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Reading 2 Arsenal 5

Reading 2 Arsenal 5

The Madejski Stadium isn`t a ground I will particularly miss if Reading are to be relegated. It might be local enough to mean that, even on a weeknight, the flexi sheet doesn`t take much of a hit in travelling to the stadium. But due to its location right out on the motorway and in the middle of nowhere, it`s one of the least accessible grounds in the country. Which just adds to its lack of character. I would hate for it to be my own team`s homeground. Accessing your ground, not via the pub or via a street, but via a traffic heavy junction on the motorway just ain`t cricket.

In any case, after a couple of pints at Paddington, we braved the 5 o` clock commuter rush for the short journey west. Another pair of pre match sharpeners in the Three Guineas had us in fine fettle before we took the decision not to brave the horrendously long queues for the bus from Reading station to the ground, a full six miles away. Instead we took a taxi through the impossibly heavy motorway traffic and to the Madejski car park-a-like stadium. Arsene sprung something of a surprise by electing to start Theo Walcott upfront, with Chamberlain and Podolski flanking him. It worked reasonably well, I think Theo did show an ability to hold the ball up I doubted he had. He often made unselfish runs to create space for teammates. But I`m not certain I`d trust it against stiffer opposition than Reading.

Arsenal looked on their game from the first minute, when Chamberlain collected the ball from Cazorla and forced Federici into a fine low save. Alas, Podolski was flagged offside for the rebound. The Gunners took the lead after 15 minutes. Signs that the nascent signs of a promising partnership between Podolski and Gibbs that flourished earlier in the season have reignited. Gibbs played a left wing cross to the front post which Podolski killed with his right foot, before lashing into the far corner with his left. A ruthless, clinical goal. The Royals were giving Arsenal the red carpet treatment and Cazorla`s slide rule pass had Walcott through on goal, but Federici stood up to his low slotted effort.

Wilshere had a bouncing volley batted away by the increasingly busy Federici after Gibbs` low cross ricocheted towards him. But the Gunners got a deserved second soon enough. Again, the move came down Arsenal`s left, this time Podolski was the provider, with a low clipped cross which Reading`s achingly poor defence allowed Cazorla to stoop and head home from close range. It was Walcott from the right that left Nicky Shorey in tatters in the League Cup encounter in October, but this time Arsenal`s left was slicing Reading to pieces. Gibbs` headed cross from the left found Cazorla in the area. The diminutive Spaniard was allowed time and space to control and turn, with a bobbled left footed effort bouncing into the net for 3-0.

Even a side as fond of capitulation as Arsenal were never going to let this one slip. At half time, I stumbled across the thinning pate of Charlie George in the away end, chatting affably with fans. It was almost too easy for Arsenal. Cazorla`s angled pass played Walcott in on the left hand side of the area. He turned the ball back across goal, but Mariappa hooked it off the line and into the grateful arms of Federici. Walcott then spun and shot narrowly wide from 20 yards. The visitors looked good for another goal and they got one when Wilshere`s pass found Podolski roaring into the area. He might have shot, but had the presence of mind to square the ball for Santi Cazorla to stroke home his hat trick. Cazorla is effectively right footed and managed a hat trick without once using his stronger foot.

It`s a salutary lesson for incompetently one footed players. Neither of Cazorla`s left footed efforts were terribly difficult, it`s true. But both were probably more difficult than the chance Wilshere passed up against Bradford because he wouldn`t shoot from five yards on his right. Competence on your weaker foot instantaneously makes you a more dangerous player. Cazorla would probably have lost both of his left footed goals had he wasted time fannying about trying to get the ball on his right foot. It`s so ridiculously easy to work yourself to a level of competence on two feet and I remain utterly astounded that so many professionals don`t do it.

The game, if anything, became too easy for Arsenal. There was a point in the second half where Mertesacker shanked a pass straight at the Reading back four and they conspired to simply hoof it straight back to him in the centre circle, with the added bonus of no midfield pressure as he looked to control the ball. However, as they are wont to do, Arsenal fell asleep and made the exceptionally simple a tad more complicated. Gibbs` sloppy pass failed to find Wilshere inside Arsenal`s half and Jay Tabb nicked in and played the ball to Adam Le Fondre. He rounded Szczesny to score. Minutes later, the quick feet of Robson Kanu found Jimmy Kebe, played onside by a snoozing Podolski, and he snaked his way through to slot the ball into the bottom corner. Nervous tension began to permeate the away end.

The locals didn`t seem entirely convinced of a comeback and took it all with good humour, "How sh*t must you be, we`re scoring at home!" they chanted. The reply, "How sh*t must you be, Chamakh scored two" was the caustic reply. The Reading fans responded with a chant of "Brian, sign him up" which the away support joined in with in concert. It was nice to hear some humour at an away match again after several weeks of terribly, terribly serious, humourless tantrums. Arsenal did the right thing to stem the tide and just kept the ball for a short period of time, draining the life from Reading legs.

You got the feeling Arsenal could score again with the flick of a switch and they did so. Cazorla again sent Walcott clear and he finished neatly with his left foot (note, he didn`t lose the chance by fart arsing about trying to get the ball back onto his right). Three times Arsenal have won 5-2 in 2012, Walcott has applied the finishing touch each time. Reading were poor opponents, it`s true. But they gave Manchester United a convincing scare at the Madejski recently and Arsenal seemed to have the simplicity of their game back. Reading gave them the time and the space, but the Gunners appeared to reconnect with their values again, which can hopefully build the confidence to produce more of the same in coming matches. LD.

READING: 1.FEDERICI, 24.CUMMINGS, 17.GORKKS, 6.MARIAPPA, 3.SHOREY, 16.TABB, 8.LEIGERTWOOD, 11.MacANUFF (c), 14.KEBE (12.McLeary `72), 10.HUNT (9.Le Fondre `61), 7.POGREBNYAK (17.Robson-Kanu `61). Unused: 2.Gunter, 5.Pearce, 24.Harte, 41.Taylor.

ARSENAL: 1.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 4.MERTESACKER, 5.VERMAELEN (c), 28.GIBBS, 8.ARTETA, 10.WILSHERE, 19.S.CAZROLA (22.Coquelin `82), 15.CHAMBERLAIN (16.Ramsey `74), 9.PODOLSKI, 14.WALCOTT (12.Giroud `85). Unused: 6.Koscielny, 7.Rosicky, 24.Mannone, 27.Gervinho.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday December 18 2012
Time: 9:08AM


A welcome bit of relief and the roots of some regained belief. There'll be tougher tests and the fact that we still don't know what our best formation is/should be while we're still experimenting almost halfway through the season suggests that we can't be over confident that we've found any positive consistency yet.
18/12/2012 09:31:00
What an absolute doddle. Couldn't have asked for a better fixture then again you never know with this team. No Gervinho or Ramsey in the team either, which definitely helped our fluency. We were on it from the start. Come on Arsenal just give Walcott the dosh.
18/12/2012 09:46:00
Ok, Ok, we can say its Reading and we should expect to beat em convincingly but that was a classy performance by the lads. From the first minute, we were chasing every ball, closing down the opponent, connecting passes and those lovely triangles. I also noticed we were playing outta the box and not hoffing the ball forward for knock downs. The boys were playing pretty confidently. Maybe the other team were so poor or we didn't have the pressure of playing in front of our fans, whichever. I'm really glad about the win. Well done Gunners!
18/12/2012 10:06:00
Could be the Boss is trying to bribe Walcott into signing but I thought he was decent as the point man. And he took his goal very well. Come on Theo, sign the damn contract!!! (pardon my french).
18/12/2012 10:12:00
Theo still lacks that bit of guile with his back to goal; against defenders who stick to their man, he is unlikely to have a good game. For him to thrive, we have to be playing against a defense that plays a high line and a team that won't sit back to defend all 90 minutes. The ability of our midfielders to thread through passes will also need to improve (they have to trust their striker more). Theo was the reason the team wasn't just hoofing the ball forward; all the long balls were directed at the wingers and with relative precision too.
18/12/2012 10:30:00
The biggest change for me was the return of the quick pass and move. The players looked sharp and looked to constantly move the ball, and took up better positions once they did. An easy win, Reading didn't even try in the 1st half. I don't agree with you on Theo's performance. He got a lot of space once we scored 2 goals, but he was anonymous in the 1st 20 mins. He will not work up front if we need to force the game at 0-0, but will find a lot of joy upfront if the opposition is chasing the game. Cazorla had a brilliant game, and there was a lot of energy from Poldi & Wilshere. Was this the 1st game that Poldi lasted the full 90? He was still sprinting down after the 80th min, so that was good to see. Great control and finish for the 1st goal - very instinctive. The team has still not yet fully recovered, but these are encouraging signs. The 2 conceded goals were bitterly disappointing. I would have been ok with 3-0, more than 5-2.
18/12/2012 12:50:00
.... the eye of the storm..... enjoy it.
18/12/2012 15:03:00
Good spot, Prits Re Poldi lasting 90 minutes. It is a first! It also proves it has more to do with his continued focus over 90 minutes than a lack of stamina, why the manager has brought him off before full time in every game, so far.
19/12/2012 10:00:00
Podolski has been carrying an injury since September. *taps nose*
Little Dutch
19/12/2012 10:32:00
When I typed *taps nose* I didn't mean to invite that stupid rumour that goes around with every injured Arsenal player btw!
Little Dutch
19/12/2012 10:33:00
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