Reading 2 Arsenal 5 – Nice and Easy!
Reading 2 (Le Fondre 66, Kebe 71) – Arsenal 5 (Podolski 14, Cazorla 32, 34, 60, Walcott 80)
Man of the Match - Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
The smiles have returned, finally. Steve Bould sported a smile, Theo Walcott sported a smile, Santi Cazorla sported a smile, I sported a smile, and more importantly, Arsene Wenger sported a smile.
Yes, it was only Reading, the worst team in the Premier League at the moment, but the feeling of a victory after such a depressing week comes as a major relief. The win takes us to 5th in the table, and now within touching distance of 4th spot, while Reading remain rooted to the bottom of the table.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski were the preferred front 3, as Olivier Giroud, just back from injury, was named on the bench. Also on the bench were Tomas Rosicky and Laurent Koscielny, still building on fitness after their returns from injuries. Gervinho was on the bench as well. Phew!
Chamberlain had the first go, when he literally robbed Cazorla and shot from outside the box, but Adam Federici made a fine save. Russian international Pavel Pogrebnyak got in behind the Arsenal defence, but wasn’t able to put a proper shot away. And moments later, Noel Hunt, saw his header just go over the post.
Arsenal took the lead in the 14th minute, when Kieran Gibbs played in a cross. Lukas Podolski took it down, and calmly slotted it past Federici. It was the German’s 8th goal of the season in all competitions. Arsenal missed further opportunities to score, first when Walcott had his shot blocked by Federici’s legs, and then Podolski’s shot went wide.
Arsenal were looking strong, and Wilshere forced another save from the Australian international, and Theo Walcott should have made it 2-0 when put through. It didn’t matter much, as Lukas Podolski crossed in from the left, and Santi Cazorla, of all people, the shortest man on the pitch, headed the ball home. The Spaniard couldn’t believe he had scored off his head.
Reading looked to pull back something when a McAnuff cross almost fell into the path of his teammate, but Thomas Vermaelen cleared the danger with a last ditch challenge.
Cazorla would add to his tally, when 2 minutes later, he turned and buried the ball into the net for Arsenal’s 3rd goal. Reading were surely out of this now.
The Gunners started the second half with the same flourish that they had ended the first with. Reading, however had tightened up. Walcott and Chamberlain were forced to shoot from long range. Arsenal added the fourth when Lukas Podolski got his hattrick of assists, his pinpoint cross met with a similar pinpoint finish from Santi Cazorla, with the goal open to score. It was the Spaniard’s first career hattrick.
However, Arsenal being Arsenal, almost handed the onus to Reading. Kieran Gibbs misplaced his pass, and Jack Wilshere slipped over, straining his groin in the process, allowing Le Fondre to round Wojciech Szczesny. 5 minutes later, more poor defending resulted in Jimmy Kebe slotting the ball past Szczesny into the corner of the net.
Thoughts of a comeback were well and truly on, and considering that the last time these two sides met, one team came back from 4-0 down to eventually draw in normal time, and win 7-5 in extra time, anything was possible.
But Arsenal made sure of the points when Walcott finished crisply with his left foot. It was the strikers 11th goal in all competitions, and surely an indicator to the manager that his future lied playing centrally.
Plenty of positives, then. Nothing better than a win to better your battered confidence. Cazorla and Podolski were impressive on the evening, while Walcott was crafty, as he got into some good positions, as well as created space for others by getting into some good positions.
Chamberlain worked hard all night, and looked like he is getting into his groove after a slow start to the season. Defensively, I think we still lack a bit of conviction. We conceded two sloppy goals against the 20th placed league team, and both were avoidable.
But, nothing can spoil the taste of a good win.