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After two victories in which the quality of our possession won over our opponents’ quantity of possession, we faced one of the worst teams in the league who came to Emirates stadium with a new manager. This was the match that we had to win and – more or less – every match until the end of the season will be similar. Unlike Bayern and Swansea, this time the pressure was on our players.
And they responded very well.
Arsene Wenger made a few changes to the squad. Bacary Sagna returned to the starting 11 to replace Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Ramsey replaced injured Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky took the place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain while Gervinho was supposed to fill the gap on the right wing made by Walcott’s absence.
There were two touching moments today – Arsenal players wore shirts with “Get well soon Abou” messages and in the seventh minute of the game the tribute was paid to the late David Rocastle who died 12 years ago when he was only 33.
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We didn’t have to wait too long for our first goal of the game. Cazorla had an attempt from the left side that was between a cross and a shot. The ball went behind the Reading defense and Gervinho was the first one to get it and tapped the ball in to make it 1:0. There were suspicions of an offside there. Gervinho could have added his second goal of the game after Sagna’s cross but his header went just wide. Giroud was next in line to try to score but despite clipping the ball over Stuart Taylor, it went wide. Taylor rushed out to pick the ball in front of Giroud but was too slow and only managed to tackle the player – not the ball. It should have been a penalty but Chris Foy decided against pointing to the spot.
Gervinho had another chance after a counter-attack but instead of passing the ball to the left for the on-rushing Giroud, he decided to finish the attack himself and sent his poor effort wide. Cazorla, Giroud, Gervinho and Monreal all tried to score but none of them managed to find the net. We were dominating during the first half, at one point statistics said that we had 95 percent of the ball in the last five minutes. Still, we were just one goal up before the interval.
However it changed just after the second half started. Gervinho made it to the box before cutting the ball back to Cazorla. The Spaniard unleashed a beautiful shot with his right foot to make it 2:0.
Mariappa created the first Reading shot on our goal after the corner but Fabianski demonstrated safe hands. At the other end of the pitch, Giroud scored. Sagna took the ball after a Reading corner and distributed to Gervinho on the right wing. The Ivorian waited for support and when Giroud approached, he passed the ball to the Frenchman who fired a lovely powerful finish beyond the ‘keeper to make it 3:0.
We were still celebrating our third goal when Reading scored unexpectedly. McAnuff hit a pinpointed cross from the left wing to the far post where Robson-Kanu escaped from Monreal’s attention and headed the ball inside the goal. Monreal injured himself in the process as he hit the post trying to prevent the Reading goal.
Oxlade-Chamberlain entered the fray and had an immediate impact drawing a foul by Mariappa – outside of the box or inside it – and Foy awarded us a penalty. Arteta took the penalty and made it 4:1. Ramsey, Mertesacker and Gibbs were close to scoring a fifth goal but neither managed to find the net.
This was Arsenal’s third victory in a row, the second in a row in the Premiership, and given that the Chavs lost to Southampton, we can still fight for the 3rd spot with Benitez’ side and the Spuds. It was a very solid performance with promising domination. Hopefully, we will see something similar in the matches that are to follow.
on the win…
We enjoyed the game. I enjoyed our technical side, our creative side, our spirit and how disciplined and focused we were. The regret you have is that there were more goals in this game than the number of goals we scored. Overall, it’s a good basis to finish the season well. Let’s just keep that spirit, that attitude and play the football we want to play.
on Monreal’s injury…
It’s not bad, two or three days. He hit the post. It’s bruised on the hip I think.
on Wilshere and Walcott’s injuries…
I don’t think Jack will return next week at West Brom, Maybe the after. Theo has a chance to be fit again next week.
Gervinho’s performance was very strong. He was always dangerous. He always looked like he could score. He gave assists and scored. I believe that sometimes Gervinho has lost confidence because he played in a very negative atmosphere during a period. Strikers need confidence, and [with] his game, even more. He’s always taking the ball, going forward and provoking [the play]. Now he has found his confidence back, he’s a very dangerous player. At the Africa Cup of Nations, for me he was the best striker. He is the type of player who is difficult to find because they always go at people.
on if Arsenal are playing for third now…
What we do is we look at the table and we are still behind Chelsea and Tottenham. We are not in a calculation mode. We can just win our next game and continue to do what we do at the moment. We are on a run so let’s take care of the quality of our game and that run. After, we’ll see where we stand. It will be less predictable than it was predicted. We have a word to say in that and we want to give our best to do it.
on Chelsea’s upcoming fixtures in three different competitions…
I don’t know. We will see in the end. It can be very positive if you are on a good run, and very negative if you are in bad form. Let’s just take care of the way we play, take care of our spirit and give it all. We have the experience, we have done it before and it is what we want to do again. I am sure we will but it demands a lot of dedication and nerves until the end.
on if Arsenal should have had a penalty when Giroud went down…
I thought it was a penalty but the referee said it was not. And I have learned from my long experience that the referee is always right.
on goal difference…
Let’s make sure it does not go to goal difference, and if it does, that it is in our favour. At the moment, I believe we have +26, Chelsea +27 and Tottenham +15. That means there is a long way to go. At the moment, we are at the same level as Chelsea, and it is down to us. If we win our games, we will have a better goal difference, that is all we can do.
on if Gervinho is playing for his future…
Gervinho did not play for his future, he was just playing for his club. That is what every player does. We are a group of players who want to go for it, and to go for it together. Sometimes Gervinho plays, sometimes Walcott, sometimes Podolski, but we can only do it if we all have the same target and do it together.
on Diaby’s injury…
That was the shock of the week for us because I thought originally it was just a little twist of the knee. When they told me it was a rupture of his cruciate, and when you know what this guys has gone through, how many times he has worked day and night to come back in rehab, it is just demoralising. I hope he will find the resources and the strength to come back, because he was quite down. When you look at the number of problems he had, the surgeries, he is 26 years old and has had four or five big surgeries. That demands a lot of mental strength to come back and I hope he will not give up and will continue.
Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Monreal
Arteta (c) Ramsey
Lukasz Fabianski | 6.5: He didn’t have too many chances to show his qualities. It’s hard to blame him for our goal as there was nothing he could do about it. He was safe with set-pieces and his good positioning enabled him to make a save the dangerous Mariappa shot.
Bacary Sagna | 7.0: A decent performance after returning to the starting 11. We could discuss his role in the Reading goal as their cross came from his side but he also started our attack out of which Giroud scored. Our defense looked very solid and capable of creating pressure on opponents which made our attacks very dangerous.
Per Mertesacker | 7.0: Another solid performance from the BFG against an opponent without serious attacking ambitions.
Laurent Koscielny | 7.5: Another excellent performance. Due to the lack of defensive tasks (he made one classy tackle to prevent a chance for Reading) he was helping our midfield in breaking Reading’s attacks.
Nacho Monreal | 5.5: Unfortunately, got injured and let Robson-Kanu behind his back in the same attack.
Mikel Arteta | 8.0: Our midfield dominated and our skipper contributed a lot with his excellent passing game. Converted his 5th penalty of the season. He completed more than 100 passes today and that was the ninth match in which he managed this feat.
Aaron Ramsey | 7.5: He was very good and it seems that – similar to Gervinho – Aaron has improved at a psychological level and his talent was never a matter of doubt. Too bad he didn’t find himself on the score-sheet but at least celebrities all over the world can sleep tight tonight.
Tomas Rosicky | 7.5: Complemented well with Cazorla and – just like Ramsey – could have found himself on the score-sheet. Perhaps Reading are not exactly the hardest opponents out there but Rosicky proved that he can be our additional creative power in the last eight games that will decide whether we are going to play in the Champions’ League next season.
Gervinho | 8.5: Arguably the best performance the Ivorian has given in an Arsenal shirt and the second consecutive goal scoring performance in the Premiership. He tapped in an open goal and assisted for the next two goals. His finishing and decisions were often debatable again as he ruined at least one counter-attack when he should have passed to Giroud. He has shown in the last three matches that he can provide some quality to our attack.
Santi Cazorla | 8.5: Another brilliant performance from the Spaniard. The presence of Rosicky took some of the creative burden off his back. He has looked as creative and lively as he was at the start of the season and that is great news. It’s interesting to mention that he has scored one third of his Premiership goals against Reading (3 in first match and 1 today).
Olivier Giroud | 7.5: He should have been awarded a penalty in the first half when Taylor fouled him in the box. He scored a beautiful goal to become the second Arsenal player after Thierry Henry in 1999-2000 that has scored 10 goals or more in his first season in the Premiership – Santi Cazorla has reached the same feat this season after his brace against Aston Villa.
Kieran Gibbs | 6.5: Went on to replace the injured Monreal. Had one opportunity to score. Made his 100th appearance in an Arsenal shirt. Let’s hope he will reach 1000!
Oxlade-Chamberlain | 7.0: Earned a penalty after coming on for Gervinho. He has shown signs of life against Swansea and his 15-minute-cameo against Reading was another encouraging moment. Oxlade-Chamberlain shouldn’t be looked just as one of the guys for the future but also as player that can and should provide quality to Arsenal right now.
Lukas Podolski | 6.0: Didn’t show too much when he went in instead of Giroud.