Arsenal 4-1 Reading: Match Review
A promising match for the neutrals, after Manchester United pipped Sunderland to quell their demons, this one seemed promising. And it delivered eventually, after Arsenal scored 4 goals, with Reading managing 1. Of a total of five goals, at least three were remarkable, others being a penalty and a Gervinho finish. Arsenal pushed up on the points, staying put in 5th, but closer to Chelsea after the Blues lost to Southampton and dropped points. Tottenham, hoverer, pulled themselves together to beat Swansea 2-1.
Arsenal were low on resources, at least the important ones, with Theo Walcott out with a groin strain, Jack Wilshere suffering an ankle knock, Kieran Gibbs out with a virus and Abou Diaby ruled out for the next nine months. Fabianski started in goal yet again, after Szczesny not being in Wenger’s good books, especially after his father blurted out unimpressive feedback. Thomas Vermaelen was benched again, adding some weight to the rumour of a possible fallout. Per Mertesacker, Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal were the back line for the day; dependable, at least by Reading standards. Tomas Rosicky made the start, in addition to Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla, immediately promising an orchestrated midfield. Olivier Giroud and Gervinho were the target men for the evening. Gervinho, who scored the last time round too, had almost nothing to lose given the lowly record of the opposition.
Reading weren’t in the pink of health, even though Nigel Adkins was lifting the players a bit. But given their horrible statistic of letting in 57 goals, the most in the league, they couldn’t have been too happy going in to game at the Emirates. With striker Pavel Pogrebnyak finally available after the three match ban and Robson-Kanu, the strike force looked decent, hoping for advantage in the air with the indecisive Arsenal backline. Stuart Taylor, former Arsenal trainee replaced Adam Federici in goal, given his ankle problems. Midfielder Jimmy Kébé and forward Jason Roberts are still undergoing treatment. The infamous back line consisted of Shorey, Pearce, Mariappa and Kelly. Karacan, Leigertwood and McAnuf were in the middle, with Karacan expected to make the occasional thrust forward along with Guthrie.
The Emirates was relatively full, and this marked the start of the campaign for fourth place. Arsenal had to win this one, if they were to pose questions later to the ones above them in the table. Reading were on the back-foot, as expected, and Arsenal tapped the ball around impatiently. At 10 minutes, Gervinho, who was not really in the thick of things, saw an opening and charged through, to catch a low Cazorla cross and bundle it in the net. Arsenal had drawn first blood and Reading were still getting used to the idea of possession. Arsenal kept pressing for the second one, but they managed to wreck their chances themselves, with the usual suspects at fault. Gervinho hasn’t been a hit so far, but still, the number of chances he fluffed certainly caused heavy shifting of feet.
Promising balls met with half-baked passes and died down soon enough. Reading too were looking a little wary of moving up too fast and rendering themselves powerless on the counter. But too defensive means no goals, and Reading didn’t seem like a team which needed points desperately to stay afloat.
Come second half, Arsenal were up by two almost immediately, after Santi Cazorla was laid off by none other than the marauding Gervinho, and he calmly curled it past the keeper’s reach, low into the right corner. Again, Gervinho may have been slower than he should have been, but he didn’t lose the ball. The notable thing being the lack of aggressive repulsion from the Reading players, who simply backed off while Gervinho rolled the ball around. Pogrebnyak was replaced by Hunt at the hour mark.
The third goal came from Giroud’s boot, again assisted by Gervinho. In the 66th minute, Giroud found some space to the left of the Royals’ keeper and he let a low one rip, which should have been ideally saved. Gervinho had found the ball in his own half, post a wayward pass, and cantered to the other end before feeding the striker. Almost instantly, Reading were on the other end of the pitch, with a cross leaving the backline stranded and Monreal hurt. Hal Robson-Kanu dived low to meet McAnuff’s cross, and Monreal was on his wrong side. Arsenal were robbed of a clean sheet again at home, but nothing’s new there.
Gibbs then came on for Monreal, marking his comeback after the layoff, followed by Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who replaced Giroud and Gervinho. Chamberlain was quick to make his mark, and was brought down outside the area by the retreating Mariappa. The referee was quick to pull the trigger and pointed to the spot, which Mikael Arteta dutifully converted at 77 minutes. Arsenal were up by 3, and almost home. For the Royals, McCleary came on for Robson-Kanu and Karacan went off for Akpan.
Arsenal were already believing that fourth place would be a cinch, and tried their ‘perfect goal’ routine. A beautifully lobbed ball found Rosicky behind the defence, and instead of a finish, he was happier trying to lay Podolski off for the final touch, but fluffed it before the last touch. In the end, Arsenal won 4-1, as many had predicted, and they did look the hungrier of the two. Deserved victory for the Gunners and the Royal need to reverse-engineer their season.