ARSENAL BOSS Arsene Wenger predicted a difficult game after his chastened Gunners returned from a bitter European experience in the Ukraine to face bottom club Derby - and he was proved right as his side were held to a goalless draw by Derby.
The Gunners surrendered their 100 per cent home League record and slipped two points adrift of leaders Manchester United as Jim Smith's dogged team, still seeking their first win of the campaign, erected an impenetrable barrier on a day when Arsenal's four celebrated strikers could not find a scoring touch between them.
And it could have been a great deal worse for Wenger's team if Derby's Rory Delap, Darryl Powell and Malcolm Christie had taken the chances presented to them by a sluggish defence still bearing the scars of a 3-0 defeat in Donetsk.
Derby have not won at Highbury for 11 years but encounters between the two sides are invariably close and so it proved again despite Arsenal's mountain of possession.
The hard-earned point enabled the battling Rams to climb off the foot of the table and in the end they deserved it for courage alone. In the second half it was virtually a procession towards the Derby goal as Arsenal probed and pummelled a blanket defence but the normally lethal Thierry Henry spurned their only genuine chance when put clean through by fellow Frenchman Sylvain Wiltord.
And a perfect tackle by new England squad recruit Seth Johnson denied the former Juventus and Monaco flier when he had the goal in his sights again just before the end, swooping onto substitute Kanu's adroit pass.
There was one last chance when Wiltord went down in the box following a clash with heroic goalkeeper Mart Poom but referee Steve Lodge, as had been the case most of the afternoon, saw the incident Derby's way and ruled it an accidental collision.
The jeers of 37,000 home fans at the end were as much for the official - who allowed an extraordinary amount of blatant time-wasting - as in frustration.
Derby started with five at the back and pulled everyone behind the ball whenever danger threatened but having seen off Arsenal's unconvincing early assault they went on to carve out by far the better chances in the first half.
Wiltord was denied twice early on, first by the impressive Lilian Martin's block and then by Poom's flying tip-over save after Fredrik Ljungberg's pass set up a ferocious shot from 18 yards.
But Henry highlighted his current patch of poor form in the first half with a bad miss from Bergkamp's clever chip, failing to control the ball sufficiently eight yards out and giving Poom the opportunity to bravely throw his body in the way.
And after that Derby gradually found some belief in their own ability to break out and construct penetrating attacks.
Martin Keown had to clear from the line after veteran keeper John Lukic was lured from his line but was beaten to the ball by Christie whose cross picked out the head of Delap.
Then the Republic of Ireland international struck the top of the bar from four yards when it seemed easier to score after Arsenal failed to deal with Martin's free-kick which ping-ponged around the goalmouth.
Manager Jim Smith was ranting and raving on the touchline in frustration when skipper Darryl Powell wastefully shot wide of the far post when muscling past Oleg Luzhny onto Christie's pass.
And with Arsenal failing to respond with any real vigour, Powell was presented with another opening by Martin's fine cross after the Frenchman again got the better of Silvinho, but this time his header went over the top.
Arsenal's apparent lack of urgency wasted a ton of possession and neither Henry nor the energetic Wiltord could find productive routes through a heavily-populated defence in a frustrating first half.
And the complacency spread to their defensive work early in the second period when Keown's blunder let in Christie who outpaced Gilles Grimandi but dragged his shot wide with only Lukic to beat.
This latest escape finally galvanised Arsenal into more productive action and smart work by Bergkamp provoked first Henry and then Wiltord to fire firm drives narrowly over.
And it looked like turning Arsenal's way when the lively Christie had to limp off in the 54th minute.
Just before the hour, though, the hapless Henry spurned their most blatant opportunity so far when sent clean through by compatriot Wiltord. The normally deadly striker shovelled a miserable shot wide of the target with Poom completely unprotected.
And although Derby were hanging on by their bootlaces at the death, not even the wiles of Kanu, who snatched a last-gasp winner in an FA Cup tie against Derby two seasons ago, could unhinge the defiance of Smith's gallant men.
Click here to listen to Jim Smith's post-game interview