before he wrapped up his hat-trick from an acute angle in added time.
Derby County Team Statistics Arsenal
2 Goals 6
1 1st Half Goals 2
4 Shots on Target 10
2 Shots off Target 9
6 Blocked Shots 3
5 Corners 6
8 Fouls 8
1 Offsides 5
0 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
70.4 Passing Success 86.8
26 Tackles 23
80.8 Tackles Success 73.9
36.9 Possession 63.1
50.2 Territorial Advantage 49.8