Arsenal vs Reading: Gunners looking to stay in race for 4th
Two ends of the league table and two entirely different reasons. Both clubs come into this fixture and will be willing to take full points. Among the few remaining league fixtures that Arsenal have to play this season, Reading would seem to be a cake walk compared to many others, especially considering they host run-away leaders, Manchester United, at the Emirates Stadium in April. Though they are on course for an eighth trophy-less season, a fourth, or for the less pessimistic Arsenal supporters, even a third place finish is in sight.
Statistically, Arsenal have lost just one of their last seven games, despite being dumped out of the Champions League and the FA Cup. Also the Gunners are unbeaten against Reading in their last 11 meetings, although Arsenal have a number of key players out due to injury.
Reading are on a five match losing streak and will see former Southampton boss, Nigel Adkins, take charge at the Madejski Stadium for the first time since Brian McDermott was sacked. Reading are currently 27 points behind the home team and have conceded more goals than any other team in the top-flight this season.
In their previous two meetings this season, Arsenal have netted 12 goals against The Royals, with Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla netting an hat-trick in both the games, though the England international will miss the game after picking up a knock during training on international duty.
Nigel Adkins is indeed a queer choice to replace Brian McDermott, considering he had been in charge of fellow relegation strugglers, Southampton. Adkins’ sacking from the St. Mary’s was rather unceremonious considering the Saints had only two of their previous 12 games back then.
Midfielder Abou Diaby has been ruled out for the rest of 2013 with ligament damage in his left knee.
Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere will also miss the game.
Kieran Gibbs will face a last moment fitness test, after being hit by a virus. On the other hand, Lukas Podolski and Bacary Sagna are fully-fit and available for selection.
“Wojciech has a great future. He is a very young goalkeeper. You do not find very many goalkeepers at his age who have the experience he has already, that is why I believe he has a great future, but he lives in a world where competition exists”, the Arsenal manager was quoted saying in favor of Wojciech Szczesny.
Out-of-favour number one, Wojciech Szczesny, will also be eyeing a recall, while captain Thomas Vermaelen will also be expected to make his case in the center of the defense after losing his spot to Laurent Koscielny.
In the Reading camp, Nigel Adkins could field Russian hitman Pavel Pogrebnyak, who is available after serving his 3 match suspension.
Former Arsenal goalkeeper, Steve Taylor, could deputize for Adam Federici who has been sidelined with ankle injury.
Midfielder Jimmy Kebe faces a late fitness test, while forward Jason Roberts has been ruled out for the trip to Arsenal.
Arsenal (Possible, 4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Jenkinson; Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Ramsey; Giroud.
Reading (Possible, 4-1-4-1): Taylor; Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte; Leigertwood; McCleary, Robson-Kanu, McAnuff, Karacan; Pogrebnyak