Arsenal Dominate Reading

Arsenal was knocked out of the league race by the loss at Old Trafford and they had nothing to win. But Wenger’s men had a point to prove having not won at home since February 11.

Life is as much as an irony as one would like it to be. The Gunners were much more dominant and skilled in the field against Liverpool and Manchester United, only to lose, where as against Reading the going was smooth. But the Gunners did not look as strong, only to win this one comfortably.

Arsenal’s injury list was almost as long as their line up, with Almunia, Mathieu Flamini, Eduardo, Tomas Rosicky, Sagna and Hoyte all out of reckoning with injury problems and Diaby out with a suspension, Wenger was starved for choice.

He played more or less the same team which he played at Old Trafford with one exception- Theo Walcott. The Englishman was accompanied by Adebayor and Robin Van Persie upfront. Gallas and Song came back as center-back partners accompanied by Toure who was leaning forward, between the goal posts was Lehmann. Fabregas, Gilberto, Hleb and Clichy formed the very dominant midfield. Gunners pushed forward with a vengeance, fashioning opportunities and creating holes in the Reading defense.

Hleb pushed forward crossing one over to Clichy to the right who was brought down, handing Arsenal a free kick very early into the game. Hleb then got into a wonderful position and crossed one right onto Fabregas’s right leg, pursued by two burly defenders and a rapidly approaching Marcus Hahnemann; the genius could only poke at the ball which rolled into the open arms of the keeper.

The eluding home goal came soon after, when Toure pushed forward from his own half, skipping two midfielders which could make even Fabregas proud, passed one to Adebayor, who made no mistake and lobbed it into the goal. Adebayor looked more like the man who was the top scorer in the first half of the season. Almost immediately after that another Toure cross was finished by Gilberto helped by a deflection by a defender, Arsenal had a two goal lead.

The Gunners went into the break with a healthy lead. No guesses what Wenger had in mind when he came out after the break, the team attacked with fresh legs and aggression! The Gunners however could not push in any more goals, they did come close several times when another Toure pass eluded a sliding Fabregas, a Van Persie free kick not only hit the post but also the bar, a Walcott scorcher bounced off the post. A Hleb cross was not converted by Song just five yards from the open goal.

The Royals to their credit did attack twice in the last ten minutes but the athletic defending of Song and the bull headed defending by Eboue who had come in as a substitute at the hour mark for Toure stopped any one from challenging the German goalkeeper.

The Gunners comprehensive victory over the Royals has given them some time to heal their own wounds. Arsenal gave a spirited display of footballing ability, not their best but for the relief of the fans they are regaining the lost form. The Arsenal fans will take heart from the fact that the side is showing steady improvement from last year, having already amassed six more points than last year and going further into the Champion’s league.

But Arsène Wenger will be taking a few furious notes for next season, with rumors of Flamini leaving for Bayern Munich floating, and Gilberto’s prospects looking bleak along with Gallas’s failures; he will be searching for a few talented wingers and a strong center back.

The whispers of Henry leaving Nou Camp for London being rife and Lampard looking out of Chelsea, might come in as a blessing for the Frenchman who could fill the gaping void in his attack if either of the two legends could be snapped up. But that’s a few months away; all the Gooners will have their eyes trained to the next match at Pride Park with lowly Derby and hopefully expecting no surprises.

Patanjali Pahwa

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