Reading 2 Arsenal 5: Saint Santi Steals the Show in Madejski
After Arsenal’s much-talked after defeat to Bradford, the world as we knew it almost came to an end. A team once renowned for greatness had sunk to an all-time low and the boss had to do something to turn his team’s fortunes around. Then came Reading, a team struggling badly in the Premier League with five defeats on the trot, and victory was paramount for Arsene Wenger and his wounded lions.
Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud made timely returns from their injuries and the boss wasted no time in drafting Walcott back to the starting lineup. With Walcott leading the scoring charts with 10 goals, Wenger finally heeded to his pleas for a center forward role and for the first time since the days Nebuchadnezzer ruled Persia, Theo finally got his shot as a center forward with Lukas Podolski and the Ox providing support on both flanks.
This also meant that Gervinho was given a warm cozy spot on the bench, much to the delight of enigma106 and many other sane Gooners out there. He has been nothing short of appalling in recent weeks and a place in the dugout was no less than he deserved.
The Ox was the first to draw first blood when he made one of his trademark bursting runs before firing a shot straight at Adam Federici. Podolski reacted quickest to the ball but the assistant referee’s flag spared Reading’s blushes. Moments later, Jack Wilshere won a free kick at the edge of the box but Walcott’s free kick was wide off the mark.
Reading made a brief foray forward and it almost reaped dividends. Pavel Pogrebnyak executed a neat one-two that left Kieran Gibbs for dead before drilling the ball into Arsenal’s danger area. The ball was miscued and a great chance went begging for the hosts. The Royals were made to rue that miss as the visitors took the lead shortly afterwards.
Podolski and Gibbs have forged a good understanding all season long, even though it will take a while before they form a telepathic understanding reminiscent of the Ashley Cole – Robert Pires days. Podolski teed up Gibbs before drifting slowly into the box and the fullback had a couple of touches before flashing the ball into the box.
The German Machine’s first touch was a stuff made of dreams and his second touch was even better.
Within seconds, the Arsenal faithful in the Madejski started shrieking,
“He scores when he wants, he scores when he wants,
Lukas Podolski, he scores when he wants”
If my memory serves me right, that was the same tunes the Gooners used for…
From there onwards, the little conjurer, Santi Cazorla, decided to bring out his vast amount of tricks from his hat to give the Gooners a show they would never forget. He started with a shimmy before blasting his shot narrowly wide.
Moments later, Cazorla sent a defense-splitting pass to Theo Walcott. I was ready to bet everything I had that there was only one outcome after Walcott made the defenders eat his dust with his blistering pace. Unbelievably, Walcott fired the ball straight at the goalie and for a striker that has been crying to play as a center forward, that certainly didn’t help his cause.
On the other end of the pitch, Thomas Vermaelen made a vital interception when Reading sprang on the break. On the half hour mark, Podolski made mince meat of Shaun Cummings before lofting a cross into the box which was converted brilliantly by Cazorla through a diving header.
The goal came as a surprise to the Spanish hobbit, as he probably never expected that he was going to score a header. Three minutes after the restart, the Arsenal of old was resurrected with the end result being a well-deserved goal by Santi Cazorla.
The move started with the Ox on the right that had some deft touches before playing the ball into space for Walcott. The forward chipped the ball into the box and Gibbs did very well to flick the ball into Cazorla’s path. With the Spaniard backing the post, he nicked in a clever shot on the bounce that beat everyone to put Arsenal three goals to the good.
Arsenal didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the start of the second half with the Ox firing another shot over. The youngster craved for a goal so badly and I was surprised when I learned from the commentators that he hadn’t scored in his last 29 games for the Gunners – the kind of form Marouane Chamakh can be proud of.
Wilshere dragged the ball into the Reading danger area before sending Walcott through with a somewhat poorly-timed pass. The forward improvised to send the ball past Federeci but Adrian Mariappa was on hand to block the tame shot on the line, allowing Federeci to smother the ball to safety.
Walcott’s miss didn’t matter much because another intricate passing play allowed Podolski to drill a pass to Cazorla that finished aplomb to seal his first Arsenal hat-trick. This also meant that he was the third Spaniard in Premier League history to net a hat-trick. I’d seen Wigan’s Jordi Gomez bang in a hat-trick against Reading this season but I can swear that the first ever Spanish hat-trick wasn’t scored by Ivan Campo.
At 4 – 0, the game seemed to be truly done and dusted but like the Capital One encounter earlier in the season, the goals weren’t over yet. In familiar fashion, Arsenal were the plotters of their own downfall yet again as Gibbs activated the Self-Destruct button to send a pass to the opposition in Arsenal’s danger area. Adam Le Fondre rounded Wojciech Szczesny to make it 4 – 1.
Bleeeeeeh! A bloody consolation goal, we all thought.
Minutes later, Hal Robson-Kanu took on the entire Arsenal defense before slipping a through ball to Jimmy Kebe that wasted no time in placing the ball past Szczesny to make it 4 – 2. That goal instilled some confidence to the home side and the Madejski crowd erupted bringing doubts to a previously comfortable Arsenal side.
As expected, Twitter became an uneasy place and this was epitomized by our dear ol’ Piers Morgan,
Many Gooners were baffled by Wenger’s decision to bring on Aaron Ramsey instead of Tomas Rosicky but from a tactical perspective, it seemed like the right move, as Cazorla drifted to the right, allowing Ramsey to work in tandem with Wilshere and Arteta.
With Arsenal on the ascendancy, Ramsey’s work rate and engine would have fared better than Rosicky’s flair and attacking verve. My opinion, though.
When Reading thought that they could get something out of the time, hat-trick hero, Cazorla, sent Walcott clear and the winger…wannabe forward placed the ball past Federici to make it five. That turned out to be the last contributions for both players as they were withdrawn for the French duo of Coquelin and Giroud.
Late on, Giroud had a couple of half chances to get in on the scoring charts but his rustiness got the better of him. The ref’s whistle was like music to the ears of every Arsenal, as the Gunners had come back to winning ways in emphatic fashion.
Arsene Wenger’s post-match press conference was in a pretty relaxed mood stating that his team won convincingly. Apparently, Wenger has always had plans to play Walcott as a center forward and it’s good to know that it finally come to fruition, at the expense of Giroud though.
At least, Gervinho was not on the pitch and life was a lot better for the Gunners in his absence.
Arsenal had a large amount of attempts on goal yesterday and this was due to the fact that they were efficient and had good decision-making when the forward line had the ball. Unlike Gervinho in recent times, Podolski, Walcott, Cazorla and the Ox knew when to make a quick pass or a shot…and this has been Gervinho’s problem all season long.
This win has restored some belief back into the team, and a tricky fixture against Wigan Athletic comes up next.
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