Three crucial points up for grabs at Reading

Arsenal FC

It would appear that a trip to Reading could cure all that ails Arsenal at the moment. But If the Gunners couldn’t put away League Two side Bradford during the week there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to handle the Premier League’s cellar dwellers. This will be the squad’s second trip to the Madejski Stadium this season with the first one being a wild and woolly affair with Arsenal coming out on top 7-5 in extra time in a League Cup match back in October.

That game showed the best and worst of the Gunners as they fell behind 4-0 in the first half before staging an incredible comeback. Forgotten man Marouane Chamakh was one of the heroes that night by scoring a pair of goals while Theo Walcott bagged a hat trick. A lot has gone in since then though and Reading now find themselves looking up at the other 19 Premier League clubs and are a good bet to be relegated back into the Championship League at the end of the season. They’ve lost five on the trot and are six points away from the safety zone. Their nine points comes from just one win, six draws and nine defeats.

Arsenal sits in eighth place in the table, 18 points behind league-leading Manchester United. They have managed just 24 points on the season so far from six wins, six draws, and four losses. They’re five points behind fourth-place Tottenham for the coveted last Champions League spot. They also have to climb over Norwich, West Brom and Everton to reach Spurs and are level on points with Stoke. Arsenal’s major problem is too many draws. They’ve dropped 12 points that way already this year.

If Arsenal is to make up some points in the standings then they need to do it starting with this match against Reading. They will then have a chance to earn more points with upcoming games against Wigan, West Ham and then Newcastle before the year is out. A win in Reading would see Arsenal jump into a fifth-place tie with West Brom and Everton. They’d also be just two behind Spurs and Chelsea and would be right back in the thick of things.

Reading has allowed 31 goals against in their 16 league games and after pumping seven goals past them in the League Cup the Gunners should be confident on the attack. Arsenal should be able to exploit Reading’s weaknesses again and their quick passing game should cause them problems. In addition, Walcott, Arsenal’s top scorer on the season, could be back in the lineup for this match. Olivier Giroud is expected to be dressed and Reading may have some problems containing him. Laurent Koscielny is still out of action though and he’s joined on the sidelines by Abou Diaby.

Reading gave Arsenal problems in the previous meeting from their wide areas. They play a relatively direct style of football and their wingers are pretty speedy players with good dribbling and crossing skills. Arsenal’s back four will have to be wary of this and on their toes. For some reason, Reading striker Pavel Pogbrenyak usually starts on the bench while Adam Le Fondre gets the nod up front. Another player to watch, especially in the air, is Jason Roberts. Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen will especially have to be sharp to deal with them.

The weak spot for Reading is in their own end as they leave a lot of open spaces for attackers. Players such as Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshire will need to take advantage of it and set up the front men, which will likely be Giroud, Walcott, and Podolski. Looking back at the history between the two clubs, Arsenal has beaten Reading in all 10 previous meetings.

In their last 10 home games, Reading has won just once while drawing five and losing the other four. Arsenal hasn’t been too good on the road though as they’ve drawn four and lost two in their past six away games. Reading has just one clean sheet all season in the league and has a problem hanging onto leads. They’ve lost 17 points so far this season from winning positions, including losing 4-3 to Man United after jumping out to an early 2-0 advantage. They’re especially bad in the second half as they’ve allowed 20 goals against in the second 45 minutes of games.

Arsenal has outscored Reading 11-1 in their first four league meetings and although they may be off to a bad start, should be able to walk out of Madejski Stadium with all three points. Look for them to win this match by a couple of goals.

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