Reading 2 Arsenal 5

Santi Cazorla’s first Arsenal hat-trick inspired Arsenal to bounce back from their shock Carling Cup exit, and ensured that in the Premiership at least,their ambitions continue. Cazorla was fizzing all night, and his treble was complimented by two wonderful strikes courtesy of Lukas Podolski and playing through his preferred central position, Theo Walcott. This being a wounded Arsenal meant that amid a torrent of criticism they had to respond, but just to remind everyone of their need to tighten up defensively, Reading grabbed a couple of goals,through substitute Adam Le Fondre and Jimmy Kebe to get the home side on the scoreboard, but the Gunners were to power home in the end.

Arsenal have won all 10 previous competitive matches against Reading, including all four Premier League games, with the most recent being that 12 goal thriller in the Capital One Cup. Cruising at 3-0 up past the half hour mark, there was danger for the home side that another 12 goal thriller would be on the cards, but in the event we had to be satisfied with the “mere” 7 goals on offer.

Ahead of the game, Arsene Wenger had stressed that his club were unified and would respond with the spirit and desire he insisted was there. Prior to kick off,the Gunners’ Assistant manager seemed content putting his charges through their per- match warm up, and within 14 minutes, Arsenal had taken the lead. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had stung the hands of Adam Federici that the Reading ‘ keeper did well to keep out, his luck however would not last. Kieran Gibbs teased his way through the Royal’s defence and swung a cross that Podolski controlled with his right foot before finishing with his left for the opener.

Much has been made of the Arsenal defence, and but for the alertness of Thomas Vermaelen and Kieran Gibbs from Pavel Pogrebnyak in particular the Gunners could have been embarrassed again. Their preference for zonal marking from corners still needs some work and had Noel Hunt directed his header from Nicky Shorey’s corner after 11 minutes, matters could have been a little more tense for Wenger.

In football however, you take whatever comes your way, and Reading were content to allow Arsenal possession. Jack Wilshere continues to find his pace and energy levels, and alongside Cazorla the pair just ooze class. The two almost crafted a quality goal after a fast break but the Spain midfielder saw his effort deflected for a corner after 29 minutes. Two minutes later however, the Gunners doubled their advantage. Again the move emanated from the left. Podolski crossed and swooping low with his head was Cazorla to find the target. Yes he can head the ball too!

It was all Arsenal, and much to the boos of the Madejski stadium crowd. After 34 minutes their misery was to worsen. Walcott was out on the right. His cross found Podolski and then Gibbs who fizzed in a cross that Cazorla latched onto to make it 3-0 to the Gunners.

Cazorla was showing the kind of form that Arsenal fans had seen so early this season, and his and their night would be complete on the hour mark when the magical midfielder grabbed his hat-trick. A sweeping move saw Oxlade-Chamberlain link up with Wilshere. The England midfielder switched the ball to his left to Podolski. As Reading’s defence struggled to keep up, in rushed Cazorla to sweep in to compete a memorable move. Free flowing football was back and it was in red and white in the Royal county.

Then came the Gunners hiccup. Playing with an extra midfielder, Reading pressed the ball as Kieran Gibbs tried to find Wilshere. He slipped and in stepped the grateful Le Fondre to round the hitherto redundant Wojciech Szczesny to make the score 4-1 after 67 minutes. Four minutes later and an onside Kebe doubled the home sides tally, but surely Arsenal would still hold on.

One learns never tomake such assumptions, but lessons from losing leads from the past seem to have been learned. Ten minutes from time, Arsenal grabbed a fifth, and of course it was made by Cazorla. He danced his way through the Reading midfield, and found Walcott. The Arsenal number 14- who is locked in protracted contract negotiations with the club- took one touch, and with his left foot struck well to beat Federici to complete Reading’s rout, the win taking Arsenal up to fifth place in the Premiership.

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