Arsenal went to Reading in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup Last night. As usual in this competition Arsene Wenger made 11 changes from the team which beat QPR 1-0 last Saturday. It meant the team had a mixture of youth and experience and it certainly showed at times.
The team was exactly as I had predicted and the only surprise for me was seeing Olivier Giroud on the bench. I didn't think any of Saturday's starting 11 would play any part in the game, but Giroud certainly had a role to play before the end.
The goals came early and quickly from Reading and Arsenal found themselves 4-0 down after 37 minutes. It was tough to take for the Arsenal fans and some of those in the ground could be seen leaving. Those that remained were a credit to Arsenal fans everywhere as they sang their hearts out from start to finish.
There was so much wrong with almost everything Arsenal did in the first half. Reading were quicker to react to every loose ball and they put the Arsenal defence under pressure they just could not cope with. They had the beating of Arsenal in aerial duels and took every opportunity to put the ball into the Arsenal box.
I could spend a long time talking about which Arsenal players did what wrong during that first half. There was so much wrong with the performance that I would much prefer to talk about what happened from the 45th minute onwards.
The comeback started in the second minute of added time of the first half. Andrey Arshavin played Theo Walcott in and he finished past the advancing Reading goalkeeper. The goal added a little bit of respectability to the scoreline, but surely there was no way back for them.
The boss must have had a few words to say to the players at half time because Arsenal were a different team after the break. They assumed control of the game, but they just couldn't get the next goal they needed to open things up. Wenger decided to change things just after the hour mark with the introduction of Giroud and Thomas Eisfeld for Emmanuel Frimpong and Serge Gnarbry.
Arsenal switched to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation and got their dividends almost immediately. Walcott swung in a corner and Giroud was on hand to head it home at the near post. There were still 25 minutes left and Arsenal weren't going to give up.
Giroud and Walcott were playing very well and seemed like only a matter of time before the next goal came. Chances came and went and none of them were taken as the clock ticked towards the last minute. Laurent Koscielny got his head to another corner with a minute left to make it 4-3 and set up an incredible finale.
Arsenal tried to throw everything forward but Reading did all they could to run the clock down. There were four added minutes to be played and Arsenal just wanted one more good chance. In the sixth added minute that chance came their way and it finished up in the net one way or another.
Walcott got on the end of a ball into the box and his shot looked to have crossed the line before a defender cleared it. Carl Jenkinson was on hand to put the rebound into the net and I still don't know for sure who the goal has been credited to. The Arsenal players and fans were delerious as they had managed to take the game into extra time.
Some of the Arsenal players clearly didn't realise there would be extra time as they threw their shirts to the fans. When they realised there were another 30 minutes to play they had to get their shirts back very quickly.
When extra time started it was Arsenal who were on the front foot yet again. They kept going forward in search of what they hoped would be a winning goal for them. With the first period of extra time almost over the lead goal they craved came their way.
A good move by Arsenal ended with Arshavin laying the ball off for Marouane Chamakh. He let fly from outside the box and his shot avoided the keeper after going through the legs of a defender. Arsenal seemed to have completed a remarkable turnaround as they led 5-4 with just over 15 minutes left.
The intensity from Arsenal dropped off just a little in the second period of extra time. Walcott had a good effort well saved, but Reading kept trying to get the ball into the Arsenal box in the hope of equalising. With only four added minutes left Reading got the lifeline they were looking for.
A ball over the Arsenal defence was volleyed back towards the Arsenal goal and Pavel Progrebnyak was on hand to head in the equaliser. It was anybody's game yet again, but penalties looked the most likely scenario with only a few minutes left.
With only a matter of seconds left Arsenal charged forward yet again and an excellent effort by Arshavin was blocked on the goal line. Walcott was on hand to slam the ball into the net and put Arsenal 6-5 up with the game practically over. Surely there was no more time left for another goal.
Reading pushed forward in the hope of bringing the game to penalties and Arsenal caught them out in the dying seconds. A mix up by a Reading defender left Chamakh with only the keeper to beat and he lobbed him superbly from over 30 yards out. A quite remarkable turnaround had been completed with Arsenal coming from 4-0 down to win 7-5.
It put the ghost of Newcastle to rest as Arsenal outdid the feat of Newcastle a couple of seasons ago. Arsenal blew a 4-0 lead in that game to draw 4-4, but they were down to 10 men. Last night they outdid that feat against Reading with a team full of fringe players.
The mental strength which appeared to be non-existant in the first half was there for all to see in abundance after the break. The defensive display may have been far from ideal, but the manner of the comeback was the real story of the game. Arsenal have now scored 13 goals in two Capital One Cup games this season.
I thought both Walcott and Giroud did more than enough to show they have to be included from the start against United on Saturday. Walcott collected the match ball after the game so I can only assume the fourth goal was credited to him. He is now Arsenal's top scorer so far this season with six goals in all competitions despite only starting three games.
Even Chamakh can't have done his chances any harm with his two goals. In the first half he was awful but his two goals must surely have been a confidence boost for him. He took them both very well and maybe he will get a chance or two to play again with Gervinho out.
Arsenal will have to defend an awful lot better against United on Saturday or they will be in a whole heap of trouble. A little bit of the attacking flair from last night would be very welcome though. I'll look more closely at that game as it gets a little closer.
Arsenal will know their quarter final opponents after tonight's other quarter finals when the draw is made. With the team in the last eight the boss might just decide to treat the competition a little bit more seriously. It's something he will have time to contemplate when he sees who the opponents are in the last eight.
Last night's game was one if the most remarkable games I have ever seen and it will be a long time before I see anything like it again I'm sure. Luckily for me I was unable to watch the first half and the torture it must have been. I did manage to catch all seven of Arsenal's though.
If being an Arsenal supporter can be described as a roller coaster ride at times then last night was the ride of a lifetime. The highs and lows of the game were quite incredible and they will be talked about for a long time to come. It was only the Capital One Cup though and the really important football returns at the weekend.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.