View From The North Bank: Reading 2 Arsenal 5

We’re back!

Alright, maybe it’s a bit soon to get carried away but, given all the recent doom and gloom, I’ll take what I can get. It may have been a particularly accommodating Reading side that we put to the sword but it was still a relief to win with a modicum of control.

The main thing that’s been missing in our more dismal spells this season is urgency and desire to drive the game on. The runners from midfield, the crisp incisive passing and the concerted pressing have been absent without leave on too many occasions so to see that back last night was encouraging. If nothing else, it shows that we are capable of better.

Le Boss switched things up for this game and put Theo through the middle. It’s tempting to say that Walcott got his wish to play up front although one suspects that there a one hundred thousand other things on his wish list. The contract situation rumbles on and it has to be said that it’s hard to see a conclusion until January has been used to sound out all potential suitors; if of course his representatives haven’t done so already.

His performance here was good but nothing extraordinary. His back to goal work, one of the big question marks over his ability to lead the line, was reasonably tidy although you have to say that coping with Reading’s central defence is a slightly different proposition to mixing it with Vidic, Terry, Kompany etc. Theo offers a decent option up there and in truth it’s options we lack. Giroud is looking a decent player but if his style doesn’t work where do we go? There’s no doubt that having that other choice makes us stronger.

Elsewhere, Cazorla was terrific. The irritatingly wise Gary Neville noted before the game that Santi likes to get on the ball and pull the strings when what we were missing were people getting beyond the ball and into decisive areas. Maybe Santi was watching or maybe, just maybe, that old duffer in the outsize coat who doesn’t know what he’s doing had spoken to his players and advised something similar. I know, Wenger issuing instructions to his players, who’d have thought it?

It wouldn’t be a match review if we didn’t have a section devoted to defensive frailty so here goes: The first was what it was. Gibbs played a sloppy pass inside and Le Fondre capitalised. At that point we were 4-0 up and you could see that his options were less enthusiastic about showing for him. The one thing you can say in mitigation is that at least we were comfortably in the lead at that point however taking our foot off the gas really isn’t something we can afford to do at any stage. The second was another error as Podolski, who actually earned some credit by tracking his man all the way back, cashed all that in by tracking him too far and playing him onside.

Our defence is a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, we have the fourth fewest goals conceded. That’s not a bad record by anyone’s reckoning. It lends weight to the theory that our frailty is really at the other end. If the attacking players created and converted more, the goals that go in at the other end would be less important. Take Swansea and Norwich for example. Plenty of the ball but nothing to show for it leaving us vulnerable to the odd goal here and there.

On the other hand, we concede more goals than anyone as a result of individual errors. Many of them are unacceptable for professionals to be making and you would like to think could be coached out, yet I still think there is something to my theory above, that profligacy at one end builds pressure at the other, resulting in more mistakes. I’ve not done any proper research on this so feel free to shoot me down if you like. Something to think about nonetheless.

Anyway, a win is a win and as I said at the top, it was nice to do that with a bit of a flourish. One swallow doesn’t make a summer so they say and it would be just like the Arsenal of recent times to labour in another winnable match on Saturday. The key thing for this team is to get that belief back. We are short of a bit of quality but that said, there is still some very talented players in there. What’s needed now is to take this as a starting point and make the best of a decent schedule until the New Year.

Keep The Faith

@limparhalfway