It is, of course, easy to go in to hyperbolic overdrive after the performance and result last night. Who wouldn’t begrudge Arsenal fans a little light relief after what has been the most tortuous of weeks? Without wanting to get carried away and with the disclaimer that I am well aware that one match does not a season make, how fantastic was that last night? In particular, how fantastic was Santi?
But it was only Reading I hear you in the back cry, the Reading that are languishing at the bottom of the table, the Reading that managed to score three past United and has not been on the wrong end of a pasting this year. Poor opposition has not stopped this Arsenal side from being awful, so let’s not use that to detract away from what was a very good Arsenal performance.
Three nil up at halftime and it could have been more. The Ox set the tone with a shot on target within the first two minutes and Arsenal’s never let up for the whole half. They worked, they harried, they cared. They actually cared.
Runs were made off the ball, the team broke in unison, players in red and white streaming up the pitch as we cleared a corner. The back line stepped out as if all tied together, arms raised. The Bould effect.
Podolski struck first after Gibbs found him and then Santi, Santi, the smallest person on the planet, scored with a low diving header which was slightly behind him. A fantastic header. He grabbed his second not long after, seemingly getting in the way of his teammate before turning and slamming the ball in to the ground (I believe on purpose) so it looped up and in to the goal.
There were boos at halftime but for a change they were because of what Arsenal had done to Reading and not aimed at Arsenal. It was a happy time.
The second half begin as we’d left off in the first and Santi continued his man of the match performance by grabbing his hattrick, his first for Arsenal and I read a stat that said only the third Spaniard to score one in the Premier League. I doubt I will be his last. He was simply unplayable last night.
Four nil and, well you know Arsenal when it’s four nil and a wobble was perhaps predictable as the team pulled up the handbrake and switched off allowing Reading to pull it back to 2-4. At that point, all the happiness which had spread around the Gooner nation was starting to crack and it’s probably not a surprise – you hurt someone enough they start to spot the warning signs of what is coming and put up their defences.
But, unlike Newcastle away, it would be Arsenal who would grab the decisive goal. Theo playing through the middle as he had done all night, finally being rewarded with a goal of his own. And that was that. Arsenal managed to close the game out and were deserved winners on a night when they could have quite easily scored eight without being flattered.
Two assists for Gibbs, three if you count his wayward pass for the Reading goal, two assists for Poldi along with a goal, a not quite perfect hattrick from Santi and an assist. Job well done.
Afterwards Wilshere said
It’s been a tough week. We showed great character tonight. Theo and Santi were different class.
I think we saw the old Arsenal tonight.
You have to agree.
So what was the difference? The team seemed to want it. They worked, they pressed, and apart from the spell in the second half when they Weebled, they refused to fall over. Sterner tests will come, of that there is no doubt, but we all asked for a reaction to the Bradford debacle and we got one. Wenger, so often accused of not making changes nor dropping players when they are out of form, did exactly that and benched both Gervinho and Ramsey. It worked. Podolski played more than 70 minutes for the first time in the league and didn’t explode and Theo got the chance to show us what he can do at a centreforward position. The reason, Arsene said, was that he had shown great movement in that position in training during the week. You got the start, you got the position Theo, now what is your excuse for not signing? Afterwards, when pressed by Geoff Shreeves he responded that these things take time, talks are ongoing, it is a slow process. It is only a slow process when you aren’t getting what you want, and what you want is money. I’m more convinced of that now than ever.
Anyway, it’s not about Theo, Arsenal are doing all they can to try and keep them without bending to his ridiculous wage demands. If you believe he should be the highest earner at the club then I can’t agree.
Some critics were answered and some pressure was lifted, but none of it will mean anything if this performance isn’t built upon. The 5-2 against Sp*rs should have spurred us on but it didn’t. Let’s enjoy this 5-2 and hope that it will be the catalyst that shows the team what they need to do week in, week out, not just when it’s a big team, not just when their backs are against the wall. Play like that every week and you suddenly find that not only are your backs no longer against the wall, but the fans and the media are off your backs as well. That’s all we want Arsenal, is to see you do exactly what you did tonight (minus the lapse of concentration bit) – show us you care, that you want to play for each other and, more importantly, that playing for the shirt matters as much to you as it does to us.
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