Inspired by a dazzling display from Santi Cazorla, Arsenal finally produced a good performance as they swept aside the feeble challenge of Reading.
Goals were always going to be on the cards following the 7-5 Capital Cup tie, but this time it was Arsenal who went 4-0 up as Podolski’s early strike was followed by a hattrick from our main man Cazorla. The scoreline didn’t flatter us as we ripped the hosts apart time and time again — were it not for some good goalkeeping from Federici we could’ve got another seven goal haul.
Then came a wobbly 10 minutes when we relaxed too much and suddenly Reading had pulled it back to 4-2 through Le Fondre and Kebe. Brian McDermott’s side didn’t really have the quality to put us under any prolonged spell of pressure though and Walcott gave the scoreline a more realistic feel when he calmly slotted home number five.
Walcott had been given his long overdue start up front as Wenger sought to exploit Reading’s vulnerability to pace. We saw in the Capital One cup game that Theo got a lot of joy against them in a central role and he really should’ve made it 2-0 when he burst clear only to be denied by Federici. His link up play was good all night though and he made many threatening off the ball runs that dragged defenders away, creating space for others. His goal was a calm, measured finish and he looked like a proper striker tonight.
You are the man, Santi.
I don’t think this will herald the start of a permanent new role for him though. It just happened that he was the right player to spearhead the front three because of Reading’s vulnerability to pace. After all, if Wenger plays him up front from now on that would be an admission he was wrong not to do so before, when Walcott was begging to play there, and Wenger doesn’t like to be proved wrong. So expect Giroud to start up front against Wigan with Walcott back on the flanks.
Tonight’s wide two were Podolski and the Ox, who both had good games. In fact Podolski impressed Wenger so much that he was allowed to play the whole match. Reading couldn’t handle our front three or the overlapping Sagna and Gibbs and we looked likely to score every time we attacked.
In the interests of balance, it must be said that Reading looked very much a side bottom of the table. They were really poor — powderpuff up front and totally lacking in organisation in defence. The time and space they gave Cazorla and Wilshere was criminal and they left themselves open to the counter repeatedly, which just played to our strengths. They were booed off at half time and full time.
Sky co-commentator Niall Quinn kept going on about how this win has wiped away the memories of the Bradford defeat. I don’t think so Niall. We should have battered Bradford and Reading. We’ve just had two matches against two very poor teams and only won one of them — that is not a cause for optimism. Instead, questions should be asked as to why we didn’t play like that six days ago.
The answer is because we were motivated tonight and approached the match in the right frame of mind. The players and manager had been criticised all week long and, their pride hurt, were determined to put on a good show. I’m glad we finally produced an impressive performance (the last one was against West Ham 16 games ago) but it shouldn’t need a humiliating defeat to make the players do their jobs.
After tonight’s convincing win some fans are now looking at the table and seeing that third place is only two points away. If we were allowed to play all our remaining games against Reading then we might eventually nick third place, but I’m sorry, one good win doesn’t mean we should forget the last two months. I’m not saying there is no chance of going on a good run of form now, but my worry is that we will be so busy patting ourselves on the back we will get complacent again, which is exactly what happened against Norwich when this abysmal run started in the first place.
So well done tonight lads, that was much more like it and I hope to see more of the same from now on. Just remember to play with that level of drive and desire every game — it’s your job after all. Personally, I don’t think we are consistent enough or focused enough to make tonight’s performance the norm rather than a rarity, but I hope I’m wrong. We shall see…
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