Reading 2 Arsenal 5
Just been dumped out of the cup by a League Two side?
Been under an avalanche of criticism from all and sundry ever since? Don’t worry Arsene; your next fixture is at Reading. Everything will look much rosier after that.
And so it came to pass.
For an hour Reading were everything that Bradford City were not in the Capital One Cup last week.
Then, a full-strength Gunners side had wilted under pressure from a hostile crowd and opponents who were in their faces throughout, and could play a bit too.
None of that was exhibited when it mattered by the Premier League’s bottom side, who looked well-beaten well before the half-time whistle.
First Lukas Podolski fired Arsenal in front before Santi Cazorla netted the next two and Reading looked every inch a side that did not believe it was good enough.
Which, you will recall, was what everyone had been saying about Arsenal for the previous six days...
Walcott has been the subject of much conjecture about his future as well, of course, with Manchester United, Chelsea, Juventus and whoever else you may care to mention willing to offer him a free transfer route out of the Emirates next summer.
The England man has been insisting for months that a central role up front is his best position and lo and behold Wenger gave him a chance to prove it. Yet initially he did nothing of the sort.
Put clean through by Cazorla and not a defender in sight his tame finish was easily saved by the over-worked Adam Federici in the Royals goal. You really should be scoring those Theo...
By that point Podolski had already left his own mark on the game. The German doesn’t like being stuck on the wing either and Arsenal’s opener came from there but Podolski was nowhere near there when the cross came in, from Kieran Gibbs. Because he was already in the middle and he rammed past Federici.
Cazorla’s contribution to the Arsenal headline machine had been an awful penalty-winning dive against West Brom earlier in the month and the Spaniard threw himself forwards again to make it 2-0, connecting with his head to convert Podolski’s cross.
Two minutes later the smallest man on the pitch swivelled to convert Gibbs’ knockdown at the far post.
The second period was only marginally less painful for them and Cazorla completed his hat-trick to cap a superb passing move involving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere and Podolski which saw the latter square from the left for a simple finish.
Nothing is simple as far as Arsenal are concerned these days however and two Reading goals in quick succession gave them hope of a miracle.
Wilshere’s slip as Gibbs passed in his direction allowed Jay Tabb to send substitute Adam Le Fondre round Wojciech Szczesny and good work under pressure from another replacement, Hal Robson-Kanu, allowed Jimmy Kebe to slip home a second.
There was to be no miracle before Christmas for the Royals as Walcott slotted past Federici. “He’s shown ability in training sessions to play in this position,’’ Wenger said. “There were very encouraging signs in there.”
Wenger added: “Our target was to win in a convincing way and we did it,” he said. “At 4-0 we had a little wobbling period, and at 4-2 of course with what happened last week we became a bit uncertain before the 5-2 killed the game, but overall it was important to go out and play and give the right answer on the football pitch.”
So Theo did make his point after all and his boss won’t mind that too much. He may not have won the entire debate but one thing does look settled — Gervinho can expect to watch the next chapter from the bench...
READING (4-4-2): Federici 8; Cummings 6, Gorkss 6, Mariappa 6, Shorey 6; Kebe 5 (McCleary 72), Leigertwood 5, Tabb 6, McAnuff 5; Hunt 5 (Robson-Kanu 61, 5), Pogrebnyak 6 (Le Fondre 62, 7).
ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Szczesny 7; Sagna 7, Mertesacker 7, Vermaelen 8, Gibbs 8; Arteta 7, Wilshere 7; Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Ramsey 74), Cazorla 9 (Coquelin 82), Podolski 8; Walcott 7 (Giroud 85).
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
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