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Arsenal 2-0 Reading – 5 Key Stats From The Game

Arsenal progressed serenely to the Quarter-Final stage of the EFL Cup, with a straightforward victory over Jaap Stam’s Reading side, as Arsene Wenger gave many of his young talents a chance to shine on the big stage.

I was lucky enough to attend this game, and after the pilgrimage to Piebury and The Tollington, myself,  @GreeneBantern and @SimplyEnigmatic made our way to the stadium. 

Just as we left the watering hole, the team was announced, and it was fair to say the biggest surprise was seeing Ainslie Maitland-Niles named in the centre of midfield. Whilst the talent is there, to be given a central role is a huge responsibility and it must have been an honour and extra pressure simultaneously for the youngster.

Just before we entered The Emirates, I must add that I saw a dear friend who I hadn’t seen in over fifteen years. A fellow Gooner and an erudite chap, it was honestly great to shoot the breeze after so long. 

Arsenal really does have the capacity to improve your day! 

Back to the game, and Martinez once again started in goal, but it was in defence that perhaps carried most danger. 

The seats we had in the East Stand allowed for excellent viewing, and they provided us with the chance to really dissect each performance. It was like a FIFA game, as we were level with the halfway line, as opposed to our usual seats in the North Bank. 

The promising Rob Holding was alongside Gabriel in the heart of the backline. Normally the requirement for an inexperienced defender is to be partnered with a seasoned veteran, and the rash Brazilian is not exactly the sage influence that would soothe a fretting 21 year old.

We needn’t have worried.

Mohamed Elneny continued in the centre of midfield, and the attack looked full of vibrancy, with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide just behind Lucas Perez as the sole striker.

The last few occasions we have faced the Royals, they have provided the sternest of tests, but new coach Jaap Stam seems to have instructed his team to play calmly and play out from the back, which played into the hands of the Gunners.

We started well, and fan favourite Carl Jenkinson had a great chance to break the deadlock, only for Royals keeper Ali Al-Habsi to parry, and Jenkinson could only head the second chance over.

Reading stood off Arsenal, inviting the young home team to try and play around them – and on a few occasions we did.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the man who put Arsenal a goal up, and it was the away teams insistence on starting moves from the back which gave The Ox a chance to shoot as two Reading defenders backed off – and he simply picked out the far corner. 

It stemmed from the pressure we put on a flustered defence, but the pressing died a little as Reading started to push a little, but it seemed as if Arsenal could break through at will.

The Ox’s second goal came from Rob Holding beating his man on the right of the penalty area, and when second half substitute Olivier Giroud laid the ball off, The Ox fired a bullet toward goal. A deflection meant it eluded Al-Habsi – and the key deflection may just have come from Alex Iwobi.

There was much more to see during the ninety minutes, but here are five points that occurred on the pitch that are worth reading about:




Elneny Man of the Match

The Egyptian’s first start Vs Middlesbrough in the weekend showed how rusty from lack of minutes Elneny was. This game required a steady hand on the tiller though. So many kids on the pitch that need an experienced colleague to dictate when required, and Elneny was that man. So often he was the player who put his foot on the ball and sprayed it wide to stretch play. So often he won possession when Reading were just starting to build a head of steam. Elneny was the player we needed, and he showed that he is more than able.




The Ox deserves some credit

Too often I have written of the Ox’s failures, but his display in this match showed his maturity and initiative. We are all aware he has the talent, but in this game, he was the player who took the game by the scruff of the neck in the flat spots of play, and he made things happen. He was also defensively diligent, which is a rare occurrence. I dearly hope this is a turned corner, as he was a delight to watch.




Rob Holding is all that

With a central defensive pairing of Gabriel and Holding, the potential for disaster was high. Not that they are incompetent, but chemistry is a huge factor for centre-backs, and these two have not played together since pre-season. Plus, Gabriel is known to be a tad on the rash side, but this game needed him to be the wise head for his younger partner. However, Holding showed positional astuteness, great instincts, and his physicality was just as good as his Brazilian colleague. Holding looked like a defender about six or seven years his senior. If he continues his trajectory, then greatness beckons. A really classy game for Holding.




Reading should have pressed

If the Royals had adjusted their game plan according to the Arsenal teamsheet, then they would have harried their opposition. A less-experienced player is usually more inclined to panic on the big stage, but Reading kept to their gameplan, which meant they would invite pressure and when in possession, attempt to pass and move. They didn’t, thankfully, give Arsenal as many nightmares as in previous cup games, but to be fair to Arsenal, I think that they would have coped. Still, Jaap Stam could have thrown caution to the wind.





Lucas Perez looks tasty

The swarthy Spaniard was given another shot as he was in the previous round, and although he didn’t register on the scoresheet or provide an assist, this performance was maybe a little more telling. Lucas was industrious, and harried as much as he could in his lone role. He had little to work with, but his endeavours were worthy of a reward he never received in the form of a goal. If he continues to put in as much effort as he did in this game, then he will be a fantastic asset.

There was much more to write about. Much has been made of the man known only as ‘Jeff,’ and he was tidy enough in possession, but there was little thrills or spills from the exciting talent. His time will come. Alex Iwobi looked a little tired but that is completely understandable, and Jenkinson impressed on the right of defence. Also worth noting is Keiran Gibbs, who played in the stalemate in the weekend, but showed no ill-effects. He led the line well as Skipper.

All in all, a comfortable enough victory, but not without a spirited if uninspired opposition. The future rounds will be tougher, but the fact we are still in the cup should be celebrated. It gives our fringe players a vital runout, and any chance for silverware should be embraced.

Arsenal Vs Reading – EFL Cup Preview

Three days after a disappointing draw against Middlesbrough in the Premier League, Arsenal have the chance to return to winning ways immediately, with this EFL Cup meeting at home versus Reading.

Despite dropping points at home, other results featuring our title rivals ended favourably, which leaves the Gunners primed near the top – and with a list of priorities as full as our squad list.

Arsene Wenger yesterday was at the club’s AGM, which clashed with training, but he insisted that the club would fight on all fronts, including this competition – which is one he has failed to win in his two decades at Arsenal.

The EFL cup used to be derided by the major teams, us included, but any silverware to show off to the fans at the end of the season is to be celebrated, and so all major Premier League teams now focus on the competition a lot more than in previous years – to prove it, just look at the teams that will be named.

In terms of Arsenal and who will make the team, it is rather exciting trying to guess who will make the lineup – and even more so being able to see some of the lesser seen players being able to strut their stuff. 

Damian Martinez started the last EFL Cup round, and will be expected to wear the gloves again. After that, it is a case of educated estimation.

A host of fringe players will be champing at the bit to get some valuable game time. Gabriel, Rob Holding, Carl Jenkinson, Jeff-Reine-Adelaide, Chuba Akpom, Lucas Perez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Elneny will be eagerly awaiting Wenger’s decision, and they all stand a great chance of lining up against the Royals. 

Mohamed Elneny in particular will be looking to get up to speed as quickly as possible, with Santi Cazorla perhaps sidelined for longer than projected, the Egyptian will be looking to take his chance with both hands, and that means putting in performances that make it harder for Cazorla to instantly return to the side.

It isn’t just the players who aren’t part of the first team that are looking to get on the team sheet. 

Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have returned to first team training, and all that is missing is match sharpness, so it isn’t a huge leap to think that the Frenchman will indeed take to the pitch tonight at some stage, although Ramsey may just miss out.

This would mean that this experimental lineup will be peppered with genuine experience and class, as well as youthful hunger. I will be attending the game, and cannot wait to cheer to the rafters whoever wears the jersey.

We are of course favourites to win it, but Reading are no pushovers. Everyone will remember the 7-5 epic tie in this competition from a few years ago, and with Jaap Stam as coach, they will have defensive solidity as a priority. 

The Royals will pose a threat, but with the dazzling array of talent we can call upon to fill the side, we should have no excuses.

Reading have not beaten Arsenal in thirteen attempts, and the Gunners haven’t lost at home to lower league opposition in this competition since 1963, so hopefully this continues! There is a cursory note though, as Arsenal have lost their last two home games in this competition – and we have never lost three in a row. 

This tie is there to be won, and handsomely. Let us continue with the great run we have been enjoying, and in turn, stay in contention for the cup.

Predicted Lineup – Martinez, Jenkinson, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Jeff, Ox, Lucas, Akpom.

Predicted Score – 4-1

A Trip to Wembley & a Return of Frayed Nerves

A 19th Cup Final is now in our midst after a fraught win requiring extra time under the arch of Wembley Stadium.

Arsene Wenger before the match referred to his “love story” with the oldest Cup competition in football – and he can also look back on yet another semi-final which teetered between triumph & tragedy so delicately

Continue reading A Trip to Wembley & a Return of Frayed Nerves