Arsenal vs. Reading – Job Done / Give Rosicky more game time / Top Four is ours…

Arsenal v Reading - Premier League

Ok, so before we get ahead of ourselves let’s consider the result against Reading for what it was – a widely expected home victory over one of the basement clubs. To suggest that the Royals were unable to live with our movement and quickness of thought from the start would be an understatement. Their performance smacked of a team low on morale and unsure of where to turn to for inspiration. I genuinely feel for them, as based on this evidence they have zero chance of remaining in the Premier League.

From an Arsenal perspective the win was very much a case of “job done”. At times the game resembled a stroll in the park, with both possession and territorial statistics grossly weighted in our favour. The 4-1 score line was actually rather flattering to Reading. It ought to have been 2 or 3 by half time, and possibly even 6 by the final whistle had our finishing been more clinical. Yesterday was a real team performance from the Gunners though – the result of several weeks of hard work on the training pitch and a renewed focus on match day. A couple of highlights deserve a special mention…

Firstly, the midfield starting line-up – Arteta in his customary holding role was expected, as was Santi’s roaming assignment across the park, but as to how Wenger intended to deploy Rosicky and Ramsey filled me with intrigue. It has not been a common occurrence for these four to start a game together, although I have suggested for some time that both Tomas and Aaron deserve an extended run in the team.

Rosicky still has a great deal to offer us – combative in the tackle, slick off the ball, and great vision when in possession. Injuries have hampered him and at 32 years of age some have been quick to write him off. His performance on Saturday however was one of his best I have seen from him in a while. Of particular note was his interaction with Santi Cazorla – it was as though the two of them had been playing together for years! Their movement off the ball was superb, and they provided a consistent passing outlet for those around them. Rosicky’s quick ‘pass and move’ style is very much in line with the club’s ethos, and creates time and space on the ball for other attacking players such as Cazorla to work their magic (and we all know what damage can be inflicted on the opposition when this happens..). Contrary to what many in the terraces seem to scream each week, both Rosicky and Cazorla in fact complement one another. They ought to be feature in the same line-up as often as possible in our remaining games, such are the threats they pose.

As for Aaron Ramsey, I admire the commitment he has shown this season and believe him to be a far more accomplished player than some of his performances (out of position on the left wing) suggest. The amount of abuse I hear directed at him each week is getting quite ridiculous – in fact it makes me wonder how many of our fans actually understand football!…It was crystal clear very early on that the decision to play him in a central role alongside and slightly in advance of Arteta was the correct one. His positional discipline came far more naturally and as the game progressed his confidence grew, at several junctures venturing into the Reading box and posing a genuine threat. Yesterday’s performance has to give him a decent chance of a starting berth against West Bromwich Albion on 6th April.

The combination of Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky and Cazorla offered us exactly what we needed to break down a Reading team that predictably (and rather unsuccessfully) tried to congest the game as much as possible. The one touch passing, positional interchange, and work rate off the ball was too much for Adkins’ men to deal with – reminiscent in some ways of a 5 a side football game…

The second special mention goes out to the way we pressed Reading when not in possession of the ball (fortunately just 39% of the time) – the midfield relished the task assigned to them and even the diminutive Cazorla got stuck in. Ever since the Bayern game Wenger has clearly identified the area as one in need of significant improvement. It is without doubt something that the squad have been working hard on, and the results are clear to see – 3 straight wins, and only 1 goal conceded. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Keep calm and carry on working hard for one another off the ball!

The back four also deserve praise – it is easy for a defender, no matter how talented, to lose concentration when those ahead of them are doing such a destructive job on the opposition. Koscielny and Mertesacker were solid as a rock yesterday, and both Sagna and Monreal were rarely troubled (with the one exception of the Reading goal – albeit an excellent cross, Monreal maybe could have reacted quicker to the run of Robson-Kanu at the back post…). Personally I was surprised to see Sagna start in place of the impressive Jenkinson of late, although I accept that we need to encourage a healthy degree of competition for the wing back berths. The performances of all 4 players appear to have improved as a result.

Finally, isn’t it great to see Chelski dropping points at Southampton! I argued in my previous article “Don’t bin your season ticket quite yet! Why Arsenal will still be playing Champions League Football next season…” that we are likely to see both Chelsea and Tottenham drop points during the month of April. Chelsea quite clearly had one eye on Monday’s Cup tie against United, and the fixture log-jam they face in April (8 games in total) represents music to the ears of all Arsenal fans.

We now have a week to rest and prepare for what will be a tougher examination at the Hawthorns. A 1-0 or 2-1 score line in my view – but 3 points nonetheless…

More to come next week…

Meantime Happy Easter!

Joshua @ RL

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