Santi Cazorla’s hat-trick helped see Arsenal comfortably past Reading on Monday night. The Gunners last visited Reading in the League Cup back in October and scored 7 that day in a 7-5 win. So nobody was surprised when this game produced 7 goals last night. Reading are fighting relegation and you can see why based on how they defended in this game. Arsenal’s defence, as comfortable as they looked for 65 minutes of the game, they are always likely to concede at least one. After they did concede one, they conceded another 5 minutes later to get Arsenal fans worrying about the possibility of a comeback from the hosts.
Arsenal started Theo Walcott through the middle, one of his demands if he is to stay at Arsenal any longer than next summer when his current contract expires. To his left in the attack was Lukas Podolski and to the right was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. One thing that was obvious was Arsenal were going to have a lot of pace in attack. That is something Walcott has that someone like Olivier Giroud, as much as I like the guy, can’t offer to the attack. By all means, I am not criticising Giroud as I rate him highly, just Walcott offers that to the attack.
Arsenal dominated from the off. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain forced a fine save out of Adam Federici within two minutes and it was a sign of things to come. Reading responded though. Pavel Pogrebnyak cut the ball back for Jay Tabb who scuffed his effort wide. Noel Hunt then headed over the bar from a corner for the hosts.
The visitors looked dangerous and a quarter of an hour into the game, they took the lead. Kieran Gibbs’ cross found the feet of Lukas Podolski, who had an impressive first touch before firing past Federici in the Reading goal and giving Arsenal the lead. The German international could have scored again not long after, but his shot went wide.
Theo Walcott’s speed helped him get through on goal with only the keeper to beat, but Federici made a fine save with his legs to keep the score at 1-0. The goalkeeper may have ended up conceding 5 on the night, but it has to be said that without some of the fine saves made by him, it could have been double figures for Arsenal.
He denied Jack Wilshere before Santi Cazorla scored his first of the night after heading in a Podolski cross. I’m sure Cazorla hasn’t scored many headers in his career, given his height!. The goal was coming and Arsenal had plenty of time to add to their score.
Cazorla added his second and Arsenal’s third shortly after as Reading’s poor marking allowed Cazorla to control after Kieran Gibbs headed the ball down to him and then blast past Federici. It was all too easy for Arsenal. Reading’s defending wasn’t good enough and Arsenal were taking full advantage of it.
Reading got to half time 3-0 down. I thought to myself about what Gary Neville had said on Sky Sports Monday Night Football show before the game. He said that he felt Arsenal would have a really good game and take out the pain of Bradford on Reading. He said that Reading were poor defensively and particularly Gibbs and Podolski would have a lot of joy attacking down the left flank, because that is a problem for Reading this year. 2 of the goals came from the left, Gibbs crossed for Podolski for the first, Podolski crossed for Cazorla for the second and the cross came from the right for the third goal but was headed down by Gibbs to Cazorla, so it is fair to say that Neville was spot on.
I must admit, I didn’t like Neville at all as a footballer, but I respected that he was a one club man. He loves Manchester United and they were his team. That’s fair enough. Gary Neville the pundit is someone I could listen to all day and have an honest conversation with. He doesn’t come across as biased at all, he just speaks the truth. If anything, I think he says a lot of kind things about Arsenal, whereas a lot of people in the media take plenty of digs at them. Considering he played in a United side that hated Arsenal and were challenging it out with us for the title and trophies on an annual basis, he doesn’t come across that way at all. A superb pundit.
Just like in the first half, Reading survived 15 minutes before Arsenal found the net. A fantastic team goal helped Cazorla get his hat-trick. Wilshere played in Podolski, who unselfishly laid it on a plate for Cazorla who scored with a simple finish. In scoring, Cazorla became only the third Spaniard to score a hat-trick in the Premier League. Chelsea’s Fernando Torres and Wigan’s Jordi Gomez are the other two.
To be honest, Arsenal had barely looked troubled defensively. Early on there were some chances for Reading but after that it was all Arsenal. That was until Kieran Gibbs’ ball aimed for Jack Wilshere found Jay Tabb and after Wilshere slipped, Tabb sent Adam Le Fondre through on goal. Le Fondre rounded Wojciech Szczesny and tapped in to make it 4-1.
Jimmy Kebe then added Reading’s second 5 minutes later and suddenly we had a game on. Arsenal came from 4-0 down to force extra-time against Reading in the League Cup tie back in October and for a minute you thought Reading could get their revenge. I also had a horrible flashback to when we were 4-0 up and sailing away to Newcastle in the 2010/11 season and managed to draw 4-4. Surely not tonight, on a night Arsenal had dominated Reading for the majority of the game?.
Theo Walcott ended any worries Arsenal fans had of a Reading fightback when his neat finish made it 5-2. Walcott had worked hard all game and you had to say he deserved his goal. Arsenal’s main worry now is getting him to sign a new contract with the club. Whether he will or not is for another day. For now Arsenal have climbed to 5th in the table, two points behind Tottenham in 4th. Arsenal are away to Wigan on Saturday lunchtime, Wigan are currently 18th in the Premier League table.
My final note on the Reading game is that Arsenal and Reading have met twice this season, both at the Madejski. The first game produced 12 goals in the thrilling 7-5 League Cup tie and the second has produced another 7 with a 5-2 Arsenal win. This adds up to 19 goals in the two games between Arsenal and Reading this season. That is what I’d call value for money. Especially if you’re an Arsenal fan.