Tactical Analysis: Reading 2 v Arsenal 5

In a totally dominant display by Arsenal, they duly notched a big win in this fixture vs Reading. Arsenal were able to recover their confidence with the team being up 4-0 inside 60 minutes, and making Reading look like an undeserving English Premier League team.

Line-Up’s

Reading vs Arsenal Line-Up's

Reading vs Arsenal Line-Up’s

Reading set up in their usual 4-4-2 formation, with Pavel Pogrebnyak expected to offer the main attacking threat for Brian McDermott’s men. Reading set up in an attempt to stifle Arsenal’s attack. They attempted this by setting up in the ’2 banks of 4′ in defence with narrow space in between, to not give Arsenal’s players any space to play good passing football.

Arsenal set up in their usual 4-2-3-1, which worked wonders against Reading. This was due to having the extra player in the central midfield region, which Santi Cazorla was able to show his superior class. Theo Walcott started up front with Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain offering the width in the 3 behind the striker.

Santi Cazorla Brilliance

3 goals, 1 assist, 6 chances created. 10/10 display. This was a masterful display by Santi Cazorla, as Reading allowed him the freedom to dictate the match. This was because, as mentioned above, Reading only played with 2 central midfielders, which allowed Santi to run at defenders, thread attacking passes and cause Reading problems throughout.

Cazorla’s goal in the 32nd minute showed how many problems that he was causing Reading, with a late run for a very rare headed goal. As Reading were attempting to play a deep defensive line, Podolski was able to whip in a cross for Cazorla to have a free header at goal, as no one picked up his late run.

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Cazorla’s Header for the Goal

Cazorla’s passing stats were also very impressive. He attempted 88 passes at 86% accuracy in his 83 minutes on the pitch. With only Mikel Arteta playing more passes (102), Cazorla’s  influence on the match was second to none. Reading were punished for their tactic, and lack of attention paid to Cazorla, and trying to minimise his impact on the match.

Reading Defence

It was clear to see from the first few minutes that Reading wanted to keep their defensive lines very close and minimise space for Arsenal. Their tactic didn’t work as Podolski and Gibbs both were able to expose Cummings, the Reading left back, many times throughout the match. As mentioned above, the deep defensive line also allowed Cazorla to make deep, unattended runs.

Reading Defensive Line

Reading Defensive Line

The Reading defensive line become less structured as they pushed for goals, from around the 65th minute. The ease of Arsenal’s 5th goal would not have pleased McDermott, although was a tidy finish by Theo Walcott. The pass by Cazorla was exquisite but he was under very little pressure and was able to thread a pass through for Walcott to have a free shot, under little pressure from the Reading defenders.

Walcott Goal

Walcott Shot for the Goal

Theo Walcott Playing Up Front

With Theo Walcott getting his opportunity to play through the middle, it was a mixed display from him. He struggled early on, with the deep Reading defence. However, he was able to spring the offside trap to create a 1 vs 1 goalscoring chance, which he was unable to put away. However, in the 2nd half, he became more involved in the game and his display was capped off with a well finished goal.

Walcott was able to garner 7 shots throughout the match, with 4 on target. This was encouraging, as Arsenal lately haven’t been having many shots nor putting the opposition under pressure. Walcott only attempted 18 passes at 89%, which suggests he wasn’t heavily involved in the build up play of the team. However, against a weak Reading team, this was not a concern and the formation and tactics worked well for Arsenal.

Conclusion

This was a very good display by Arsenal, and as Arsene Wenger said post match, “We wanted to win convincingly and we achieved that.” Whilst Arsenal turned off for a few minutes, which allowed Reading to score 2 goals, there was never any danger of Reading getting any points in the match. Santi Cazorla was marvellous throughout the match and was able to produce a master class display that Reading didn’t have any tactics to stop.

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Stats from WhoScored

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  • silentstan

    Lets get perspective. Santi engineered the win during a first half in which Reading were desperately poor. But even during that half there were 2/3 occaisions when a better team would have beaten our dreadful defence. Then 2nd half we stopped running and got lax, conceded twice and again our defending was disgraceful. It was a heartening win, but significant issues still exist, that, worryingly for me, I believe Wenger will only try to redress thru more attacking football.

    • John

      Do you actually enjoy watching football?