Based on Arsenal’s recent performances you could be forgiven for preferring to place a bet on super bowl action rather than on the outcome of this match. Arsenal needed a response after a disappointing few weeks and they thankfully gave one by putting five passed the Royals in what was largely a convincing performance. Orchestrated by their little midfield maestro, Santi Cazorla, the Gunners played some beautiful free-flowing football after they gained in confidence following Arsenal’s first goal. That is not to say it was a complete performance however as two momentary lapses allowed Reading to score on two occasions, but there is no doubt the win will give the Gunners a boost ahead of more difficult fixtures in coming weeks.
The major talking point prior to kick-off was that finally Wenger let Walcott start up front and also left Ramsey on the bench. The front trio consisted of Podolski on the left, Walcott through the middle and Chamberlain on the right in what was a very potent and pacy front three. The performance of each was positive, particularly Podolski who finally looked back in the mood to put in some hard-yards after some disappointing performances in recent weeks. His efforts grabbed himself a well-taken goal and a couple of assists. Mobility up front also played its part with Walcott showing he has what it takes to spearhead the attack when he has space to run into making intelligent runs and getting into promising goal-scoring positions on numerous occasions. He could have easily had more than the solitary goal he converted tonight.
It was also positive to see that the team as a whole looked more hungry to get into goal-scoring positions. Cazorla in particular looked to ghost in where he could and it paid dividends after the little Spaniard got his first hattrick in Arsenal colours. That isn’t to say that he was the only one to do this however with Podolski coming inside when Gibbs pushed up on the left and the same of the opposite side where Oxlade-Chamberlain looked to drift in when Sagna pushing in attacking positions. Podolski of course converted his chance showing great control and thumping it home while Chambo drew a couple of great saves from Federici.
While the midfielders and forwards dominated as expected, it was still worrying to see the Gunners’ defence leak a couple of extremely soft goals as a result of momentary lapses in concentration. Cruising at 4-0, it all started after a wayward pass from Gibbs put Arsenal on the back-foot deep in their own half. Reading accepted the invitation with open arms scoring their first goal very much against the run of play. Much of the same can be said of the second goal where Mertesacker failed to pick up a man behind him after Podolski played virtually all of Reading’s men on side. The two goal deficit did produce a nervy patch in the match for Arsenal, but the Gunners responded with a well-taken goal from Theo Walcott ending any hopes for a Reading comeback.
on the performance…
The target was to win and we won in a convincing way. You can only give one answer – on the pitch. Success came with the quality of our game.
on what was pleasing…
We played and didn’t bother about the rest. We focused on the quality of our game and played. I think it was in continuity of the game we played gainst West Brom. That’s what we did again tonight.
on Cazorla’s performance…
Santi Cazorla is a top-class player and he just illustrates that he’s a good buy.
on using Walcott as a striker…
If you look at my statements two years ago, I said he will play in the middle. I think slowly it became his idea as well. I felt it was a good opportunity to do it tonight. On what I’ve seen in training, I thought he was ready to do it.
on if Walcott will play up front against Wigan…
I don’t know yet. It’s too early to say that just after the game.
on how well the team can do…
I don’t know. What I believe is our ambition is to finish as high as we can and win our next game. That’s all we can do – that and focus on the quality of our football. The game is based on movement and technical quality and that demands freedom of initiative. When you’re in a crisis, of course that suffers a little bit sometimes. We have to go beyond that and focus on the way we want to play football.
on if Arsenal were in a crisis…
It depends what you call a crisis. If you call a crisis being slaughtered by everybody, we’re in a super crisis.
on finding out about his team…
In any bad thing, there is always a good thing. I don’t complain because, in our job, you need to be mentally strong and therefore it’s always a test when you’re in a position like we were in. I just wanted to say that in 16 years, we have lost one time against a team from a lower division. Our record in the last 16 years is still the best in any cup game compared to any other team in England. We were of course not happy with what happened, and very disillusioned. There’s only one answer to give – to play well [in the] next game.
on a nervous 10 minutes during the second half…
Yes, you’re right. We were under a lot of tension before the game. We thought subconsciously it was done at 4-0 and at 4-2, I saw your headlines coming! Fortunately we scored the fifth goal.
on what the result does for the team…
Our run in the Premier League is not as bad recently because we had beaten Tottenham, we had gone to Villa and Everton – two difficult places to go. After, we had one bad game, against Swansea. Then we beat West Brom, came here and won. We’ve only lost one of the last six games. But once you start in the middle, every [time you don’t] win, it becomes highlighted. The run in the last six games in the Premier League is not fantastic, but not disastrous either.
Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Gibbs
Wojciech Szczesny | 6.0: Was hardly tested for a majority of the match merely making routine catches from Reading crosses, that was of course until Arsenal suffered some momentary lapses. Both goals Szczesny could hardly be blamed for, but it will no doubt irritate the Pole that his chances of a clean-sheet were squandered by poor concentration.
Bacary Sagna | 6.5: Was solid on both defence and attack and looks to be back to his consistent self. Could have possibly done more with the ball up the field, but overall was a good performance.
Per Mertesacker | 5.5: Was partially at fault for both of Readings goal letting Fondre get onto Tabb’s pass for the first and also failing to pick up Kebe for the second. Was good when in possession, but his primary job is defence after all.
Thomas Vermaelen | 7.0: An overall good performance from our skipper who made some vital interceptions and tackles that could have otherwise landed Arsenal in hot water.
Kieran Gibbs | 7.0: The young Englishman had an excellent first-half grabbing two assists and looking menacing on the left flank, but in the second had a monetary lapse in concentration that led to Readings first and was also beaten by his man too easily on a couple of occasions.
Mikel Arteta | 7.0: Was again the player that just sits in the background going about his business. Distributed the ball excellently and went hard into the tackle to great effect.
Santi Cazorla| 10.0: If this performance doesn’t deserve a ten I don’t know what does. A hattrick and an assist made for a excellent night for the Spaniard who looked simply unplayable. Orchestrated many of Arsenal’s attacks and was rightly given a standing ovation when he was subbed off.
Jack Wilshere |8.0: While Cazorla grabbed the spotlight, Wilshere still produced a magnificent performance where he gave 100%. Had good link-up play and worked hard to win back possession.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 6.5: Showed his intent with a driving run and shot in the early exchanges of the match. Looked good for the most part, but was not as involved as Arsenal’s other attacking players tonight
Theo Walcott | 7.0: His mobility and intelligent runs certainly earned goal-scoring opportunities, however he will still be somewhat disappointed he only converted one chance. Looks a better option than Giroud or Gervinho up front, particularly if he is given room to run into.
Lukas Podolski | 8.0: Looked very much in the mood tonight and his hard working paid off finishing the night with a goal and assists. Drifted infield to latch onto a crossfield ball showing great control to score his first and picked out two low crosses to get Santi on the scoresheet twice. Great performance
- No notable substitutions
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