Arsenal 4-1 Reading: Five talking points
Arsenal continued their onslaught on the top 4 by cruising to an extraordinarily comfortable 4-1 victory over Reading at the Emirates. Gervinho, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud put the Gunners 3-0 ahead, but Reading pulled one back through Robson-Kanu’s header which gave them a fighting chance, before Mikel Arteta killed the game off with a superbly taken penalty, after the substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was tripped at the edge of the box just moments after coming on.
The home side are now just two points behind fourth placed Chelsea, while Reading remain mired deep inside the relegation zone, now at the foot of the table due to an inferior goal difference, seven points from safety.
Five talking points from the game are:
Reading’s defending gifted the Gunners the victory on a silver platter
The Royals new manager Nigel Adkins watched haplessly from the sidelines, as his side constantly gave the ball away to the home side in dangerous situations, under little to no pressure at all. The likes of Leigertwood, Pearce and Mariappa constantly misplaced their passes, which only invited the likes of Cazorla and Gervinho to bombard the Royals defence. The latter should’ve at least scored a hat-trick, while the former took his goal beautifully, but should have never been allowed so much time on the ball.
Adrian Mariappa’s mis-pass directly led to Chamberlain running at the defence, and he needlessly tripped the Arsenal youngster to give away a penalty. The away side’s defence also didn’t do much to protect Stuart Taylor’s goal, as they were easily overrun and allowed Mikel Arteta too much time and space to assert his authority in midfield. Taylor couldn’t do much about the goals, but did pull of some decent saves to save his side the blushes.
Gervinho was the Man of the Match
In his first start in four months, the Ivory Coast international looked like a man possessed. He nudged in Cazorla’s slight mishit to open the proceedings at the Emirates, and didn’t look back after that. The visitors could not handle his constant bombardment of the defence, his resourcefulness and his work-rate. Gervinho dovetailed with Cazorla to devastating effect, and was at the heart of nearly everything positive Arsenal did.
He also supplied the assists for Cazorla’s and Giroud’s goals, and was a constant thorn in the Royals defence for his entire spell on the pitch. However, there were several moments of the ‘old Gervinho’, when he failed to capitalise on numerous chances, and ideally he should have bagged a hat-trick. If the Gunners had dropped points, the fingers would have definitely been pointed at the Ivorian.
At the end, he departed to a standing ovation from the home faithful, something that he will want to get accustomed to.
Cazorla-Gervinho partnership was extremely fruitful
Santi Cazorla has been Arsenal’s star player since his summer move from Malaga, and has settled into the task quite seamlessly. Cazorla’s importance is even greater in the absence of the prodigal Jack Wilshere, and combined almost telepathically with Gervinho against Reading. Cazorla’s goal made him Arsenal’s top scorer in the league this season, ahead of Walcott.
Cazorla’s brilliance shone throughout the game, as his defence splitting passes often landed right at the foot of Gervinho and the others. The two worked in tandem to unseat a shaky defence, but will have tougher opposition down the road, especially the clashes against Everton and Manchester United.
He was the fulcrum for most of Gervinho’s forays into the Reading penalty area and also forced the defence to make numerous mistakes. He’s probably been Arsenal’s best signing since Cesc Fabregas.
Arsenal hitting top gear?
Both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur seem to be stuttering over to the finish line, having been hit-and-miss in recent weeks. Spurs lost two on the bounce before today’s victory, while Chelsea lost at Soton and also face a fixture pile-up. On the other hand, the Gunners have won six of their last eight league games, including three on the bounce, and face a far easier run-in period than their London rivals, with contests against Everton and United the toughest remaining.
The team is playing well, if not exceptionally, and their midfield is really carrying them up the table. Arteta successfully completed an incredible 99 out of 107 passes against the Royals, while Cazorla was at his majestic best. These two will be looked upon to lead the side through this testing phase, as Arsene Wenger is looking for a 17th consecutive top 4 finish. The absences of Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott will be a blow, but it is something that can be dealt with. The Gunners need to be mentally tough to reach the top 4.
Mental fortitude will be the key, and also provided that their defence doesn’t crumble under pressure like it usually does. The goalkeeping position is a bit weak at this point, and Wenger will be eager to make sure his side focuses on avoiding mistakes like Nacho Monreal’s blunder, which directly led to the Reading consolation.
Adkins faces Mission Impossible
Reading is a team in hopeless disarray, having just fired its manager, and now finds itself at the foot of the Barclays Premier League table. Adkins faces an uphill task to ensure survival for Reading, now seven points from safety. The Royals have also lost their last six league games, and morale is at an all-time low. Adkins will have to earn his team’s respect fast, considering Brian McDermott’s standing at the Madjeski stadium.
He will have to fix the leakages of the defence, as the game against Arsenal once again showcased the disastrous defending of the visitors. They need to also learn to hold the ball better and attack with some intent, instead of giving it away softly. They still have to face sides close to them in the table like Soton and QPR, so all hope is not lost yet. They need results immediately, starting next week against Southampton, or they can kiss their stay in the top flight goodbye.