Sunday, 31 March 2013

Arsenal Regain The Mastery of Their Own Fate By Beating Reading 4-1

Before yesterday's game I said football was an simple game and Arsenal did things the easy way against a poor Reading side. Their 4-1 win was pretty routine but it was a very important win for them. With Chelsea losing 2-1 at Southampton it meant Arsenal regained control of their fate in the fight for a top four finish.

They might currently lie in fifth place, but the two teams directly above them have to play each other in a couple of weeks time. In simple terms it means Arsenal will finish fourth at worst if they win their remaining eight games. Of course that would be a huge task and I can't really see them finishing the season winning 13 of their last 14 games.

What it does mean though is that the pressure is well and truly on both Spurs and Chelsea. Both of those teams have Europa League quarter finals to deal with and Chelsea have an FA Cup quarter final replay tomorrow too. While I would obviously prefer Arsenal to be still involved in one of the cup competitions it makes a pleasant change for them to be the ones with ample rest time between games.

It promises to be a fascinating and exciting end to the season and a third place finish is still well within Arsenal's grasp. They still have some very tough games remaining and next week's trip to West Brom is the first of them. Only United and City have won more home games than West Brom, but Arsenal really need to get a result in that game.

If they can manage to win they would move ahead of Chelsea although Chelsea do have a home game against Sunderland the next day. It would put real pressure on Spurs though and they have to play this Thursday night too. Their game next Sunday is at home to Everton and it's a game Everton need to take something from too.

Getting back to yesterday's game and I was a little surprised to see Gervinho in the starting team ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. With Theo Walcott out I thought Chamberlain would get a chance, but Arsene Wenger got his team selection absolutely right. Gervinho's contribution of a goal and two assists justified his selection and Chamberlain looked good when he came on too.

Arsenal will face much tougher challenges before the season is over, but they can only best the team they play. They played their football from start to finish and made plenty of other chances besides the four goals. It looked a little dodgy at only 1-0 at half time, but the early goal in the second half calmed any nerves the players might have had.

It really should have been 2-0 to Arsenal early in the first half, but Olivier Giroud wasn't awarded an absolutely blatant penalty. It was good to see him get a goal too after a relatively lean patch recently. Arsenal's goals are coming from a lot of sources at the moment and they will need that in the run in.

The inclusion of Laurent Koscielny again in defence alongside Per Mertesacker would seem to indicate the boss has decided they are his best pairing. I think it's a very good decision for the team, but it can't have been easy for him to leave his captain out again. Too often in the past I have thought the boss has picked from the perceived pecking order rather than what was best for the team, but he certainly has moved from that with Thomas Vermaelen.

The players now have a week to prepare for the trip to West Brom while the other teams chasing fourth place face cup games. It gives the players time to get themselves ready for the game and go out and get the three points that are needed. If they can win at West Brom I think the pendulum will have really swung in Arsenal's favour.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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