After the Capital One Cup defeat to League Two Bradford last week it was vital for Arsenal to bounce back last night. They faced a trip to the Premier League's bottom club Reading who had only won one league game this season. On the face of it they had the ideal opportunity to get their second league win in a row.
Arsene Wenger made very few changes from the team which went out to Bradford on penalties. Mikael Arteta returned from being rested to mastermind the midfield while Theo Walcott returned from injury to play his preferred role as a central striker. If Walcott is to be believed he will sign s new contract if he's given a chance in that role although the size of his wage packet must surely have a large bearing on any new contract.
Arsenal started brightly and it looked like only a matter of time before they made the breakthrough. Reading looked a little dangerous too and it had to be remembered that had lost only two home league games this season. When the clubs last met at this ground Arsenal won 7-5 after extra time in the Capital One Cup in late October.
When the first goal came it was Arsenal who got it and Lukas Podolski was the scorer. Kieran Gibbs got his first assist of the night when he cut the ball into the box from the left for Podolski to take down with his right and finish nearly with his left. With 15 minutes gone Arsenal had the lead they wanted and they looked to build upon it quickly.
Good chances were missed as Arsenal completely dominated the game and Reading struggled to cope. When the second goal came it was quickly followed by the third and Reading looked beaten before half time at 3-0 down. Both of those goals came from Santi Cazorla as he controlled everything good Arsenal did in attack and got forward in support of Walcott at every opportunity.
The first of them was just after the half hour mark when he stooped to head home a cross from the left. Only three minutes later he added his next goal as he took down and lashed home a header back into the goalmouth from Gibbs. Arsenal were finding acres of space between the six yard line and the penalty spot and Reading paid the price for it.
It could have been five or six by half time and I just hoped Arsenal would approach the second half with the same intensity. They started off in much the same fashion and on the hour mark Cazorla completed his hat trick with a right foot finish after yet another ball from the Arsenal left. He had scored the perfect hat trick with a header, a left foot finish and a right foot finish.
At 4-0 it looked like Arsenal could go on to give Reading a real thrashing, but then the team reminded us why they have struggled recently. Gibbs played an awful pass straight to a Reading player in the Arsenal half and in the blink of an eye they were in to make it 4-1. With 25 minutes left there was no need to panic, but Arsenal contrived to gift Reading a second goal five minutes later.
This time it was Podolski who hadn't got his mind on the job as he stayed back when the defence pushed out. He played Reading onside and again left Wojciech Szczesny hopelessly exposed. With 20 minutes to go the word on everybody's lips was Newcastle, but thankfully Araenal didn't sink to those depths.
They assumed control of the game and kept possession of the ball to themselves. Gradually Reading were worn down again and it was no surprise when Cazorla played Walcott in to make it 5-2 to Arsenal. The rest of the game petered out without any real threat from Reading and Arsenal missed a few chances to score six goals in a league game for the second time this season.
Arsenal are fifth in the table after last night's result and they have the opportunity to rise to third if they win away to Wigan in the early kick off on Saturday. Both Spurs and Chelsea will have an opportunity to overtake them when they play but all Arsenal can do is take the three points and put the pressure on them. There's a very busy Christmas schedule ahead and last night's three points were the perfect start to it for Arsenal.
If they can attack like they did last night in the upcoming four league games they will have a real chance of making some progress. It was like watching the Arsenal of old last night and I could get used to doing that every week. Of course other teams may not be as generous as Reading but you can only play the opposition in front of you.
With a little luck Christmas time could be looking up for Arsenal fans.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.