Yayyyyy! We won! It’s all brilliant again!
Yeah, okay, so it was only Reading. Reading are, unfortunately for them, not only one of the worst teams, or- by definition- the worst team in the division, but also play in a way that makes it easy for a team like Arsenal to cut them to shreds. Particularly if the Arsenal turn up. I think it’s safe to say that Arsenal turned up last night.
And, for me, it started with a positive team selection, so well done Arsene Wenger for dropping Aaron Ramsey and the hopeless Gervais blah blah blah to the bench and going with a front three spearheaded by Theo Walcott and flanked by the Ox and Lukas Podolski. It worked a treat. As did the fact that for the first time in what seems a long time, Arsenal actually started the game with some serious intent. And that intent might have led to a goal inside the first minute as the Ox drove forward and drew the first of what would prove to be many saves from Adam Federici. Despite Reading working a nice little opportunity down our left minutes later, it was from our left that we scored a very good opening goal. Podolski controlling a Gibbs cross with his right foot before burying a shot past Federici with his left from close range. It felt a little too easy. A sensation enhanced when a Cazorla through ball found Walcott with the freedom of Berkshire and enough time to read War And Peace. Unfortunately for our would be centre forward, his attempt to slide the ball past Federici was read and blocked. As was a Wilshere volley. At the other end, Thomas Vermaelen made a brilliant interception to prevent an almost certain goal after we’d been cut open down our right.
And then Santi Cazorla really took over.
First he stooped to head a Podolski cross past Federici to double our lead- yes, really. Seeing as the ball was about shin high when he made contact, I thought he could have volleyed it, but as he scored I don’t think it’s worth debating. And then he swivelled in the penalty area to bounce home a Gibbs knock back from a Walcott cross. Three nil and, even with a team as apparently fragile as this Arsenal team, the job felt done. Especially as, you know, Reading aren’t very good.
In the second half, we started where we left off and the Ox went close, I’m sure Walcott did at some stage too. It was the irrepressible Spaniard, though, who extended our lead. And did so in a fashion reminiscent of last month’s goal against Spurs, as he made ground to tuck away a Podolski cross from the left and complete his hat-trick. Game over? Not quite. Arsenal had been so totally dominant in this game, it was almost as if they’d lulled themselves to sleep as well as Reading. A Gibbs ball to Wilshere on the edge of our box was careless in the extreme. It left Wilshere on the floor and, very quickly, Adam Le Fondre in oceans of space to shimmy past Szczesny before tapping into an empty net. Minutes later, the gap was reduced further as Jimmy Kebe slid the ball past Szczesny. And you wondered. And perhaps I blamed myself for tweeting a suggestion that even the introduction of Gervais couldn’t derail us now. As it was, it was the other current Arsenal favourite who was sent out into the breech. On reflection, perhaps replacing the pacy directness of the Ox with the slightly more ponderous approach of Aaron Ramsey was exactly what we needed, but it didn’t feel like it at the time.
Nonetheless, it worked. Either that, or Reading coincidentally blew themselves out after a very good ten minutes for them. Whatever, we started keeping the ball much better and proceeded to close the game out. Actually, we went one better than that. Federici had already made his last good save of what must have felt like one of the longest nights of his career from Cazorla, but he was powerless to stop the fifth and final goal. It came about after (more) great work from Cazorla, who teased out an opening before finding Walcott with a clever little pass. There was still work to do, but Theo made it look easy, cutting inside his marker onto his left foot and curling the ball beyond Federici. I reckon he deserved that goal. Perhaps he had been a little selfish during the game, in a performance that screamed of wanting to prove a point. But isn’t that what we want? Players who want to prove a point?
Cazorla departed to a standing ovation, in fact I got off my sofa at home and clapped him off. But then, when I was a Cub Scout, I also used to insist everyone in my family stood for the national anthem. When Walcott was replaced by Giroud a couple of minutes later, he was greeted with a hug from the boss. Which was all nice and heart warming, although I’m sure we could have all lived without the contract platitudes a few minutes later.
What I will take from this game are the obvious things. We look better with pacy, direct footballers on the flanks; when the midfield three are given room to play, they’ll take most teams apart. Perhaps having a pace player rather than a hold up guy leading the line enables us to stretch teams more. It seems fairly obvious to me that if a team is going to sit deep to try and negate Walcott’s pace, then that should give Cazorla and co more space for their spells. If they then have to push up, well then… As I said at the top, it was only Reading; as I said yesterday, it will take more than this win to convince anyone that this Arsenal team is a serious team. But we will go to Wigan in good heart and we can’t ask for any more than that.
I just want us to keep it up.
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