Match Preview: Arsenal vs Reading
Location: Emirates Stadium, Ashburton Grove, Drayton Park, London, England, United Kingdom
Kick-off: Saturday, 30th March 2013, 1500 GMT, 2030 IST
Referee: Chris Foy, Linesmen: DC Richards, S Beck, Fourth Official: Mark Halsey
The Barclays Premier League resumes after the international break this weekend and this Saturday, Arsenal face Reading at the Emirates Stadium.
There are only a handful of games left this season and with sand running out of the proverbial hourglass, this game is a potential six-pointer. Arsenal need the three points to shrink the gap between themselves and fourth place while Reading find themselves in the midst of a relegation quagmire and new boss Nigel Adkins knows how important a win will be both in terms of morale and points.
16/03/2013: Swansea City, 2-0 (A), Barclays Premier League
13/03/2013: Bayern Munich, 2-0 (A), UEFA Champions League
03/03/2013: Tottenham Hotspur, 1-2 (A), Barclays Premier League
23/02/2013: Aston Villa, 2-1 (H), Barclays Premier League
19/02/2013: Bayern Munich, 1-3 (A), UEFA Champions League
Although the above list of fixtures might not reflect it, Arsenal have recently hit decent form in the Premier League. Their loss in the North London Derby aside, Arsenal have won four of their five previous league games.
With a game in hand over fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur and just four points separating the two sides, Saturday represents an opportunity for the Gunners to make their bitter rivals sweat. In addition, the gap between themselves and second-placed Chelsea is only five points while defending champions Manchester City have won three games more.
The last time Arsenal met Reading was at the Madejski Stadium in the Premier League when they racked up their second 5-2 scoreline of the league on the 17th of December, their first away from home. On that night, Santi Cazorla grabbed a hat-trick after Lukas Podolski opened the scoring. Jimmy Kebe and Adam le Fondre gave the hosts some hope of a comeback but Theo Walcott put paid to that happening.
The Gunners faithful will remember the first time their team went to Berkshire this season. Trailing 4-0 courtesy strikes from Jason Roberts, Mikele Leigertwood, Stephen Hunt and a Laurent Koscielny own goal, Walcott sparked a comeback by scoring just before the stroke of half-time before Arsene Wenger’s men put three past the Royals as Walcott and Giroud scored two more and Koscielny made up for his earlier arrears to force the game into extra time.
But the goal glut didn’t end there. Arsenal took the lead for the first time in the game in the 103rd minute through Marouane Chamakh only for Pavel Pogrebnyak to equalise before Walcott completed his hat trick and Chamakh scored a second to finally seal the game.
The last time Reading faced Arsenal at the Emirates was in 2008. Goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Gilberto Silva put the tie to bed.
16/03/2012: Manchester United, 0-1 (A), Barclays Premier League
09/03/2012: Aston Villa, 1-2 (H), Barclays Premier League
02/03/2012: Everton, 1-3 (A), Barclays Premier League
23/02/2012: Wigan Athletic, 0-3 (H), Barclays Premier League
18/02/2012: Manchester United, 1-2 (A), FA Cup
Reading’s form of late is woeful. They are yet to win a game since the second of February when they beat Sunderland at home. Having failed to pick up any points since then, that awful run of games has seen the sacking of manager Brian McDermott, with Nigel Adkins, himself recently released from Southampton, pushed into the limelight.
Signed in the international break by Reading owner Anton Zingarevich, the Russian will be hoping the man he has recruited will pull the Royals clear of the relegation dogfight they find themselves in. Given Adkins’ miracles with Southampton, he surely looks to fit the bill in Berkshire.
But Reading’s recent form against Arsenal will do the ex-Saints boss few favours. His new side have not won against the Gunners in eleven previous visits but he is quite optimistic that Reading can be twelfth time lucky.
The Gunners’ England international duo of Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott are both out for this game with ankle and hip injuries keeping them out for the short term. Injury-prone midfielder Abou Diaby is expected to be out for another nine months with an anterior cruciate ligament tear and Kieran Gibbs is ill.
But Arsene Wenger can call on the services of Bacary Sagna and Lukas Podolski, both of whom are fit for this game. The Frenchman has maintained that a few players might face the axe this summer if they do not live up to expectations.
Squad (from): Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen (c), Per Mertesacker, Nacho Monreal, Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Olivier Giroud, Lukasz Fabianski, Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Rosicky, Francis Coquelin, Yao Gervinho, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Andrei Arshavin, Vito Mannone
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal; Ramsey, Arteta, Cazorla; Podolski, Chamberlain, Giroud
New boss Nigel Adkins can welcome back Pavel Pogrebnyak after the Russia international served a three-match suspension. Former Arsenal keeper Stuart Taylor is likely to deputise in goal as Australian Adam Federici is out with an ankle complaint.
The game, however, comes too early for Jimmy Kebe who is sidelined with a groin problem while veteran striker Jason Roberts has a hip injury.
Squad (from): Stuart Taylor, Adrian Mariappa, Alex Pearce, Nicky Shorey, Stephen Kelly, Joby McAnuff, Mikele Leigertwood, Jem Karacan, Hal Robson-Kanu, Garath McCleary, Stephen Hunt, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Alex McCarthy, Chris Gunter, Ian Harte, Hope Akpan, Adam Le Fondre, Sean Morrison, Nick Blackman
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Taylor; Kelly, Harte, Mariappa, Shorey; Karacan, Leigertwood; McCleary, McCarthy, Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre
Arsenal: Lukas Podolski
With Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby all injured, it will be new fan favourite Lukas Podolski who will be required to shoulder the onus of his team’s attacking play. With 13 goals and nine from 29 starts out on the wing, the German international has been integral to Arsenal in his first season in London.
Reading: Nicky Shorey
Given Podolski’s penchant for switching flanks, it will be likely that he will be up against Shorey. The former England international is a solid defender and a potent attacking threat with an excellent set-piece delivery from both free-kicks and corners. Having been in this sort of situation before, he will need to be at his offensive and defensive best if Reading are to get anything out of this one.
Both sides need the three points for very different reasons. A relegation threatened side are always a dangerous proposition and if Arsenal do not approach this game with the right attitude, they could be in for an upset. If they do, however, three points should be in the bag.
Arsenal 3-0 Reading