Arsenal inched closer to fourth place in the Premier League standings with a thorough 5-2 beating of Reading at the Madejski Stadium on Monday Dec. 17. Santi Claus came early this year for the Gunners as Spanish midfield maestro Santi Cazorla banged in a hat trick with goals in the 32nd 34th and 60th minutes. He also set up Theo Walcott for his marker in the 80th. It was undoubtedly Cazorla’s best game in an Arsenal uniform since joining the club. Lukas Podolski opened the scoring in the 14th minute and Arsenal has now scored 12 goals at Reading this season, including the seven they banged by them in their 7-5 League Cup win in October.
There were definitely some positives in the game, but things also need to be kept in perspective. The Gunners were playing the worst team in the league as bottom-placed Reading has just one win this season. If Arsenal can produce these types of performances against the top teams in the league, other than Spurs, then they’ll be well on their way to recovery. But having said that, after taking a 4-0 lead Reading cut it in half in the space of five minutes in the second half when Adam Le Fondre narrowed the gap to 4-1 in the 66th minute and Jimmy Kebe made it 4-2 in the 71st. The Arsenal back four looked simply brutal while allowing those goals, especially Kieran Gibbs who handed the ball on a silver platter to the Reading’s Jay Tabb on the first goal.
One interesting aspect of the game was seeing Walcott play in the centre-forward position while French international Olivier Giroud started the match on the bench. One has to wonder what exactly is going on between manager Arsene Wenger and Walcott at the moment. To some supporters it appears that Wenger is trying to accommodate the 24-year-old England international’s wishes of playing down the middle so he’ll sign a contract extension with the club. Walcott could be gone in the blink of an eye if he’s not happy as he’s free to sign a preliminary deal with another club when the January transfer window opens in just two weeks time.
The Gunners are just two points behind Spurs now for the coveted fourth place spot and last berth in the lucrative Champions League. There wasn’t really much to complain about in the game other than the defending on the two goals. However, the score should have actually been quite a bit higher and if it wasn’t for Reading keeper Adam Federici it would have been. Wenger must still be concerned at the number of scoring chances that are being wasted.
Reading wasn’t really in the game at all until the second half. But any hopes of a miraculous comeback were extinguished when Walcott slotted home his 11th goal of the season with 10 minutes to go. The squad should be full of confidence when they meet Wigan on the weekend. With Roberto Martinez in charge, Wigan find themselves in their usual position near the foot of the table and Arsenal needs to bury them the same way they did Reading to keep the momentum rolling.
Player ratings Mon. Dec. 17
Wojciech Szczesny 6.5
The keeper didn’t have much to do and the two goals that beat him could be considered a little questionable.
Kieran Gibbs 6.5
Gibbs played well with the ball for the most part. However, his giveaway for Reading’s first goal was inexcusable. A completely amateurish play from a professional let alone an international.
Thomas Vermaelen 6.5
He had a solid game, but was also sleeping on Reading’s goals.
Per Mertesacker 6.5
Like his back-four mates, was at fault for the goals against, but didn’t make any other glaring mistakes
Bacary Sagna 7
Was the best of the four defenders. Passed the ball well and had a good game overall.
Mikel Arteta 7.5
It was one of Arteta’s better performances. He made the transition game easy and his passing was accurate.
Jack Wilshere 7.5
The England international is in a groove after missing all of last season. The midfielder was in command at all times and his passing was spot on.
Santi Cazorla 9
What can you say. He has three goals and set up another. His best game yet. He was the engine that ran the team with his dribbling and passing. He came off in the 83rd minute.
Lukas Podolski 8
A fine game from the German international. Scored a nice goal to put Gunners ahead and got stuck in all over the field. His passing was good and also set up Cazorla for his diving header goal.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 7.5
The 19-year-old had a fine game down the wing. His passing and crossing were a bonus. Was taken off in the 74th minute
Theo Walcott 7.5
Walcott was used up front in the middle. He used his speed to score a fine insurance goal and with any luck could have had at least one more. Came off in the 85th minute
Aaron Ramsey 6.5
Came on in the 74th minute for Oxlade-Chamberlain and didn’t look out of place
Francis Coquelin 6.5
Came on in the 83rd minute for Cazorla and played his usual steady game.
Olivier Giroud 6
He came on for Walcott in the 85th minute and nearly scored in stoppage time.